Monday, April 17, 2006

The Star Bar

On Thursday evening last week the Bond-Team paid a visit to the Star Bar in Edinburgh’s New Town as part of its pub-of-the-month feature. I first visited what was then called the Star Tavern way back in 1974 when I arrived straight off the farm to study in Scotland’s capital city, rather grandly billeted as I was in student Halls of Residence just around the corner in the Georgian splendour of Drummond Place. And, some 32 years later, I am still struck as I had been back then by the cosy intimacy of the Star. The bar area is pleasant and roomy, sufficiently so to house one of these table football games that you find in every café and bar in rural France. From there a few steps lead to up to a modest seating area from whence one can access the beer garden on nice days (though not too late in the evening as the residents of the New Town get a bit shirty about noise levels – a problem that also has been visited upon the Cumberland Bar’s beer garden only a stone’s roll down the hill from the Star Bar). It would be misleading to imply that the beer per se is the strongest feature of the Star. But it is alright, with the Deuchars being reliably good and the Guiness, as always, providing the backstop for the discerning drinker should all else fail. No, the real selling point of this quaint hostelry is the juke box. It is simply first class – with an excellent array of music to suit almost every taste. Moreover, there is a mercifully low representation of post-1970s music: I say no more.

The Star Bar is, to my mind, a pleasant and welcoming place. As some of the web sites explain, the bar has been through a few incarnations over the past decades. Indeed, when I first visited the Star back in 1974 it was, unbeknown to me, a gay bar. I was taken there by a fellow novice student I met in Halls – his name was Dave. We’d go drinking there quite often, and I thoroughly warmed to its friendly atmosphere while remaining entirely oblivious to the sexual orientation of much (though by no means all) of its clientele – including Dave. But Dave and I chummed around during that first year of my University education, he and I both being a bit older than most of the first year intake. He was a really good bloke. I remained unaware of Dave’s sexual preferences until the 1975 summer break when I bumped into him in Rose Street one Saturday afternoon. His face was a mess of black and blue, and he clearly had taken one hell of a kicking. He told me why. For no reason, he’d been attacked and very badly assaulted leaving one of Edinburgh’s underground gay clubs. Dave never returned to University, and I never saw him again. And I don’t know what became of this very kind and gentle person who befriended a country yokel new to the sophistication of the Edinburgh cityscape and University life. Every time I drink in the Star Bar I can’t help thinking of Dave. So, if you want a good pint in a warm and friendly Edinburgh bar, then go and seek out the Star Bar. Oh – and have a drink for Dave.

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