Hotel review

Review of the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh: “Quite a feat”

Cool, stylish and not a hint of tartan in sight – Rocco Forte’s luxury outpost in Edinburgh is quite a feat

We emerge into Edinburgh’s Princes Street from the bowels of the earth – otherwise known as Waverley Station – and find that London’s gloom has been replaced by the pale blue sky and the rocky, muscular landscape of this Rio de Janeiro of the British Isles, Auld Reekie.

It’s about six steps from the top of the station steps to the front door of our hotel, the Balmoral – and on the way back you get a sensational view along Edinburgh’s most famous thoroughfare , past the Scott Monument and the distant hills beyond.

The Balmoral, of course, is an Edinburgh landmark in its own right, and its iconic clock has been running three minutes since 1902 to keep guests from missing their train. It’s still fast today even though most trains are late.

At the time, it was the North British Station Hotel, but that all changed in 1991, when actor Sir Sean Connery officially reopened the hotel after a major redevelopment. A few years later it became the first of the new luxury hotel group from hotelier Sir Rocco Forte.

We are greeted, relieved of our bulky luggage, and have coffee in the Gallery mezzanine lounge, cradled by a musician playing a seven-foot-tall harp, while taking in the view of the bustling lobby. The living room has a relaxed vibe, with a mixed group – family reunions or outings, dating and business meetings, making more than a match for my two young children who are starting their charm offensive on staff and others. clients.

Shown to our bedroom, we are in the Bowes-Lyon Suite, a gorgeous slice of Edinburgh real estate on the first floor overlooking Princes Street, which has an incredibly stylish living room the size of a London studio (spanning 66 square meters no less), and a bedroom with matching proportions and aesthetic personality. No review could fail to mention the bedroom wallpaper – a subdued green botanical motif – repeated on the curtains in the bright living room, which reminded me of my long-deceased maiden aunts, but was somehow very contemporary and really pretty cool at the same time.

Connery himself also makes a shirtless appearance in the bathroom. Here, among the refinements one would expect from a hotel like this (including Asprey toiletries) is a six-foot-tall framed black-and-white photograph of the actor holding the feet of a bikini-clad Ursula Andress on the beach. It was taken while filming Doctor No in 1962 and this is precisely the image for warming the hulls on a cold day in Edinburgh.

The same goes for the hotel’s rather great swimming pool, steam room and spa, where products from the Irene Forte Skincare range are offered and which is absolutely perfect after a day of sightseeing.

There are also plenty of other things to enjoy in the hotel, including the Scotch, the whiskey bar which holds 500 whiskeys, and the Prince Brewery, which hosted the Marsh family for excellent breakfasts and a meal from evening which remains memorable, although I concluded it with the kind of tangy vodka martini that would put hair on the breasts of even 007.

I guess it was Connery’s poster that touched me. Dinner highlights included the entree of six Burgundy snails – supple and flavorful and delicious, salted and garlic, they were bathed in boiling oil, and they could have been a shrimp or a crustacean. I could have eaten a dozen. My wife’s smoked Dunbar salmon was rustic and serious. The Haggis arrived on a platter before being cut in half like William Wallace at the Tower of London. Sweet and peppery, it was wrapped with a buttery finish and set a new bar for the haggis.

If only we had had time for tea at the hotel’s Palm Court, which I wish we had. The food looked delicious – as did the accompaniment of the harpist. (I must add that the number one Michelin star hotel was closed when we visited otherwise we would have tried that.)

As one might hope, the service was there: friendly, efficient and warm, which unfortunately cannot always be expected, even in the largest of luxury hotels.

Finally, for an unmistakably Caledonian hotel, its interior was perfectly tartan-free. Personally, I love the stuff, but it can irritate the eye when supplied in quantity. Yet while the Balmoral is as Scottish as Robert the Bruce reciting Irvine Welsh on Burn’s Night, there’s not a piece of the substance to be seen. Quite an achievement. Just like the hotel itself.

Web: roccofortehotels

Alec Marsh is editor-in-chief of Spear’s

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