In one of the busiest junctions in Edinburgh, at the convergence of Leith Walk, Broughton Street and York Place, noise, traffic and crowds compete for your attention. But between the brightly lit shops and opposite the building site at the St James Centre sits an unobtrusive doorway to a traditional Georgian townhouse on Picardy Place, now redeveloped to give its own definition of what a city stay should offer.
The Wine House 1821 was opened recently by restaurateur Sep Marini and Italian wine producer Michele Zonin. On the ground floor is a bar area and eatery offering an exceptional collection of wines, drinks and cocktail creations, along with a compact menu of food, the first floor has an event suite, and upstairs are four bedrooms.
Budget or boutique?
The Wine House is a high-end offering, with a bar interior designed by architect Claudio Silvestri. Encased in oak with slick, clean lines, the interiors are a backdrop for the library of wine, with banquette seating, wooden tables and an illuminated bar. It is a place to dress up, take friends and embark on a journey of discovery with the attentive sommeliers genuinely interested in finding the right wine for you. They even let you try sips of two or three different styles before choosing each glass. The event suite on the first floor is flooded with natural light from huge double-aspect picture windows, its own bar and views of Calton Hill and over the Firth of Forth.
Winding your way up the grand staircase takes you to the rooms, which are ultra modern and comfortable and have chichi en suites with a glorious double-ended bath. A mini bar with complimentary prosecco makes for a welcoming glass of fizz as you change for dinner. Our room overlooks Picardy Place below but sumptuous thick curtains, and perhaps our alcohol intake, mean that the traffic noise by no means gets in the way of a good night’s sleep.
Wining and dining
It is all about the wine, which is on display for perusal and there are knowledgeable staff on hand to help you make your choice. A hi-tech machine which seals opened bottles to keep them fresh – one of only a few in Scotland – means you can order a single glass from some exclusive lines. Most of the wines are from the Zonin’s family estates in Italy, the US and Chile and you can dot about from pleasingly refreshing tipples to deep, complex flavours.
But the bar also offers an excellent cocktail list and when my drinking partner, Lizzie, says she has always wanted to try a negroni, the bar manager talks us through the origins, flavours and available twists to producing a bespoke glass.
Instead of matching wine to food, this is a place to do it the other way round, with a sharing platter of Italian meats and cheeses, or a simple dish of pâté, focaccia and olives, chosen to match your tipple. For bigger appetites there is lasagne or aubergine parmigiana. The food all tastes authentically Italian too. I haven’t had buffalo mozzarella as meltingly fluffy this side of Sorrento.
Breakfast is continental, with croissants and pain au chocolat to dip into coffee.
Worth getting out of bed for
The location couldn’t be more central and as it is within five minutes’ walk of Waverley, you could certainly spend a weekend in town taking in a show at Edinburgh Playhouse, stopping in at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and, when it opens fully again, indulging in a major hit of retail therapy at the St James Centre, without straying more than a quarter of a mile in any direction.
The Wine House 1821 offers competitively priced wine-tasting packages, for both aficionados and novices. If you’ve discovered a new favourite, you can grab a bottle to take home.
The Wine House combines Georgian heritage with modern twists and sophisticated design. Featuring more than 30 wines by the glass and 100 by the bottle, it is the ultimate pit stop for wine lovers.
Rooms start from £195 per night B&B including complimentary mini bar and prosecco. The Wine House 1821, 4 Picardy Place, Edinburgh EH1 3JT. (0131-557 1821, [email protected])