Design Focus: Cold Town House

March 5th, 2019 | Posted in: Design,Editors' Picks,News

4 Grassmarket, Edinburgh

Bucket loads of divine design inspiration evidently rained down on Tibbatts Abel, the people responsible for the look and feel of Cold Town House, Signature Pubs’ £4m overhaul of the former Robertson Memorial Church at the bottom of Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, that it’s hard to know where to start. This brewpub is top-to-bottom amazing, from the rooftop terrace and its stunning views of Edinburgh Castle, surely some of the best in the city, via the pizza and Prosecco floor and brewery, right down to the fire-pit in the ground floor bar and restaurant.

Like anything worth having in this life, it required a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, and there were a few hiccups along the way. They mostly came down to the fact that there were some holdups with this three-storey building’s extension, going out towards the castle at the back of the building.

Louise MacLean, Signature Pubs’ director of sales and marketing explained, “The extension went into the bedrock of Edinburgh castle and you’d think that the clue would be in the name and that this wouldn’t have requires any preparation of the ground, but it turned out the bedrock wasn’t as strong as we thought, hence the delay on the project.”

As the official home of Cold Town Beer, Cold Town House also marks the return of brewing to the Grassmarket, a tradition dating back to the 16th century. The spend is evident in the quality of the finish and the sheer ambition of the place just as soon as you enter off the street, and Signature’s marketing manager Mhari Minto kindly took some time away from organising a horse, cart and 18th century barmaid clip-clopping over Edinburgh’s cobbled streets to promote the new venue to show me around it just before the soft-opening at the end last month.

A lobby greets you as soon as you enter with a lift and stairs with a clutch of large green metal lights hanging down from the very top of the building, falling down in the centre of the square snaking staircase. There’s also a plan to include a photo booth in the lobby, according to Mhari. You can also see the bar, to the left from here through the glass window-wall, and beyond it to the back of the space and that new extension, into the spacious seating area. Roomfood Ltd. supplied all the loose furniture, internal and external.

Cold Town House is a sister venue to Signature’s Cold Town Brewery on the capital’s Dunedin Street and Cold Town’s brewpub status is confirmed right away by the eight 500L metal tanks that grace the back of the bar against the glossy white brick shaped tiles. Opposite the bar and looking out onto the lobby is a row of stools and a shelf that looks back into the lobby. The stools have been upholstered in orangey brown leather. The bar’s superbly finished, with a white marble bar top and copper taps, atop of which are nifty little holders where a half pint glass lives that will be filled with the beer in order that customers can check out the colour of the beer to minimise agonising and queues.

The whole feel of the place is quite industrial because, as you go deeper into the ground floor, the exposed air conditioning makes it so, but there are also softer touches, which was quite deliberate. Said Mhari, “We were keen to step away from the traditional masculine associations that you find with beer pubs. The look and feel is warmer and more feminine. Each floor feels like a home.”

Other standout design features on the ground floor are the mixture of upholstered booths, in a kind of zigzag monochrome pattern as well as teal velour, and the brick walls that separate them. The walls are a mixture of retro wood paneling, murals (like one depicting the brewing process from ‘milling’ via ‘mashing’ through to ‘conditioning’). There are also some exposed brick patches among an otherwise plastered wall, white concrete floor, plenty of greenery hanging directly from the ceiling and in hanging baskets, plus some interesting pendant lights with plant pot-shaped shades. In the middle of a high posing table sits the fire pit I mentioned earlier.

Up a floor is the Pizza and Prosecco floor, as well as the brewery, with the whole process displayed for customers to see, courtesy of floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Behind the bar on this floor is a specially imported dual fuel gas and wood pizza oven from Naples, Italy, which took two months to make. Again, the wrap-around bar has been fashioned beautifully from marble and overlooking it is a DJ booth in what used to be the church pulpit.

If you look up into the rafters of this floor you’ll see the pipes and industrial ventilation workings of the brewery part of Cold Town House, but further into the Pizza and Prosecco floor is a seating area, with tables and booths along each wall, and you can catch a glimpse of the castle from one vantage point. This seating, plus rotating windows that open into the brewery allow fall the sights, sounds, smells of the Cold Town Beer brewing process in. The design of these seats is interesting. Brow leather contrasts with great fabric cushions and more marble on the tables. Some of the seating has also bravely been upholstered in green, black and pink, which sounds like a clash in theory but works in practice.

The top floor gives you access to the terrace, which, as well as that view, also utilises a wooden framework that houses seating with multi-coloured (red, pink, blue) submissions and on which Signature plans to include an awning. The most interesting terrace furniture has to be the old ski lift seats and ski gondolas that have been shipped in from Alpe d’huez.

