So focused on guest convenience is the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa Edinburgh, that if one should happen to enter the hotel from Festival Plaza via the restaurant and lounge, there’s a discreet desk by the restaurant door with check-in staff. We didn’t try it, but I can guarantee you that before they’d have a chance to pull out their credit card, a bellman from the main entrance at the opposite side of the hotel will be at their side.
We entered the usual way, up the circular driveway in a big square Edinburgh cab, from which the bellman had extracted and our luggage before we had time to pay the fare. The doorman wished us good morning (we always seem to arrive at hotels long before check-in time) and escorted us through the gleaming lobby to the desk. Morning arrival was not a problem at all – nothing ever seems to be a problem here -- and the bellman showed us to our room immediately.
There can’t be a better hotel room view in the city than ours, looking out directly at the solid walls of Edinburgh Castle atop its rock. The location, at the opposite end of the green swath of the Princes Street Gardens from Waverly Station, was convenient to the sights and to shopping. We were anxious to be out and about it, so it wasn’t until we returned late that afternoon that we appraised the attractions of the room itself.
It was moderately sized, with plenty of floor space around the king-sized bed for two upholstered armchairs and a long desk. There was plenty of space to open up our luggage without tripping over it, and the desk not only accommodated all our combined electronics, but had a panel of outlets to fit every known device, including a USB charger. On the down side, there was a charge for internet – which was fast, at least. The desk had a comfortable chair on wheels and lighting was excellent, as it was elsewhere in the room. Rheostat switches let us choose the level, and gooseneck lights at either side made reading in bed comfortable. Neither of us read very long, as the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bed was inviting us to put down our books.
The room was comfortable and well-appointed, the service was outstanding, but it’s the food I’ll remember longest. We had heard that chef Malcolm Webster was one of the city’s best, so reserved a window table (couldn’t get enough of that castle view) at One Square, and arrived early enough to enjoy a drink in the smart lounge that adjoins it. A blend of Art Deco and Euro-chic, the lounge is above all a thoroughly comfortable place to be, with tall contemporary armchairs set in conversation groups looking out across the plaza, and smaller tables for two along the wall near the gleaming bar. Everything in the hotel gleams, largely due to a recent total refurbishment and design makeover.
Dinner was superb, our choices made with the advice of maître d’ Gavin Purdie (who returned during dessert to make suggestions of places to dine when we moved on to Glasgow). Our first courses were a terrine of local rare breed pork and a mélange of mussels, razor clams and cockles cooked in local cider with cream and garlic. We followed those with venison Wellington, in a tender crust with wild mushrooms and sauced with black currant, and sea trout from Loch Etive prepared with smoked brown shrimp and served with caper butter. The emphasis is on locally grown, caught and produced ingredients, and the results are spectacular.
Breakfasts were a buffet of Scottish and continental treats, with touches to make a Yankee feel at home – including real maple syrup for the pancakes. The à la carte menu offered even more choices, and I ordered scrambled eggs with smoked Scottish salmon, accompanied by “tattie scones” – a tasty grilled potato cake. Haggis, grilled kippers and kedgeree were other Scottish dishes offered.
So hearty was my breakfast that it lasted me until the hotel served afternoon tea, a particular specialty of the new restaurant (it’s been open only a year). We chose the Grand Traditional Afternoon Tea, and I lost count of the goodies after the finger sandwiches of roast Scotch beef with horseradish cream and smoked salmon with dill crème fraîche, fresh-baked scones (Bourbon vanilla & saffron, lavender scented chocolate) served with Devonshire clotted cream and apple-rhubarb jam, fruit tarts, macaroon with lemon curd, ginger cake and caramel toffee sponge. Service in the restaurant, as elsewhere in the hotel, managed to be at once flawless and cordial.
Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa Edinburgh is at One Festival Square, tel +44 (131) 229 9131, or in US 800 325-3535.