THE UK flagship of the Sheraton group, the Edinburgh hotel dominates Festival Square, slap bang in the centre of the city with views across the road to the splendid Usher Hall and the forbidding castle ramparts.
A multi-million pound refurbishment project last year took it from a tartan-carpeted scone stop to a slickly designed, hyper-chic destination hotel.
WINING AND DINING
The highlight of any foodie experience here has to be Dining At The Pass – at a table in the kitchen where chef Malcolm Webster talks the privileged four diners through each course, accompanied for an extra £30 per person with specially chosen wines. Well, it would be rude not to.
There are five courses (from £60 per person) or seven (£80) in all, starting with Connage crowdie with squash, beetroot and celeriac, and including a langoustine, scallop and crab broth, St Bride’s Farm duck, served with endive, kohlrabi, truffle and plum, ending with the most spectacular performance of a dessert that, to describe here, would ruin the surprise for future diners.
After all that, you’d think breakfast would be a bit of an anti-climax, but it hits just the right spot with its huge spread of cooked delicacies, meats and cheeses, cereals and fruits, all enjoyed while overlooking the fountain in Festival Square.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
It could hardly be described as boutique. But the level of expense depends on how you play it. I was privileged enough to stay in the Grand Suite – the room all visiting stars and dignitaries sleep in. For all my efforts, I couldn’t squeeze any names out of the manager but, from £800 a night, it’s not for the penny pincher.
My dream suite wanted for nothing: castle views, video entry system, Nespresso machine, BOSE sound system, bluetooth media hub, private lobby, a lounge big enough to throw a party; unlimited wi-fi; and access to the Club Lounge, should I choose to have coffee and breakfast in more discreet surroundings. My vast Sweet Sleeper bed had me knocked out in seconds and, come the morning, I made the most of my complimentary access to Escape at One, arguably the best spa experience in Edinburgh.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
It would have been so easy to spend all my time in that vast suite, playing with the gadgets and working my way through the mini bar. But for any visitor to Edinburgh, it would be a scandal not to explore the nearby surroundings. A quick walk takes you to Princes Street Gardens, then up to the castle. Visit the shops on Princes Street and the West End, or explore the more quirky Old Town boutiques in the Grassmarket area. Come evening, there could be a concert at the Usher Hall, or a play at the Traverse theatre.
But don’t leave without sampling the Sheraton’s connoisseurs’ gin tasting experience. The bar at One Square boasts a collection of 52 gins and counting, many of them Scottish. The knowledgeable staff guide you through a choice of three (£21) or four (£24), all matched with the recommended tonic and garnish, explaining the difference between them all. It really is an education, without being remotely stuffy. My new favourite is Blackwood’s gin from Shetland (glass rinsed out with violet liqueur first, mind), served with Fever-tree tonic and a lime wheel. Oh, but I’m also rather fond of the lovely 1724 tonic, named for the altitude at which it is sourced, on the Inca Trail in the Andes. Yes, really. Decisions, decisions ...
Impeccable, friendly service ensures that, while the Sheraton is an undeniably large chain hotel, it still feels intimate and personal. There is everything you might need in the bathroom – even a disposable razor – for the forgetful traveller.
GUEST BOOK COMMENTS
Stylish, fun, friendly – this does everything you would expect from the brand, with knobs on.
Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa, 1 Festival Square, Edinburgh (0131-229 9131, www.sheratonedinburgh.co.uk)