Named after the famous book The Antiquary by Sir Walter Scott the Antiquary Bar is a basement bar situated in St Stephen Street for around 35 years. First opened as a high class restaurant amongst Antique shops and shortly after as a popular bar. It hasn’t changed much in appearance and character over the years although going through a few changes to the layout.
St Stephen Street itself has changed immensely over the years and up till the sixties was a pretty run down area. A number of properties were bought and modernised and the street started to take on its modern day character. It was famous in those days for its Antique shops and some still survive today. Although the shops have changed over the years St Stephen Street still retains a unique character and has been a popular back drop for a few TV and Movie productions. In fact a few productions have used the Antiquary as a film set with more recently the films Festival and Clive Barkers Book of Blood. The locals and a number of bar staff have insisted that there is a resident ghost in the building (. . . usually after a few tipples) . At the back of the Antiquary in the cellar area there are the remains of an old bakery from the nineteenth century and apparently there was a great fire in the Street which destroyed half of the buildings and sadly took a few lives. The ghosts it is said are a friendly Baker lady and her son who appears to be looking for her.
Over the years “The Tic” or “The Antiq” or “The Auntie Mary” or to English students “The Anti-query” has been a meeting place for all sorts from the Hippies of Stockbridge, to the famous Mondays of the early eighties when Tiffany’s Monday live band nights were the place to be, meet in the Antiquary was the call. Then on to the late eighties and the meeting place of Edinburgh’s biker community and shortly after that it was all the rage for computer gaming and the back room area at the time was full of Space invader type machines and pinball tables.
In the nineties it was home for Edinburgh’s Happy Humpers the hard living hard drinking guys who manned the concert and event stages of the live music scene. Additionally, the nineties saw a young and vibrant group of characters known as “The Animals ” who still, over twenty years later, frequent the bar. It is also alleged that they even persuaded the resident ghost to buy a round. Through the nineties and up to today the bar is still popular with students but the essential criteria for all the years is the fact that the Antiquary is a popular bar for all and everyone feels welcome, from the locals of all ages through to tourists visiting the area.
The bar was extensively changed approximately 15 years ago. The bar serving area in a separate small room didn’t really work with the overall layout and a re-design was needed without losing the unique atmosphere of the pub. Dougie Smith who had designed a number of traditional Edinburgh pubs was brought in to change things while keeping the character intact and even brought in wood for the floors reclaimed from a gymnasium. The result still stands today and the bar area has two very individual sides with a more central serving area.
Twenty years ago the Antiquary was the first in the area to offer an all-in breakfast and is still famous for it today. At the time in Stockbridge it was not easy to get fed on a Sunday morning and the idea of getting a full fry up with toast, orange juice, coffee etc for a flat price was to prove really popular and the menu is much the same today with a few changes but the formula of top quality locally produced ingredients still proves popular even with consumers watching the calories. Now proving just as popular is the Sunday Roasts served from 1pm. There is nearly always Roast beef with all the trimmings and another roast of the day for those wanting a change.