Let me get this off my chest before I begin – Edinburgh and I don’t have a natural affection for each other.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been on a few visits and they’ve been, well, fine (just at the wrong time of year with the wrong people) but I’ve left each time just a little bit underwhelmed by Scotland’s capital. I’ve a similar relationship with olives, blue cheese and single malts, but the thing is I so want it to be different. I’ll try olives every time I see them, stilton is a regular visitor to my fridge “just in case”, and I’m totally open to trying a good whisky if there’s one on offer.
In a similar vein, I’ll snap up any opportunity to visit Edinburgh, which is exactly what I did with a visit to a newly refurbished G&V Royal Mile Hotel, bang smack in the middle of the action.
Located on the junction of George IV Bridge (G) and Victoria Street (V), this unremarkable-from-the-outside hotel has undergone quite the transition internally. From the moment you step in past the bekilted doormen to check-in with a welcoming gin (G) and tonic (T), it’s quite clear that this place is set up to help you unwind from your normal life, but wind you back up for whatever Edinburgh has to offer her visitors.
One of the reasons for that is that everywhere you look you’re surrounded by local this, and local that. From the interior design of the suites (Graven Images), through the complimentary bathroom goodies (Arran Aromatics), to the gloriously art-worked restaurant (Timorous Beasties), everywhere you turn screams Scottish creativity. As part of the substantial breakfast buffet, they even have fresh honeycomb supplied by bees who live about as locally as you can get – on the roof a few floors up.
To be honest, some of the design work really didn’t mesh well, but this is a hotel in transition, and the direction she’s going in is very pleasing indeed. Once Quorus finish off tweaking, this hotel really could be on its way to becoming a destination in its own right.
Our home for the few nights – Deluxe Room, third floor, overlooking George IV Bridge. Lovely spot to watch the world go by, with a room-height line illustration of Grassmarket on a feature wall (try taking a photo of the same view, and see what’s missing…). Perfect as a place to get your head down in between explorations, not quite big enough to hang out in for long, though.
After a short hop from Heathrow, our first evening was spent in the talented hands of the waiting staff of Cucina, the in-house restaurant at G&V Royal Mile. Our Neopolitan sommelier took us through the predominantly Italian wine list, before settling on a glorious tipple from Satrico that saw us through the starter of scallops with a saffron glaze and puréed celeriac.
The evening was all going so, so well – conversation and wine flowing, nice hubbub around the room, good craic with the waiting staff…until the main dishes came out and time stopped. Conversation stopped. The room closed in to leave just me and saffron risotto, alone. Love at first bite (not to mention the second, third and fourth…). Apparently someone else had something else on the other side of the table. Apparently it was nice too, but I couldn’t say for; my little saffron beauty and I were having a moment.
Follow that with a cracking Crema Catalana for pud, and you’ve got the makings of a very pleasant meal; beautifully simple, beautifully executed, all whilst we were made to feel utterly welcome.
Next day, it was time to get out into the capital and see what’s what; out came the pedometer, and off we trotted with a bunch of ‘”must-see“s, “don’t bother“s and “it’d be nice if“s on our list.
If you searched online for how to spend a day in Auld Reekie you’d probably get a list that includes the National Museum, Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh Castle and so on which. For those of you who are rain-averse they would be a suitable, if unremarkable way to spend some time, and I fell for that mistake last time I was here.
They’re all inside, see, and the real Edinburgh isn’t there!
The real Edinburgh is outside.
Dear reader, invest yourself in some appropriate clothing and get outdoors. You’ve got Arthur’s Seat, The Botanic Gardens, the Old Town, Princes Street Gardens, and so on… We came across endless nooks and crannies to spend our time – meeting a dog who sat loyally by his owner’s grave, passing the café where Harry Potter was but a twinkle in JK’s eye, lunch in a pub with seemingly thousands of tea pots on the walls, then window shopping in Jenners to name but a few.
Explore, dream, recover (to paraphrase Mark Twain).
That last part will be pretty easy to do once you make your way back to the G&V to work your way through the cocktail menu at their new bar – Epicurean. Following on from the local feeling from earlier, a fair amount of the ingredients are sourced from the region not to mention the honey from the roof (those bees are kept busy, I tell ya), with botanicals grown in the hotel’s own hydroponic system.
So, given all of that which my recent visit provided for me, allow me to revisit my opening statement. It’s not that I don’t like Edinburgh, it’s just that I didn’t know the real her, much the same as I’ve misunderstood olives all these years.
For the record, I’d definitely go back to Edinburgh. I’m still working on the olives.
G&V Royal Mile Hotel is part of the Quorvus Collection. For more information about the G&V, including details of exclusive offers and wellness packages, visit www.quorvuscollection.com.