Short break - The Balmoral, Edinburgh
- Credit: Archant
Harry Potter and more awaits on a visit to Edinburgh’s opulent Balmoral Hotel
There are 188 rooms in the breathtaking Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh but one outstanding for a very special reason. The door is painted a dark blue and has a golden knocker in the shape of an owl. If you ask a twinkly eyed member of staff they will let you peek inside and see the very desk at which JK Rowling wrote the last of the Harry Potter series, the Deathly Hallows.
Could there be an even more enchanting reason to visit? Of course there could! Edinburgh is sprinkled with magic, from its quaintly cobbled streets and magnificent castle, to the various festivals which happen throughout the year.
So often do we head to London for the glamour of gorgeous shops and luxury hotels but Scotland's capital is for many unexplored territory and yet it offers everything you could desire from a big city.
Of course when I told friends I was staying at the Balmoral I had to hastily add that it wasn't the castle beloved of HRH but lordy! This luxurious landmark has its way of making you feel royally taken care of.
Starting life as the North British, or NB, in 1902, at prestigious, 1 Princes Street, adjacent to Waverley railway station, the hotel was owned by the Gleneagles hotel company and actor Sean Connery was on hand for the re-opening in 1991, when it was renamed the Balmoral, a Gaelic word meaning 'majestic dwelling'.
It became part of the Rocco Forte group of hotels in 1997 and carries all of the brand's signature hallmarks, including the interior design overseen by Olga Polizzi, Sir Rocco's sister and a woman who instinctively knows how a crazy statement wallpaper will work with a traditional tartan cushion.
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I'd arrived at Edinburgh's Waverley from London where I had been staying at another Rocco Forte property, Brown's in Mayfair, which has an equally illustrious history. It is of course one of its most elegant addresses, so close to the shops of Bond Street but with a recent revamp of the foyer, restaurant and bar it is now officially cool. They even have a cocktail maestro who invents concoctions that make you stay up all night at the bar.
The Balmoral gives you a taste of Scotland every bit as cool as Brown's. There's enough here to make you feel you're in Edinburgh but they've drawn the line at kilts and bagpipes - although the guy who oversees the 500 malts at the whisky bar looked like he'd tossed a caber or two in his time.
Dining-wise, well it makes you wonder why go anywhere else in the city. The chic Brasserie Prince by Alain Roux is the relaxed option. We sampled boards groaning with delights, freshly baked crusty artisan bread, Sicilian olives, spicy tapenade, warm asparagus, locally cured meats and Scottish cheeses, followed by brasserie favourites from pasta with chick peas in a sweet tomato sauce to a perfectly executed steak tartar.
There's afternoon tea in the delightful Palm Court, a grandly elegant Victorian room, above us while a harp played we nibbled on the most wonderful pastries and sandwiches and sipped Ruinart Blanc de Blancs champagne.
The Balmoral's Number One restaurant has held a Michelin star for 17 years which is an amazing achievement and the talent in the kitchen is evident from the start of our £90-a-head menu. In the bar we nibble on teeny canapés that are flavour bombs and as we sit down at our table, freshly baked bread, whipped butter. Exquisitely cooked Wagyu beef, North Sea cod with pickled clams and baked celeriac were polished off with gusto and space made for fabulous desserts such as Amedei chocolate mille feuille, bergamot, caramel ice cream.
Packages at the Balmoral start at £300,