WOODLAND CREATURES

Woodland Creatures

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An exciting and intriguing new proposition opens its doors to the Edinburgh public this week, namely Woodland Creatures a much needed alternative addition to Edinburgh’s café bar scene. Located midway down Leith Walk-formerly Balfours Bar- Woodland Creatures is the brainchild of the combined and collaborative talents, ideas and influences of its two founders Christopher Mooney and Louise Thomas.

Louise will be familiar to many on the scene in Edinburgh as the co- owner of the Street in Picardy Place which has held sway at the corner of Broughton Street more than successfully for several years-they recently held their eighth birthday party for the bar at a site which few have been able to make work in the past so this indicates something of her business acumen – whilst Chris has his feet more firmly rooted in the arts community working away privately on his sculpture work. It is the combination of their talents which has resulted in the pulling together of resources to create the unique and individual entity which is Woodland Creatures.

The birthing process of this particular baby started its gestation nine months ago- a further reference to the human touches which make this enterprise stand out- with a singular idea that Edinburgh lacked a bar which offered a gallery space which was just not an after thought or a cheap way of decorating the walls. Mooney then invited Thomas to offer her opinion on a property which had piqued his interest and as she heard his ideas and realised how they correlated with her own decided she wanted to be involved. Thus what had previously been a close friendship evolved into a strong working relationship and a further bonding process which took their friendship to a new level and remains as strong and resolute as  ever despite the stresses and strains of getting such an adventurous project off the ground.

One thing which has repeatedly cropped up since the pair announced they were embarking on this venture was the unusual name Woodland Creatures. If effect was what they were after then they certainly managed to succeed on that level, as quizzical eyebrows were raised and furrowed brows struggled to restrain a lack of comprehension, whenever anyone was told the name.

Admittedly I was sceptical myself on first hearing it but after repeated hearings,  plus the reality of the actual bar itself taking shape, I have become used to it almost to the extent I can’t imagine it being called anything else now.

Despite this it was therefore inevitable I asked the pair what encouraged them to choose what is, on initial hearing, an outlandish and ever so slightly off the wall moniker. I was duly informed that such a name challenges preconceptions- true in the light of my being won round- and that it will act as a metaphorical door steward in itself as it is an effective deterrent to the less- shall we say- salubrious elements which used to frequent the premises. That mystery is now explained therefore solved and trust me the name does grow on you.

Other stand out features of the enterprise is the different beers etc. on offer. It will be the only Edinburgh outlet offering both Innis and Gunn beer on draught as well as environmentally friendly Puro Coffee which works alongside the World Land Trust- backed and supported by none other than David Attenborough- as alternatives to other bars/cafes in the town. This promotion of the coffee side of the business correlates with their ideologies of making this a bar for all age groups and culturally aware types. Thus parents are encouraged to bring their children in- up until 7pm- and dog owners will be pleased to hear it is also a dog friendly environment. Add to this a selection of  fresh smoothies combined with an on the premises prepared small menu operating to offer something different  throughout the day/ evening then all markets are being catered for.

As for the design itself the bar is a spacious and airy space which utilises itself to its best advantage. The gallery doubles up as a function room space which will have a split sound system separating it from the regular activities of the main bar area. Come March a small beer garden-the only one in Leith Walk- will be fully operational away from the front street and at the back of the premises. As for the exhibition space the first exhibiting artist is local talent Tim Parker.  Callum Reid  were enlisted and are responsible for translating the ideas and visions of Mooney and Thomas, bringing them together to create an already instantly recognisable brand.

Another encouraging factor of this venture is the confidence that both parties involved have in their ideas. So much so that talks are already underway about taking their ideas elsewhere and not only in Edinburgh but also expansion into other cities. Thus Woodland Creatures is only the start of something new and its future looks assured even before it has opened its doors to the public.

Woodland Creatures  260-262 Leith Walk, Edinburgh Scotland. 0131 629 5509.

It will be open to the general public 11.oo am -1.ooam daily as from February 14th

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