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The Phoenix of High Street

It is a public house which has stood in the town centre since Penicuik’s creation but after years of neglect, the Railway Tavern has finally been restored to its full glory.

Having been erected in the mid 18th century, the former Railway Tavern at 12 High Street in Penicuik, is one of the few buildings still standing from the town’s birth. In recent years it had served as a public house before falling into vacancy and disrepair. That was until it was bought up by its current owners, who have set out restoring the building and extending it to create a flagship gastro pub in Penicuik’s heart.

Only months away from opening, the Cuckoo was given the opportunity to visit the restored building and see it in its near complete state, as well as talk to the resident Penicuik owners.

The Railway Tavern now stands with a complete new façade, rebuilt after construction work unveiled a myriad of problems and lack of structural stability. It now features a contemporary steel and timber ground floor with slender floor to ceiling windows, below a carefully rebuilt stone ashlar and sash and case first floor. The stone from the old High Street elevation has been kept and carefully used to recreate the upper floor.

Moving through the front door, the scale of the restoration is evident. Once dark and confused, the new lounge area is open plan and welcoming, featuring traditional touches alongside contemporary proportions. To the right, a hidden grand stone fireplace was uncovered, forming a focal point to the entrance and providing cosy refuge during Penicuik’s never-ending Winters. On the left, an original brick wall also stands adding to the narrative of the building’s colourful history. The large corner bar sits at the start of the new extension, which has doubled the available floorspace.

Beyond this an open kitchen overlooks a casual dining area, where modular booths will provide space for socialising but also with the ability to give way to live music acts or performers. It is hoped that the new Railway Tavern, which will not continue to trade under the name, will feature live acts regularly, many of whom are expected to be local.

The expanse of new floorspace continues into a double height staircase, giving customers access to a new beer garden in a walled courtyard off Lamb’s Pend. Ascending the stairs further reveals the sky-lit toilets and a flexible space, which will likely be used for events and functions.

What is evident throughout is the huge amount of work, and money, that has been required to get the building back into use. “Only two original walls still stand” said one of the owners, the front was removed for restoration work and the back for the extension.

All this though, according to the owners, is to create a restaurant/bar/gastropub that will give those in Penicuik, who are more inclined to travel into Edinburgh for evening out, the opportunity to stay and spend locally. The new establishment, whilst mindful of its heritage, will not be The Railway Tavern, nor will it seek to attract the same clientele. It will be a middle of the road offering that promises to serve good food, a wide selection of craft ales and provide a welcoming environment to all those who seek its services.

It is hoped the new offering will open by mid-September, with a launch event to be announced closer to the date.