Hotel Indigo has emerged from a major transformation of the Royal British Hotel on Edinburgh’s Princes Street and it’s as if your lovable old uncle has arrived at your front door in full hipster uniform of twiddly moustache, skinny jeans and a sleeve tattoo.
The makeover has stripped away decades of tourism toil in the city centre to reveal a place that is bold, youthful and working hard to be ever-so-slightly off the wall. But at its heart, comfort and luxury are key – and with its prime location, impressive restaurant and views across the Old Town, there is substance, as well as style, to be found at Hotel Indigo.
Wining and dining
The hotel’s buzzing restaurant, Twenty Princes Street, is a grand space with floor-to-ceiling windows that allow the Saturday night atmosphere of the city to come right indoors. We sit in a large circular booth and let the show unfold, a glass of champagne and an oyster gratin setting the scene for a dinner that is big on both drama and taste.
The menu is presented in sections such as the protagonist, the plot, the subplot and the twist. Amid the gimmicks, the choice of dishes is strong and tempting with an emphasis on heritage dishes, modern twists and Scottish produce.
Small plates include slow-cooked duck leg with a mince pie purée and a goat’s curd with black fig jam.
Signature dishes include Buccleuch black pudding & pork belly roll with apple purée and sage oil, and seared West Coast scallops and medallions of lobster with apple consommé and vanilla.
I choose the mixed mushroom ravioli, all smooth and earthy, to begin with, and my partner chooses the wood pigeon. It is served on a piece of slate set within a bed of charcoal resin, and as the waiter sets it down, he squirts some dry ice over it “just for a bit of theatre”. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow and thankfully, the food is excellent. The haunch of Perthshire venison I have for main, with honey, pear and parsnips on the side, is among the best I have eaten.
Budget or boutique?
Definitely boutique. Hotel Indigo is trying to project a vintage, bespoke feel with the odd whacky touch. Branding features motifs such as dodo birds in boater hats, lobsters holding quills and acrobats playing with scallop shells. Framed pictures are crammed on to walls in a higgledy-piggledy way.
The rooms are comfortable and pleasant on the eye. A large white bed is draped with a velvet chartreuse throw and cushions. A Harris Tweed armchair adds further comfort and is offset with a mid-century style dresser.
Bedside lamps up-cycled from vintage typewriters, Victorian-style telephones and geometric-print rugs all help nail down the modern heritage look. Thick robes, ample cushions, a stack of magazines and a large television slows down any attempt to leave.
The bathroom is large and warm, with a rainfall walk-in shower and a generous selection of Aveda toiletries.
Worth getting out of bed for
Everything… this is Edinburgh, and you will find yourself right in the thick of it the minute you walk out the door. You are a short hop to either the Old or New Town. City locations don’t get much better than this although some guests do find it noisy.
You are encouraged to raid the free mini-bar of light refreshments. It is stocked with water, jelly tots, Tunnock’s teacakes and organic ginger beer. Room service can bring something a little stronger.
A very decent hotel in the heart of Edinburgh with quirky décor, fabulous views and a nice atmosphere. Only one real moan: the hot breakfast was painfully slow and not really worth the wait.
From £115 per room, bed and breakfast; Hotel Indigo, 20 Princes St, Edinburgh EH2 2AN, (0131-556 4901, www.hiedinburgh.co.uk)