Travel: The Edinburgh Grand

The Edinburgh Grand in St Andrew Square
The Edinburgh Grand in St Andrew Square
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You can bank on luxury at this capital hotel -

Scotland on Sunday’s Do Not Disturb

The disgraced former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Fred “the Shred” Goodwin, was a man obsessed by detail.

Original features have been lovingly restored in the bedroom apartments at The Edinburgh Grand

Original features have been lovingly restored in the bedroom apartments at The Edinburgh Grand

After the banking crisis that engulfed the financial sector ten years ago, details began to emerge of Goodwin’s hubris.

Tales were told of a man who once had a cleaner sweep a cigarette butt from the steps of a bank branch on the say-so of his mother who noticed the offending item while walking past. Fresh fruit from Paris, sloping-top filing cabinets to prevent items being stacked on them and the use of a private jet were just some of Goodwin’s demands.

In 2005 he shipped RBS from its traditional St Andrew Square home, where it had been comfortably ensconced at No 42, to a £350 million state-of-the-art headquarters at Gogarburn.

As a result of “Fred’s Folly” the old building, with its perfect city centre location, remained closed for 11 years – a testament to a bygone era when class, discretion and sophistication were bywords for Scotland’s capital.

Budget or boutique?

The site has been restored with The Edinburgh Grand bringing five-star luxury in the shape of 50 individually designed apartments and a restaurant and reservation-only champagne and cocktail club to this prestigious area of the city. Restoration took two years, with the venue creating 120 jobs as part of the £85m redevelopment.

Features of the original building, which opened in 1942 and had been the headquarters of National Bank of Scotland, have been lovingly restored, including original dark wood panelling, fireplaces and brass handles that give the place a feel of deals being done behind closed doors over cigars and the finest port.

Room service

There’s a degree of imagination to this development, a world away from your standard boutique hotel with old railway pictures and way too many scatter cushions. The apartments with their own kitchens are ideal for those looking to plonk themselves down in the heart of the capital. No doubt a big attraction to the corporate world as well as tourists, there’s a Calvinistic practicality to the place that makes it a good base from which to work and play.

Everything gravitates towards the top. On entrance you will be immediately drawn towards the stunning atrium with its spotless black and white checkered floor – not a fag butt in sight.

Whisper it quietly and don’t tell the staff but the place has its very own version of the fabled “executive toilet” treasured by bankers of old who went to the right school.

The three-bedroom penthouse will set you back the best part of two “Edinburgh” grand a night but it lives up to its billing as the most sought-after hotel booking and table reservation in the city. This truly incredible space built on top of the old building offers a panoramic view of Auld Reekie rivalled only by the top of Arthur’s Seat and the Castle ramparts. There’s a magic to Edinburgh the higher up you go and this feels like you could reach out and touch the dials on the clock at the Balmoral. Our guide was as cagey as a Swiss banker when I asked who had stayed here celebrity-wise, but rest assured A-listers will be quick to seek out this penthouse – with discretion guaranteed.

Wining and dining

A word about The Register Club. This reservation-only champagne and cocktail club run by The Bon Vivant team is a perfect spot for people watching and a good place to kick-off or end an evening with a nice drink and classy nibbles.

There’s a games room where would-be Grand Masters can play chess or you can sit back, relax and pretend to be James Bond while attentive staff ensure your glass is topped up.

Worth getting out of bed for

Later this month the steak restaurant and cocktail bar Hawksmoor will open its doors in the former banking hall on the ground floor, with a continental cafe and another bar to follow.

Little extras

Touches like a pint of milk in the fridge for your morning cuppa and some complimentary tablet make the difference.

Guestbook comments

The Edinburgh Grand is a real treat for those looking for a special weekend, a longer stay or an overnight – well worth dipping into your overdraft for.

Kevan Christie

Prices start from £165 per night for a studio apartment up to £2,000 for the three-bedroom penthouse suite. The Edinburgh Grand, 42 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh EH2 2AD, tel: 0131-230 0570. For more information and reservations, visit www.lateralcity.com