We had heard rumours of a slightly eccentric jungle-themed bar & restaurant in Edinburgh, just to the east of the New Town and not far from Easter Road, and so we donned our pith helmets and trekked over to a part of Edinburgh we'd never visited before...
The Safari Lounge, a former wee old man's pub next to what once was Abbeyhill railway station used to be the "Station Bar" - it looks like it has changed a bit but not massively since its previous incarnation but it's now a cool space with bar/restaurant at the front, function room in the back (we believe this was the original "Safari lounge") and two pop-up shops downstairs in the basement, one selling mugs, tea towels, coasters, bags etc and another selling Afghan clothing to raise money for projects back in Afghanistan.
Back up stairs and The Safari Lounge is a free house with a great beer selection - 7 regular draught pints plus up to 4 real ales, there were 3 Christmas ales on when we visited in winter, and all from Scottish breweries. These have their own lager brewed for the premises as well as delicious Maisels Weisse/Kristall and a few other German beers and American craft beers from Anchor, Flying Dog and Founders. As a pub it was great and we began working our way through the Christmas beers but what about the food...
The most intriguing thing on the menu was "Flying Scotman" Stornoway black pudding sushi, but sadly they'd run out! They also do a smoked salmon and chorizo sushi but on this occasion we tried the vegetarian option to start...(if you can't decide and they have all varieties available then you can order 3 of a kind for £4.95 or a mix & match of 6 for £8.95). They also sell Korean-style steamed buns which sound a bit different.
Red pepper, courgette and sun blush tomato pesto in a pleasant light nori rolls with soy sauce dip.
Well, here is a first - mussel tempura, and what a great idea! Lovely light but simultaneously crisp batter which went well with the beer, our only criticism was that it was a little greasy.
We were expected something really hot but these were actually quite mildly spiced, again good beer food and a little greasy but very tasty.
A huge monster of a massive hot dog in a sweet brioche bun with chorizo, beef chilli, melted manchego and salad garnish. We've seen gourmet hot dogs appearing in a few places of late and this is one of the better efforts.
Brunch options are available at the weekend from 12 noon - 4pm and this is their "fry up" option - two free range eggs, Stornoway black pudding, smoked bacon with huge homemade sausage, served on a toasted brioche with salad greens = all-in-all a pretty damn good breakfast and very filling. There were two huge sausages which was perhaps a bit too much as we struggled to finish them.
We only had room left for 1 dessert between us and so we decided to share a yule log since it was Christmas. Lovely and light with mixed berries, raspberry coulis and sprig of fresh mint Citrus zing!
And by this point we'd given up on the beer and moved on tea - £2.50 for a pot of Miss Integra tea's lemon myrtle & ginger which was lovely and refreshing.
Before we left we of course had to do our obligatory "toilet check" and they passed with flying colours - note the safari-themed light shade...
In case you're looking for some place to hire, here's some shots of the function room at the back:
There's a separate bar in the function room and the glass-topped bar isn't your usual bar as you can see above.
Before we left we visited the pop-up shops downstairs again and left with an arty tea-towel, Afghani waistcoat, hat, gloves and sockasins...as you do! We certainly didn't expect to leave with such a varied selection of items but they all made...interesting Christmas presents! We noticed the waistcoast was made across the border in Pakistan though...trade descriptions?! Only joking!
And so we had a great time at the Safari Lounge, a quirky menu with great food, great (local) beer, great (local) tea, friendly staff, varied eclectic pop-up shops - we highly recommend a trip to the Safari Lounge for their inventive take on food and ability to combine a pub, restaurant, cafe and shop all in one location - it's a great place to spend a relaxing Sunday and we shall have to come back to try the black pudding and chorizo sushi and Korean steamed buns.