I’ve also got to give the dispensing van (converted by roomfood Ltd.), serving as a bar, a nod. It had to be placed on the roof using a crane. I’m sure the festoon-style lighting will really make for a wonderful atmosphere on a clear night, complete with an illuminated castle.

Cold Town House is a design triumph for Signature Pubs. They could so easily have let the castle views do all the talking, but instead, they’ve really gone to town on a feast-for-the-eyes interior refurbishment that’ll surely contribute to packing them in.

Jason Caddy

Dundee’s V&A helps boost visitor numbers to other attractions

Fri 22nd March 2019

Dundee’s V&A has helped boost visitor numbers at nearby attractions by up to 40%, says new research. In its first three months 341,265... Read more.

Scottish economic growth to remain ahead of the UK average in 2019

Fri 22nd March 2019

Scotland’s economic growth will slow this year but remain ahead of the UK average according to UK Economic Outlook report by Pricewate... Read more.

YO! Sushi to consolidate restaurant estate

Thu 21st March 2019

YO! Sushi has placed six UK sites on the market, including two in Scotland, as it looks to consolidate its restaurant estate.  The group ... Read more.

Greene King celebrates Flanders Fields fundraiser

Thu 21st March 2019

 Greene King has launched a special edition beer, Flanders Fields, brewed to mark the centennial anniversary of the end of the First World ... Read more.

The Highland Whisky Festival 2019

Thu 21st March 2019

Eight Highland Distilleries are introducing a brand-new Whisky Festival to celebrate the established Highland Whisky Trail. The Highlan... Read more.

PPL’s new SFE tariff to ‘cost sector £49m’

Wed 20th March 2019

Trade bodies have warned that music licensing company PPL’s new specially featured entertainment (SFE) tariff, which comes into effect on ... Read more.

Ivy Collection appoints new CFO

Wed 20th March 2019

The Ivy Collection, which will open its second Scottish restaurant in Glasgow on Buchanan Street in June after opening The Ivy on the Squa... Read more.

Bruce Taverns plan expansion and launch £20 million fundraiser

Wed 20th March 2019

Bruce Taverns is to raise £20 million to fund a growth programme through acquisitions. The Edinburgh-based pub company, ... Read more.


Tue 19th March 2019

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has confirmed the internal promotion of Graeme Littlejohn to the position of Director of Strategy and Co... Read more.

Johnnie Walker to build ‘best bar in the world’ in Edinburgh

Tue 19th March 2019

 Johnnie Walker has promised to create the “best bar in the world” in the “best brand attraction in the world” overlookin... Read more.

Borthwick Castle’s Kieran Rose is Scotland’s Tourism and Hospitality Hero

Tue 19th March 2019

Kieran Rose, Front of House Manager at Borthwick Castle, in Midlothian, has been namedScotland’s Tourism and Hospitality Hero at the 2018/... Read more.

Orry Shand named Chef of the Year at ScotHot

Mon 18th March 2019

Orry Shand, of Entier, won Scottish Chef of the Year at this year’s ScotHot at Glasgow’s SECC, sponsored by Brakes Sco... Read more.

Average spend on late-night out increases 15.5% to almost £70

Mon 18th March 2019

The average spend on a late-night out has increased 15.5% to £68.68, according to the latest Deltic Night Index, compared with £59.49 for ... Read more.

Scottish chefs set out vision to reform hospitality industry 

Thu 14th March 2019

More than 60 chefs and cooks from across Scotland have pledged their support to a new culinary manifesto, which aims to reform Scotland’s ... Read more.

SCALA boss welcomes Brexit delay

Thu 14th March 2019

Theresa May will make a third attempt to get her EU withdrawal deal through Parliament in the next week after MPS voted to reject a no-deal ... Read more.

Historic Auchtermuchty pub on the market

Wed 13th March 2019

The Forest Inn in Auchtermuchty is now on the market with offers invited for the three-storey property. Christie’s and Co in Edinburgh is ... Read more.

Hotfoot it to ScotHot

Wed 13th March 2019

Which licensee worth his or her salt isn’t looking for an opportunity to meet with suppliers, network with others to share ideas and i... Read more.


Tue 12th March 2019

Buzzworks Holdings has been named in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work for in the UK for the fourth consecutive year. It recognise... Read more.

Edinburgh Craft Beer Festival returns for 2019 with foodie focus

Tue 12th March 2019

Edinburgh Craft Beer Festival returns to the city this May, from Friday 24 – Saturday 25 May, with a special foodie focus. It’s... Read more.


Mon 11th March 2019

The achievements of top Scottish licensees were celebrated at Star Pubs & Bars’ annual Star Awards. The awards were the biggest ever h... Read more.