Trainspotting fans beware. If you’re planning a trip down memory lane by visiting the old pubs featured, swerve The Volunteer Arms. Although The Volunteer Arms, the fusty old pub where Begbie launched an assault has already had one makeover – when PG Taverns bought it in 2014 and renamed it The Cask & Still – its latest reincarnation will have the fans of the ‘Volley Arms’ distraught.
That’s said, we think the boys from Trainspotting would like it. The bare skeleton of the Cask & Still is there, but there’s been a fairly major refurbishment or should we say a de-refurbishment. The Mousetrap, as it’s now known, has achieved the kind of shabby, junk shop chic that other pubs have attempted for many years.
Even as you approach the ‘dive bar’, you know you’re in for something a bit different. On the corner of Springfield Street and Leith Walk, quirky game-inspired graffiti decorate the exterior. On the Springfield Street wall, there is a duo of Pac Men, with a parodied quote from Trainspotting, “Picture the scene: The other f*!?$n’ week down The Mousetrap…” accompanying an artist’s impression of Robert Carlyle’s Begbie. On the actual corner, there’s a cartoon drawing of Top Cat.
Entering the bar, your aural senses are battered with the sheer amount of images that surround you. It’s was like stepping back into my childhood. An image of the patient from Operation is depicted on the ceiling, so large we struggled to get a photograph! All the art has been done by artist Will McEvoy, a local artist and a friend of the company. Iain Pert, director of PG Taverns, says, “He just kept coming up with ideas, it was almost like ‘we’re running out of space’.”
Used, empty spirit bottles line the window ledges, while each table holds a retro game, (think Trivial Pursuit, Kerplunk, Cluedo and Connect4). The bar front is lined with old floorboards, on which a spraypainted Mousetrap logo has randomly been embossed, but not in a formal way. The high-backed seats that partner each table are mismatched and scruffy, but work as the entire place looks shabby. Attached to the ceiling are – I’m told by Iain – 300 real mousetraps, which brings us to the overall theme – retro games. It’s almost a quiz in itself to try and guess which games have inspired each bit of décor.
Behind the bar, there’s a Wheel of Fortune-style spinner that is used when customers ask for shots, it’s a random shot they get. What’s more, it’s in a random glass. You get whatever glass the bartender takes off the shelf. It could be a jam jar, a Martini glass or a rocks glass.
In the far corner of the bar, there’s a visual trickery piece of artwork of a Rubik Cube. Opposite the bar, there is a piece from Mousetrap, the arm that swings to knock the diver off his board. As you go down into the games room, there’s a Snakes and Ladders fabric board on the wall, next to a macabre, Mickey Mouse outline in blood red with a mousetrap on top, as if to mean he’s been caught. The bath from the Mousetrap is to the right and the actual trap from the game enacts as a lampshade. You’re then led into a snug booth called The Jungle Nook that is decorated in various shades of green and purple, making a jungle setting. Inside the games room, you’re bestowed with a vision that would make any game freak’s day – five genuine, retro gaming machines Pac Man, Sega Mega rally, Operation Walt 3, NBA Pinball and multy player Super Mario Super Heroes. The wall adjacent is decorated like a level of Tetris, and a leather sofa takes the corner next to two tables and six chairs that offer a ‘waiting area’ for what is inevitably a popular part of the pub.
Pert says of the refurbishment, “We knew what we wanted to do, create a dive bar, but whenever you say that to people they think ‘a dive’ as in rubbish. We want this to be a ‘living’ bar in that it constantly evolves.
The Mousetrap name came from one of the staff, but we wanted it to be all about the games so it was perfect.”
The bar’s food offering is in keeping with its theme. It only offers, what are essentially, cheese toasties. Each is named after a character from a game, and staff make them in the small catering kitchen behind the bar. “The whole idea is that it’s very informal,” says Pert. It could be that you ask for a toastie and the staff are too busy, so they’ll say ‘come back in ten minutes’. The evolution of the pub is such that The Mousetrap is looking at painting the tops of the tables with the actual game boards. “That’s how it should be,” says Pert. “Every time you come in, you should notice something new.”
The quirkiness of The Mousetrap has definitely caught gamers’ imaginations, but if you’re looking to catch the real thing, give Graham Environmental Services on the next page a call!