Wolf & Water is the newest drinking den to grace The Shore in Edinburgh. Owner Kenny Waugh is following in the footsteps of his father Kenny Waugh Senior who used to own Festival Inns.
The Shore in Leith may have served as the port of Edinburgh since 1329, but since 1996 when the Scottish Parliament opened its Victoria Quay offices at The Shore, the area has become a top dining and drinking destination in the city. Wolf & Water is in good company with Michelin star restaurant The Kitchin as a next door neighbour. The site was previously home to cocktail bar Bond No.9, which was a popular after work drinking spot with workers from the surrounding offices. Kenny acquired the lease of the venue in April of this year and in under a month has transformed the space into a laid-back drinking lair.
There is no hidden reason behind the bars name, other than acknowledging the location by the water and liking the roll off the tongue alliteration of Wolf & Water. Says Kenny, “I liked the thought of having an animal as the name of the bar and what’s better than the wolf? It’s such an iconic animal. I had over 100 different names when I started but Wolf & Water just had a certain ring to it.” From the outside, Wolf & Water is mysterious and it’s hard to judge what will greet you once you step off the cobbled streets of The Shore. The bar is housed in a modern building on Commercial St, with only the neon wolf sign hanging outside inviting you in. The sign is a striking geometric image which features throughout the venue and gives the new bar a strong sense of identity
Inside lies a spacious wooden wonderland, like the treehouse we all dreamed of as a child. It is dark and undeniably cool with only the neon signs providing any source of colour. In the run up to opening, Kenny looked at the interiors of a number of bars in major cities including London and New York before finally deciding that he liked the simplicity and minimalism of Scandinavian design. The structural wooden beams inherited from the building have been embraced, plunging through the middle of some of the bar tables, giving the impression that they have been added specifically for this venue. Lighting is minimal- dimmed to the right level so you can still read the menu, but dark enough if you want to escape from the Scottish weather and enjoy a drink from the varied selection of cocktails and draught beers.
The seating in the bar is varied with large booths and communal high bar stools making the venue an ideal drinking spot for larger groups. By the windows at the front of the bar, the booths are upholstered with black leather chesterfield seating and are roomy enough for up to eight people. Kenny explains, “There was no fixed seating in Bond No.9 so that was the first thing we added. We wanted to make use of the windows at the front and making sure the bar was comfortable was definitely one of our main focuses.”
All of the walls inside have been stripped back, to reveal rough stonework with one feature wall featuring dark wooden cladding, almost like the inside of a garden shed. A cryptic neon green sign reading “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” hangs on the wall at the back of the venue, beside the entrance to the beer garden.
Outside, the beer garden sits beside a small water display on the docks of The Shore. Benches made from the same heavy reinforced wood as the tables inside provide seating for around 40 covers and an outside bar has been set up for when the sun is shining to save customers from having to ever shy away from its rays.
At the back of the venue lies a sizeable south facing glass conservatory. During the day, the space is bathed in natural light with candles providing a romantic atmosphere in the evenings. The back wall of the conservatory is stripped right back to reveal the natural stonework of the building and unique seating is provided where the stonework has been chipped away to provide seats within the wall. Wolf like fur throws cover all of the seats giving the venue a little feminine touch. Kenny explains, “My girlfriend obviously had to put her stamp on it and we are definitely going to be adding more. Customers have been loving the fur.”
Whether you want to gather your wolf pack to enjoy an alcoholic slush puppy in the beer garden or nurse your hangover in a dark corner with brunch served until 4pm, Wolf & Water has a spot for everyone. And as Kenny says, “If we’ve already got regulars after only being opened for a few weeks, then we are definitely doing something right!”
By Yasmine Gibb