by Jemma Beedie
The Bridge Works in Linlithgow re-opened its doors in September following an extensive refurbishment by owners and operators, Buzzworks Holdings. The reception has been warm, with Sundays, in particular, proving to be very busy, with up to 350 covers over the course of the day.
And it’s easy to see why. An accessible location with parking, countryside views, an extensive beer garden – all the more important as Scots take to drinking and dining outdoors in all weathers – and a warm, cosy interior, all come together, resulting in something special.
The renovation cost £1.2 million, and is breathtaking, especially to those who may have been familiar with it previously. The Bridge Inn is a seventeenth-century coaching inn that, unfortunately, had been allowed to deteriorate over time.
Prior to the refurbishment, the Bridge Inn had been closed for at least five years. Work included an eye-catching exterior makeover, a brand new beer garden replete with sturdy astroturf, an extension, and a new mezzanine level.
Customers are welcome in the pub, a delightful nook that brings all the best things about your local to mind, or in the restaurant. There are plenty of tables, and those who eat in the mezzanine above will feel the benefit of privacy while still enjoying the atmosphere of the restaurant below.
Light streams in, even on grey autumn days, from a large skylight hung with greenery. The plant life serves to give the interior an element of life and vivacity without straying into garden centre territory.
The decor could reasonably be described as maximalist. No matter where the eye rests, there’s some new detail to capture the imagination. Rough stone wall against slate tile and wood, wrought-iron accenting on the bar. Brass metalwork against charmingly distressed pine, reclaimed pews repurposed as table seating. And the soft furnishings add to the overall comfort.
Tweed and tartan are used sparingly. Rather than the twee, shortbread-tin version of Scottish decor found in tourist hot spots, the use of these fabrics feels native and homey. Interspersed with tapestry covered cushions and bar stools upholstered in more quirky patterns, the whole effect is like an embrace. If we could use just one word to describe the Bridge Inn, it might be ‘snug’.
The playful mix and match approach to decor extends to the prints and art that adorn the walls. “Established in 1665, reimagined in 2021” reads one branded poster, and the skilful way in which tradition and the contemporary have been interwoven throughout the pub and restaurant reflects both the history of the establishment and the bright, modern approach Buzzworks is taking to food and service.
The menu consists of pub classics done well alongside new favourites. Offerings promise to be suitable for the whole family: sirloin and fish and chips are on offer, as are butter chicken, char shui bao buns, and burrata. The wood-fired pizzas, made with hand-stretched sourdough, are a particular highlight.
An impressive level of attention has been paid to dietary requirements. Gluten-free customers can pick from a menu curated specifically for them, while vegan and plant-based diners will delight in the variety of special meals. Black sesame glazed aubergine and a shallot tart are among the creative dishes on offer, and dairy-free chocolate cake and ice cream are tantalising ways to finish off the meal.
The Bridge Inn is one of Buzzworks Holdings’ thirteen venues across Scotland. The award-winning company is proud to offer an aspirational dining experience, though the Bridge Inn is proof of how this sort of luxury can meld perfectly with something welcoming and wholesome.
Kenny Blair, Buzzworks Holdings Managing Director said, “We’re proud to be investing in Linlithgow, it is a fantastic town.
“The Bridge Inn has been a unique and exciting project to work on. We hope to have delivered a venue that locals can enjoy and be proud of for many years to come.”
The response from Linlithgow locals has been enthusiastic and positive. There was huge excitement leading up to the opening of the renovated restaurant, especially as Covid difficulties set the opening back a number of times. From Wednesday 1st September, when the Bridge Inn opened its doors, the restaurant has been fully booked. “The response has been nuts,” said Deputy Manager Michael Anthony.
Evenings are busy, with booking for the restaurant a requirement. Michael explained the strategy for keeping locals onside: “We keep the pub for walk-ins to accommodate local trade. We don’t want to alienate the local crowd.” Even though the restaurant and mezzanine might be sold out, Buzzworks is keen to make sure that there’s always a seat and a warm welcome for Linlithgow natives.
The Bridge Inn manages something that should be impossible: it delivers warmth, welcoming decor, an impressive range of innovative, exciting drinks alongside staples such as Tennents and Heverlee. Good food done well, without pushing the envelope too far: the food on offer is the best example of its category, and perfect whether it’s a mid-week night out, a Sunday lunch with the family, or a celebration.
For Buzzworks, the Bridge Inn is an opportunity. This is not a refresh; this is a rebirth. Ingenuity, attention to detail, the location and the care and attention that have been put into this new venue are sure to see it become an unarguable part of the Linlithgow landscape.