Edinburgh’s traditional “old man” pubs are fast disappearing, and the latest casualty is Mathers Bar at number 25 Broughton Street. The good news is that the new owners have a proven track record including the creation of the trendy Jeremiah’s Taproom from the Elm Bar just around the corner. The Empress is the result here featuring craft beers on taps, an impressive array of bottled beers and an original list of cocktails. Food is served here all day, so when we arrived on a chilly November evening, we couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
The Empress is a small bar but the welcome is big and the atmosphere warm and friendly. The decor feels American Diner with a bit of shabby Norma Desmond glamour thrown in. The menu is inviting with lots of options whether it’s a quick bite or something more substantial. You might need a head torch to read the menu as the writing is quite small and low lighting combined with my eyes just turning 40 years old made it a difficult read. Thankfully there are strategically placed candles to help illuminate things.
Raymond spotted the Empress slow roasted Ribs (£5.50) which are succulent and cutlery defying as the meat was practically falling off the bones. They are coated in a sweet and spicy BBQ marinade making for a truly appetising starter – he slightly regretted not having them for his main they were so good.
My Scotch Bon Bons (£4.50) of haggis and black pudding encased in a light crispy batter are incredibly moreish. I love spicy haggis and black pudding, and these don’t disappoint. The whisky chilli jam adds a nice heat to the bon bons but was a bit underpowered in the whisky department. A rich, smoky Islay Malt might have put up more of a fight.
The main course menu is divided up into burgers, flatbreads plus a few other lovely sounding dishes. Raymond decided on one of the large oven baked flatbreads (£12) that arrive piled with rocket and a balsamic glaze. Underneath the foliage is a nice crispy base smothered in a tangy tomato sauce and generously topped with prosciutto, peaches and mozzarella. The tangy sweetness of the tomato and grilled peaches went well with the salty ham and slightly sour flavour of the cheese. Basically, it is a posh Hawaiian and it’s very tasty.
I went for the signature Empress burger (£10) which arrived with a pail of chips and some house coleslaw. The brioche bun was nice and soft, and the meaty burger was topped with melted Orkney cheddar and crispy smoked bacon. It’s quite a lot of burger and the dry coleslaw is a fresh and crunchy addition to the dish.
We were both pretty stuffed by this time and decided to share a dessert. The menu has three choices – Sticky Toffee Pudding, Sundae with chocolate brownie and Apple and pecan crumble with custard (all £4.50). We chose the crumble but found the fruit mixture to be very sweet and the crumble needed a bit more crunch. Next time we would probably go for the Sundae as they looked lovely!
The Empress has been transformed into a stylish, lively bar that serves food all day and is open until 1am. The drinks list is extensive, and you will be spoilt for choice as they showcase the best in craft beers. Food and service are both warm and welcoming, and if you are a fan of 80’s indy music then you’ll feel right at home here – hats off to the music curator.
The Empress of Broughton Street,
25 Broughton Street,
Many thanks to The Empress for her kind invitation to visit and sample the menu.