Just north of famous Princes Street in Edinburgh, and overlooking the green precinct of historic Charlotte Square where the acclaimed Edinburgh International Book Festival takes place every November, the imposing facade of the Roxburghe Hotel stands tall along the southeast edge, rubbing its Georgian shoulders with noteworthy neighbours. On the north side, Bute House is official home to the First Minister of Scotland, and to the south, the birthplace of Alexander Graham Bell is another noteworthy home. So, with such esteemed surroundings, the red carpet gracing the entrance to the Roxburghe is far from out of place.
Inside, the hotel is an eclectic mix of old and new, contemporary and period, but every aspect works well. Walls are painted in warm hues of lilac, the floor is wood with the occasional tapestry-effect rug, and even the pillars have been given a modern look with mirrored facings that brighten the large rooms.
We ate in the Melrose Lounge overlooking Charlotte Square. With the Melrose Restaurant next door and the Consort Bar also serving meals, guests won’t struggle for choice. And the service is friendly too – unhurried, polite, and attentive without being overbearing.
The menu isn’t extensive for lunch, but I like that in a restaurant. Lunches are meant to be simple, uncomplicated meals. Taking a break from work or the strenuous rigours of shopping, shouldn’t be met with a complex menu and head scratching choice. So the Roxburghe has got this one absolutely right. There’s something for everyone here. The heat of a curry, the tradition of battered fish, the meatiness of steak and the comfort of cottage pie – whatever the weather or your personal taste this is a menu to make you happy.
We tried the curry and the Caesar salad, and chatted to Jimmy, probably one of Scotland’s cheeriest waiters while our food was cooked. The curry, with its free-range chicken, perfectly cooked fluffy rice and tangy lime chutney was hot and fragrant. Not the sort of heat that makes you think your head’s on fire, but the sort that demonstrates a chef has a good relationship with his spice rack. Madhur Jaffrey would have been very happy with this.
The Caesar was also very good. A salad can often be a disappointing choice in a restaurant. Invariably on the menu to cater only for guests who either eat little or have an aversion to any sort of calorie intake, they can often be overlooked and disappointing dishes. But not so at the Roxburghe. The chicken was a whole roasted breast, moist and tender and with crispy skin – a far cry from the usual chopped pieces you find strewn over the top of some limp lettuce leaves. Large lengths of parmesan, slivers of anchovies and crispy croutons, with just the right amount of dressing. And they know their wines here too, with the Barossa region featuring as the main attraction. The crisp zing of a good citrus flavoured wine never seems to miss the mark.
The Roxburghe prides itself on its food, and so it should. A plaque outside the restaurant announces its commitment to local and sustainable food sources, and the manager Wilfreid Gendron says their dedication to seasonal fare runs throughout the Macdonald chain of hotels.
We were only there for the food, but a quick wander around the rest of the hotel after lunch told us all we needed to know about its popularity. The courtyard between the old and new parts of the Roxburghe was overflowing with contented wedding guests, although one or two had escaped the cacophony to relax in the sanctuary of the traditional Consort Bar. With rooms that blend the traditional with the new, a state of the art gym open to locals as well as guests, and friendly staff who greet you with a smile, it’s little wonder the Roxburghe has such a well-earned reputation.
We love this hotel for its proximity to everything that Edinburgh has to offer. It’s a fantastic choice if you’re visiting the city, and if you’re looking for a party venue at New Year, there’s an amazing view of Edinburgh Castle from one of the upper floors. This is definitely a luxury hotel in a fantastic city.