There is nothing nicer than going to a pub in the middle of the day to find it buzzing and that was the case when I visited the new Malones Irish Bar on Edinburgh’s Morrison Street. Situated on the corner, and on two floors, it replaces Diane’s Pool Hall and is now owned by Malones Pub Group.
Malones’ Director Simon Keane persuaded Diane to sell the freehold to the venue, following his sale of Malones in the city centre last year.
“We were lucky enough to find a fantastic venue for Malones Pop up bar on the Mall which kept the brand in Edinburgh alive”
Says Simon, “When we sold Malones we wanted to keep the name so that we could expand the brand.” He continues, “Initially I wanted to find a place within the first three months but I think that may have been a bit ambitious. We were looking for a freehold which is hard to find in Edinburgh. At the time we were lucky enough to find a fantastic venue for Malones’ pop-up bar on Waverley Mall which kept the brand in Edinburgh alive.”
During that time he had approached Diane, but she wasn’t keen to sell. Simon explains, “She had the business for more than 30 years, and hadn’t really been thinking about selling, but eventually decided that now was the time to exit the business”
Work started on the new Malones Irish Bar in Edinburgh last November and the business, which is family owned, have invested more than £1m transforming the building. Says builder Robin, who is also Simon’s brother, “This was my favourite job ever. I’ve done all the pubs, but this is not only my favourite pub, it is the biggest transformation.” He continues, “With the other pubs in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh we really just added Irish elements because a lot of the work had already been done but as the venue had many hidden features. We didn’t know what we would find. There were layers of Artex on the walls, and when we took it off we found the beautiful original red brick.
There were arches upstairs where we thought there would be steel beams, but they were solid wood. When we removed the fixed furniture fittings we noticed there was an original oak floor underneath. This meant that underneath the carpet there was also the original oak floor. We left the carpet down while we were renovating, but then had a terrible job trying to get it up as it had been glued down! But the result has been worth it.”
On the ground floor, the bar is quite square in shape and has a small capacity of around 100. The walls are all wood panelled and the room has a high ceiling similar to upstairs. The bar itself stretches almost the full length of the back wall. Above the bar, you can see four copper Tennent’s tank beer vessels which tie-in with the copper bridge tap on the bar.
There is also a Tennent’s tank beer vessel upstairs. The pub is the first in the East to offer customers Tennent’s Tank lager. Explains Aoibhínn Cullen, who heads up marketing for the company, “It was great to get the Tennent’s Tank lager in. Not only is it a great feature it tastes good, in fact, some of our customers claim they don’t suffer from hangovers anymore!”
Robin adds, “When we were doing the renovation we took down some cladding and discovered some old bi-folding doors and we realised that the original runners for them were still there. Back in the day, the building had been a garage – so now we are making an application to reinstate them so that in the summer we can open the doors to the street.
All the seating in the new Malones Irish Bar is also new and the fixed seating features a dark-green leather-like upholstery – which obviously ties in with the pub’s Irish credentials. This was created by Aberdeen company Luxous. Says Robin, “They did a great job.”
The tables are solid dark wood, and they are accompanied by tables which have been made from whisky barrels and have round tops. Aiobhinn adds, “We had them made specially by Derry’s in Ireland.”
There is a lot of memorabilia throughout – downstairs and up. Aoibhinn tells me that Simon and his father Robert, who is his business partner, and who looks after Malones Irish Bar in Aberdeen, sourced the bric-a-brac and the majority of it came from Ireland where the family hails from.
There is a door on the right-hand side of the bar which takes you upstairs. The stairwell is a sight to behold as it features a specially commissioned Father Ted mural. Artist Chris Rutterford created the 28ft mural which features favourites Father Ted Crilly, Father Dougal McGuire, Father Jack Hackett, Mrs Doyle, Bishop Brennan and other legendary Craggy Island characters.
The toilets are also quite quirky with the ladies wallpapered with pages from a satirical Irish news site.
At the top of the stairs, you turn to the left to enter a large and airy second floor. It is a great space, which holds up to 300 people. It is the perfect venue for live music and live sports – with two TV screens upstairs and two large screens.
There is a specially created stage area, showcases 12 musicians weekly which is slightly raised and is where the live bands play. It is located at the opposite end of the bar. Says Robin, “We went to great lengths in relation to the soundproofing. The ceilings have acoustic batons and acoustic tracking. The stage is built on 200 batons which have a rubberised base. The sound system that has been put in is not a booming one, instead, we have used 16 speakers located around the room which means that people can have a conversation in the bar because the sound is dispersed.”
From the ceiling hang large circular wrought iron chandeliers, and behind the bar, there are two stained glass windows of Celtic design which says Aoibhinn celebrate the Scottish and Irish links – there is also one downstairs.
The furniture here is also the same as downstairs, although fewer barrels are used and there are tall parlour tables and stools. About a dozen in total. The fixed seating also stretches the length of the room on the right. And as downstairs there is a lot of memorabilia from musical instruments to old whiskey jugs.
Says Aoibhinn, “The vibe we were going for was big and bold with a traditional feel to it.” It certainly delivers.
Simon concludes, “After a long break … the craic is back.”
The new Edinburgh bar is at 242 Morrison Street and is open from 9am to 1am six days a week, and from 11 on Sundays. Meanwhile, the Keane’s will continue with their Pop-up on the top of the Waverley Market. Says Simon, “It may originally have been a temporary project, and it was a major risk. But it has been great for business and we will be opening again in the summer months. We are also continuing to expand our pop up bars and street food enterprises.
Malones group is actively sourcing for new premises across the UK and Ireland to expand the brand.