HOW the wealthy neighbours in this broad, cobbled avenue of Edinburgh’s New Town must have swooned, the net curtains twitching furiously as the paying guests at The Howard came and went.
Once a ‘disreputable boarding house’ in one of the city’s most exclusive streets, the various owners over the years have taken three terraced townhouses and transformed them into a plush, intimate, five-star hotel where each visitor is served by a private butler and the decor is all opulent luxury and Georgian elegance.
WINING AND DINING?
You certainly won’t go hungry. My starter – a trio of salmon, warm blini, shallot and caper dressing – was a hearty plateful, while my companion wolfed down the slow-roasted pork belly, king prawns and coconut foam. To follow she had fabulously tender Highland venison cutlets, root vegetables, roast potato and port glaze, while my beef topped with foie gras and served with dauphinoise potato, roasted cherry tomatoes and whisky jus was divinely decadent. You’d think that would be enough to satisfy the appetites of two delicate young ladies, but she opted for a selection of Mellis cheeses served with moreish walnut bread while I had Madagascan vanilla crème brûlée with hazelnut biscotti, white chocolate sorbet and blueberry coulis. Breakfast was similarly feast-like, with yoghurt and fresh fruit, followed by another generous slice of smoked salmon, this time with deliciously buttery scrambled eggs and a choice of nearly 20 teas. We could have sat there all morning. In the unlikely event that you have any room after that little lot, The Howard is also famous for its afternoon teas. Scone, anyone?
The beds were super-comfy, the bathroom a vision of cream marble, with freestanding, rolltop bath, rain shower and two sinks. Come the morning, we had a stunning view across Edinburgh’s skyline, the morning mist dispersing to reveal a glorious sunny spring day. And our butler was on hand 24 hours, whether our heart’s desire was a cup of tea in our room, a pair of shoes we could see our faces in, our bags packed, our pyjamas pressed or a hot bath run, complete with overflowing bubbles.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR?
You’re almost half-way between the centre of Edinburgh – with its shops, art galleries and cultural destinations – and Stockbridge – home to individual stores, quirky bars and a great weekly farmers’ market. On the doorstep are cute cafés and wonderful antique shops, where you can pick up anything from a vintage kimono to an art deco chandelier.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
Boutique in the truest sense of the word. The service is individually tailored to each guest and while it is attentive, it never feels overpowering.
There is no fitness centre on site but the concierge can arrange for a day pass at the nearby Bannatyne’s, five minutes up the road. There is a beautifully serene ‘secret’ back garden, where you can have a Pimms on a summer afternoon. And the free wifi is a bonus for social networking addicts.
The Howard wraps you up in its cosy embrace. You might never want to leave.
The Howard, 34 Great King Street, Edinburgh (0131-557 3500, www.theedinburghcollection.com/thehoward). From £170 for a standard room (room only); dinner from £32.50; breakfast £18 per person.