The Lioness of Leith is a new pub on Duke Street, just off the foot of the walk. It opens across from Tesco after an extensive refit of a long-abandoned pub. I never visited the old pub, too scared to venture inside after watching the police needing to pile on in, shields up, to deal with trouble there.
2024 2023; this review is ten years old. Okay, nearly ten years! I’m still going back to Lioness of Leith. It’s that good! You can infer from its survival that others agree, but I’m updating this review anyway. The Lioness of Leith is on Foodstuff for ethical delivery, won awards for burgers, has been featured in Lonely Planet and offers an NHS discount.
What a transformation. The Lioness of Leith is striking. They’ve put big windows up. Rather than dark and scary, the pub is now open, bright and inviting. I was there for a late lunch on a Saturday afternoon, and plenty of families had kids.
The inside is equally as transformed. There are big tables (and some annoyingly small seats), quirky decorations(a parrot on a chandelier over the bar, a boar’s head and a Mr Stay Puft Marshmallow Man), an arcade machine and lights. I notice on Foursquare that someone’s already added it to a “Hipster” list. Harsh… but probably fair.
As it was the weekend, we had access to the lunch menu and opted for the half chicken. It was a close call. I’m used to half chickens being suitable for one person. That’s not the case at the Lioness of Leith. After adding lovely Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and carrots, we shared it between us and couldn’t finish. It was £9 for the half chicken and £3 for each extra. That would be expensive for a single person, but this was more than enough for two.
Update. New me, not to brag/shame myself, could quickly finish this by himself. It’s still a generous portion but these days the menu is very different.
The food was good. I’ll certainly go back. I took a peek at the weekday menu as it was handily on display outside, which looked a bit scary. A little posh for a Leith pub, perhaps and maybe this is where the hipster image came from. Based on the weekend’s success, I’d risk the weekday food.
Update. The new menu is much more orientated around ‘Burger Mama’, a brand born in 2018, four years after the original review. People, including this blogger, now go back to the Lioness of Leith for the burgers.
The place is new, but I get the feeling it is run (or at least; staffed) by people with experience. There’s a Facebook page and a Twitter account.
They’re not too active. I hope they perk up because it does make all the difference to me now. I want local venues with characters that I can talk to easily.
Update. The Lioness of Leith oozes experience and capability; they’ve earned it. One thing to note is that they stress that their food is good, not fast food, and in their experience if you’re turning up in a group, you should let them know in advance.
I hope the Lioness of Leith is the starting point for a transformation of Duke Street. It’s a possibility, as the street has been punching below its weight for years now. The Lioness of Leith appeals to me as a pub to visit after popping into the Tesco for some shopping or even as a pub to retreat to if I’m visiting the Leith Links and the weather turns bad. I imagine the place will do very well whenever there are fairs in this part of town.
Update. I mean… kinda. There’s still some weird places on Duke Street that I pass often but have never gone in but there are other successes here now too.
Convert an old pinball machine into a table? Welcome to the Lioness.
The 2024 update
Although terribly written, my original review of The Lioness of Leith was glowing. An update is necessary because the pub is still very impressive! There’s no rewrite needed except to hide my first attempt at penning something articulate.
Come here if you want a great and often very busy vibe. Come here for a good burger and a good choice of drinks. Walk past the commercial nightmare of a dive on the foot of Leith Walk and support a local hero instead. However, note that it’ll likely be very busy if you come during peak time. You can book in advance, and I recommend doing so.
Suppose you’re curious about the food without risking the crowds. In that case, there’s also the ethical Foodstuff delivery option, but since we’re talking about peddle power here, give yourself plenty of time for that food to arrive too.
Lioness of Leith
A local hero, a great pub that offers a fantastic range of ‘Best Burger’ listed burgers. The Lioness of Leith has charm and quirky charisma without being oddball; it’s family and mates friendly as the sort of pub that everyone who isn’t too worried about busy venues will enjoy visiting. Recommended!