Edinburgh's Best Bars

Feature by Peter Simpson | 04 Jan 2017

From our 2017 Food and Drink Survey, your three favourite bars in Edinburgh, from local heroes to party hangouts

Paradise Palms

41 Lothian St, Edinburgh

Think of a Christmas tree; it's a large piece of foliage that sits in your house, covered in your choice of lights and decorations, glistening away in the corner of the room. Sounds mad when you over-analyse it, but when you're in that festive moment, it makes perfect sense. Well, Paradise Palms is the bar equivalent of a massively over-adorned Christmas tree, and that's why we love it.

It's a top-notch dive bar, with an impressive range of spirits and cocktails shrouded behind outrageous decor and shiny neons. It's also a kick-ass vegan soul food diner that serves up the likes of Southern Fried halloumi and barbecue jackfruit sandwiches. It's also a performance space that plays host to everything from pre-club DJ sets to avant-garde cabaret, and an events space that hosts everything from book clubs to arts and crafts events to zine fairs. Oh, and it's a record store with its own record label championing new Scottish music.

Stepping through the door is to step into a whirlwind of sights, sounds, smells and sensations – more than anything else, Paradise Palms feels alive and assured of itself. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the drinks menu, where one beverage in particular catches the eye – the Buckfast Daiquiri. Rum, lime, sugar syrup and Buckfast together at last; it's tropical, it's fruity, it's faintly medicinal. It's absolute lunacy, and it's absolutely brilliant – long may this kind of thing continue.

Bryant and Mack

87 Rose St North Ln, Edinburgh

Sometimes great things are hidden away, for their own benefit as much as anything else. Still, take a bit of time to track them down and the rewards can be immense. That's the case with Bryant and Mack, tucked away on an unassuming lane off Rose Street and cunningly disguised as a detective agency.

Inside, the one-room bar is all dark colours, mood lighting and comfy seats. The speakeasy vibe is complimented by the size and shape of the space – it's not the biggest, but everyone has their own little conspiratorial corner in which to plot away. As for the drinks menu, Bryant and Mack pride themselves on "classic cocktails with only the finest ingredients", with a menu boosted by a host of homemade garnishes, cordials and other accoutrements.

One of the hits, in our experience, is the Plum Collins, a Japanese-inspired take on the Tom Collins featuring Umeshu plum sake and a homemade plum cordial alongside the standard gin and lemon. It's fruity, sweet, sour and yet still really refreshing and moreish, and it looks great to boot. Bryant & Mack's Jason Cormack also recommends both the Date In Manhattan or their fig-infused Figroni.

The Skylark

243 Portobello High St, Edinburgh

Porty's on the up, folks. The food and drink scene in Edinburgh's seaside has been slowly bubbling under for the last few years, and now it's, if not boiling over, certainly up to a nice simmer. There are good things to go and eat and drink in Portobello is the point we're making.

With Porty's beachside vibe and small-town feel, there's no need for vast arrays of concept bars to choose from just yet. No, this setting calls for a nice all-rounder – great drinks, nice atmosphere, a welcoming space where you can go for a pint or some lunch or a big night out, or all three if you're off the next day.

The Skylark is just such a place, situated on Portobello High Street between the excellent Beer Zoo off-licence and the Porty outpost of bakers extraordinaire Twelve Triangles, and just five minutes from the beach. It's a bright space during the day and a bustling and cosy one by night, the French-inspired menu has something for everyone, and the drinks list is a great mix of local favourites and some great options from further afield.

We asked The Skylark's Paul Lambie for his suggestion on what to try on a first visit, and he hit us with an ideal post-beach recommendation: "Dig in to a Bordeaux Croque-Madame with a rich, toasty, YellowBall lager from Eyeball Brewing. James the brewer lives one street over from The Skylark, and the croque is (owner) Nina’s granny’s secret recipe." There you go, that's your first visit sorted.