The Basement - Refurbished not Revamped
The Basement on Broughton Street has had a bit of a facelift, and that's about it really – the same mix of quality, affordable food and a good-time alcohol soaked atmosphere remains. There's a spanking new dining area where the loos used to be and new toilets where there wasn't really anything before. It's a sort of extension expansion I suppose, and they've added a few licks of fresh paint and some new artwork, furniture and furnishings – all keeping with the laid-back vibe that made the place such a hit in the first place.
It's only the second major refurbishment since the Basement first opened in 1994. Back then Broughton Street was lined with good ol' pubs that were great for a pint but not so grand if you were ever after anything more substantial than a packet of crisps. The restaurants didn't really accommodate late night drinking and the younger crowd only really had nightclubs. So along came the Basement, a laid-back combination of all three with a restaurant standard menu and an atmosphere perfect for chilling, boozing and possibly romancing.
The menu has been put together under a failsafe premise – quality ingredients properly prepared at a reasonable cost. There's nothing overly elaborate, however the weekday menu that changes daily isn't without flair. The weekend menu includes starters such as tiger prawns, nachos and soup from £2.95 to £3.95, while the mains have a slightly Mexican twist with burritos, enchiladas and fajitas, alongside staples such as steak, salad, pasta, pie and fish (as well as a fish pie hurrah!) starting at £5.95 and not costing over a tenner.
The website's also a wee bit of a wonder with a little back story, a guide to a few of the more interesting drinks, directions to the bar if you're daft and a whiz bang super techy virtual guide (www.thebasement.org.uk). Talking about drinks the Tequilas are worth investigating; the Basement has more varieties than there are overweight rugby fans, ranging from £1.70 to a price way too high to mention here – suffice to say staff have been known to blow a whole day's wages on just one shot of the stuffÃ‚Â…
The Basement also has a decent music policy. Many pubs leave the music selection to the disastrous randomness of the jukebox – often taken over by the short-skirt peroxide brigade who have an unhealthy obsession with the cheesiest of the chart, while at the Basement it's all left to the staff, meaning you'll hear full albums and an eclectic and interesting mix of tunes.
While most jobs in hospitality have a turnover rate that a pancake chef would be proud of, the staff at the Basement tend to hang around, probably because it's a great place to work... but maybe they all have massive bar tabs they never manage to work off. Their old school Hawaiian shirts, introduced as owner Richard Forbes didn't want the formality of a uniform, are actually from Hawaii, and this tropical theme has invaded the new bathrooms in ways you'll just have to discover for yourself.
So the paint's now dry (I'm assured) and the new toilets all work so get down there and check it out if you haven't already. I'll be holding up the barÃ‚Â…
The Basement, 10a-12a Broughton Street, Edinburgh, 0131 557 0097.