They must have friends in high places but Market Street hotel is the newest kid in Edinburgh’s fabled Old Town… and it’s about time.
It’s a greige day as we emerge from Waverley Station to that familiar whiff of yeast in the air, a result of the local brewing scene, pumped up by down-winds, and as much a part of Auld Reekie’s fabric as the Scott Monument and that massive castle lording it over the whole place. It’s hard to see where the sky ends and the ancient sandstone of the Old Town begins, that stupidly gorgeous medieval enclave that huddles the crag and tail of an extinct volcano, just there to your left as you leave the city’s main transport hub. Edinburgh Castle tops, Holyrood Palace tails, and a warren of centuries-old buildings, a whole bunch of them built during the Renaissance, cram the bits in-between making for one of the most glorious, charming, wiggledy-woggledy old towns on earth. No wonder J.K. Rowling’s obsessed.
But up until now, Edinburgh’s hotel scene was pretty one-sided. The heritage side. Grand or twee. The Witchery is staggeringly beautiful, The Balmoral your default grand-dame, and you’ll totally want to move into Rock House on Calton Hill – with most of the rest a bit Nana’s front parlour. But modern they’re not. But the gear started shifting a year or so ago, when Eden Locke opened their slick, stylish, Insta-ready serviced apartments on George Street in the New Town, it’s sexy-as coffee house, 127, fast becoming one of the city’s hippest. And Kimpton took over The Principal last year, weaving its very welcome kind of swish over another heritage building, just down the road from Eden Locke in Charlotte Square. But the city was lacking something.
Enter Market Street, Edinburgh’s first design-led hotel and, remarkably, one of only a handful of new-builds in the Old Town. Remarkable, and the temerity of it! But this is no post-modern pastiche, instead it’s an almost-brutalist tribute to the crags and romantic turrets that rise behind it. It’s strikingly modern but it doesn’t jar one jot. And inside the style revolution continues, from the playful lobby right up top on the 7th floor which segues into Nor’ Loft, a very dishy champagne lounge with floor-to-ceiling glass windows at every opportunity to suck up those views over Princes Street Gardens towards the glorious New Town and, just beyond that, the chilly North Sea.
Your breakfast’s in here too, unless you want it delivered, goodie-bag style, to your room. It comes with champagne because it would be silly not to, and kicky little dishes like grilled grapefruit with whipped coconut and mint oil sit alongside good ol’ fry-ups and Scottish-as-they-come tattie scones. Oh, and they do the best avocado on toast this side of a breakfast cliché; creamy, smothered in chilli oil, on a grainy brown you don’t need a saw to slice through. All against a soundtrack of bossa nova, maybe a bit of dinner jazz. Nice, huh.
Dinner here’s a casual affair, of sharing plates (butternut squash Wellington, Arbroath Smokie and goat’s cheese, Queenie scallops and Ayrshire pork belly, smoked chicken rillettes, Pernod braised wild mushrooms, how long have you got?) and more champagne (there are 20 to choose from!), but if you’re after a few recommendations the Hawksmoor’s just over there, in a crazy-beautiful building on the other side of Princes Street right by St Andrew Square, The Lookout is a glass box of a restaurant plonked on top of Calton Hill serving incredible tasting menus and even better views, and everyone’s been wetting themselves over Timberyard since it opened back in 2014.
Then it’s down to the rooms, which are stylish cocoons carved out of wood and marble. Clever carpentry reveals hidden windows that gaze over the city, and your in-room bits ‘n’ bobs include an ‘indulgence’ cabinet with complimentary plonk and snacks, GHDs for your barnet, a clothes steamer which totally trumps any old iron and a Roberts radio with matching red slippers. Coffee’s locally sourced and your bed’s a ‘deep topper’, which is just asking for trouble.
One thing you notice when you come to Scotland is just how Scottish everything is. If there’s a flower arrangement on your table at breakfast, it will contain a thistle. If there’s some fabric knocking around, it will be tartan or at least tartan adjacent. If there’s a rugby match on, the boys will be in kilts, the girls in, ooh, a kicky mini in Isle of Skye with a tartan tam up top. If there’s some music to be played, there better be a bagpipe in earshot and if there’s a kitten in a basket you can bet your bottom dollar he’ll be snuggled up to nice piece of MacTavish. Maybe a Royal Stewart to make his eyes pop.
And Market Street Hotel wouldn’t have it any other way. Resolutely international and a punch-your-heart Scot, your lovely mid-century wingback chair will come with a scarlet tartan flourish while the hallways whisking you from room to champagne on the roof proudly tell the story of the Scottish unicorn, that Celtic symbol of purity, innocence, masculinity and power.
To be fair, they had us at champagne.