If there’s one combination that works really well in a hotel it’s ultra-glamorous and cheeky.
Walking into the historic – 1881! – George Hotel in the heart of Edinburgh’s UNESCO World Heritage New Town, you are slapped upside the head with ultra-glamour of a traditional but totally-just-refurbed kind. The kilted doormen speak of tradition, as do the soaring Georgian proportions of the place and the marble and the floral arrangements even Elton would be proud of, but the way the staff greet you mean that stuffiness is the last thing you can expect from this reborn grande dame of that Athens of the North.
When we mention that we need to get ready for the big relaunch party the first weekend of October, for instance, and need a major hair and make-up session before we are presentable, the funny lady manager sends up not only a bottle of champagne and two glasses but two sets of cucumber slices for our eyes. That’s what’s known in the hotel business as a touch.
The thing with hotels like the George, the only InterContinental Hotel in the whole of Scotland, is that it has to work on a variety of fronts. As that relaunch party demonstrated, it’s perfect for a fancy hotel wedding reception. The food – including a huge seafood station – is top-notch and seamlessly laid on while there’s space for a band and for your Nan to dance to Abba’s Dancing Queen with a two-year-old niece. Yeah, we’re not big on weddings, you might have picked up on that, but this place is current holder of Wedding Hotel of the Year award, so at least they know what they’re doing.
Then it needs to work for conventions, one of which was in full swing the very morning after the big bash with a corporate breakfast laid out in that beautiful Georgian ballroom, a breakfast we almost joined until we were ushered away.
But – most importantly as far as we’re concerned – it needs to be a cool place to stay for regular folk taking in what is one of the loveliest cities in the whole of Her Majesty’s United Kingdom.
Our room couldn’t have been grander, like something out of Buckingham Palace if The Queen could bring herself to throw out some of the tat with curtains way up to the sky-high-ceilings, a clunky historic fireplace, a little nest of sofa and armchairs and a bathroom with a roll-top bath for the watching of costume dramas on iPads while soaking. Proper filter coffee as well as one of those awful Nespresso machines and proper teas and lashings of shortbread come as standard but they’re not too fancy to put a handy iron and ironing board in the wardrobe.
Breakfast is in The Print Room, where cheeky and traditional are also in perfect balance. It’s not often you come to a hotel breakfast room and feel you could spend the morning with the papers, especially if they keep those ‘tattie scones’ – a Scottish potato pancake – coming.
Downstairs there’s a coffee bar open to all-comers – Burr & Co, which sounds even nicer if you’re in possession of that Scots rhotic r – and a gym, so everything you need. But as we check out and are ushered across that classic black and white marbled floor to the door by bearded Nathan with his cheeky glint and swaying kilt, it’s the charm of The George that came with us.
InterContinental Edinburgh: The George, 19-21 George Street, Edinburgh.