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Hotel Review: It’s Back To The Bruntsfield

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Hotel Review: It’s Back To The Bruntsfield

Hotel Review: It’s Back To The Bruntsfield
May 18
11:44 2022

Edinburgh as a city has so much going for it, it’s not hard to see why it’s one of the world’s most attractive tourist (and business) destinations. From its history and culture to its nightlife, open spaces and exceptional visitor attractions, Scotland’s capital has few rivals.

Part of the reason for its magnetism is the unique combination of heritage, style, architectural beauty, affordability (relatively speaking) and – current tram works notwithstanding – accessibility. As a consequence it will always appear in the list of my Top 2 Favourite Cities of the World. (For the record, the other is Cape Town; I’ll let you decide which one comes out on top).

Sleep well: The hotel’s 72 bedrooms have been refurbished

If I have one criticism from the Edinburgh visitor’s perspective, however, it is that the gap between the city’s basic accommodation and luxury-level hotels has always proven to be something of a bridge too far for many people, me included.

If you’re visiting on a budget there are, of course, countless outlets that will serve up a rudimentary room, bed and en suite. The problem for many people seeking a mite more indulgence is that graduation up to the likes of the Caledonian Waldorf, the Balmoral, the Sheraton Grand or any of the high end independent establishments is often just a bit too steep a ladder to climb. Luxury usually comes at a premium, of course, meaning that aspirational guests either need deeper pockets or they will have to follow their tastes further out of town. Essentially, Edinburgh has it all, other than an endless list of affordable, midrange, high quality accommodation options. However, now there is hope in the form of The Bruntsfield, a long-established but recently acquired property situated only a mile or so from town.

Built as a doctors’ surgery in 1861, the detached 72-bedroom converted Georgian townhouse occupies a familiar sight opposite Bruntsfield Links, the tree-lined meadow which has for decades provided an alternative to the actual Meadows as the preferred play area for families, dog walkers, skivers and work-shy students. I used to live in the area myself and I’m pretty sure I fulfilled all of those designations at various stages during my time there.

Dog-friendly alfresco dining: The Bruntsfield’s new Kitchen Bar Garden

Gazing up at the 19th-Century building from its private car park – a rare bonus in an increasingly anti-auto environment – it is hard to identify anything significant that has changed in the last three or four decades. It remains a handsome structure in spite of any low-grade attempts to mess with its façade over the years.

Step inside and it’s a noticeably different layout to the last time I visited, almost 20 years ago. There are clear signs of recent investment in the foyer that have transformed it into a light, bright, airy area of relaxation. The welcome at the reception desk is as warm and genuine as it should be, and it somewhat belies the city’s long-held and largely unwarranted reputation for stuffiness. Indeed, the staff here are evidently pleased to see their guests and greet them with a broad smile and a natural, nuanced engagement.

The bedrooms themselves are attractive, if not especially capacious, with tall windows and high ceilings helping to compensate for smallish bathrooms and a perceived lack of floor space. Our particular en suite wasn’t equipped with a bath – a not untypical miscalculation on my part, as tactfully pointed out through gritted teeth by my pregnant wife. For once this particular oversight didn’t matter so much in the end, however; the beds are sizeable, plush and comfortable, and the walk-in showers achieve their ambitions of freshening everything up as required.

An 8pm dinner in the hotel’s in-house restaurant, The Neighbourhood, was a highlight for both of us, made more memorable still by our long-serving, long-suffering waiter, Dougie. An amiable gent who has worked in the hotel via various owners and managers for over two decades, he seamlessly blends a walk-through history of the building with welcome advice on what to choose from the menu. His 20 years on the job have clearly perfected his ability to pick up on social cues, and he has deftly mastered the art of being friendly and attentive without appearing overbearing or intrusive. He’s good for info, entertainment and banter but he knows when to leave you alone. It is a quality that is all too rare these days, regardless of industry or profession.

Keeping it in The Neighbourhood: The hotel’s restaurant isn’t just for guests

The evening menu itself is tempting enough, and the majority of the options look rewarding. As a reviewer I’m not a huge fan of picking apart specific dishes and clinically dissecting the attributes or otherwise of each course. Personal taste is the original form of subjectivity and so I usually avoid recommending or disregarding any specific items. Put simply, if you think you’ll enjoy something, give it a try.

In the event, we shared between us an excellent bowl of haggis ravioli, a slightly plain portion of nachos (which ironically ticked all the super-taster boxes of my other half), a well-cooked steak burger (her choice) and a beautifully presented fillet of baked salmon. The draught beers for me were served perfectly chilled, while my wife’s solitary glass of Coca-Cola induced immediate and profound indigestion, like I said it would.

Sated and tired, we only managed a couple of light deserts: A warmed chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream, and a few additional scoops of somewhat underwhelming ice cream flavours for me. There is notable room for improvement with the latter but I suspect things will improve soon enough, if or when nearby legends S. Luca get involved.

Breakfast a few hours later was first class, helped in part by our lovely waitress, Pauline. Much to Lucy’s ongoing scepticism I am rarely hungry first thing in the morning but I’m nevertheless conscious of the importance of hotels leaving a good impression on guests; if the kitchen disappoints at 8am – especially on check-out day – then there is a decent chance those same guests may not return in future. Fortunately, The Bruntsfield maintained its consistency here, too. The customary Continental spread was aided by a series of excellent self-serve coffee options – obligatory, in my book – and accompanied by a seductive list of à la carte options. Again, if you’ve ever eaten breakfast in a hotel there should be no need to go into great depth of description here. Trust your tastes and instincts, and let the chefs do the rest.

And so, in a city that isn’t short of accommodation options – not all of which entirely hit the spot – The Bruntsfield offers a subtle, unassuming introduction to midrange hospitality in an accessible, crowd-free setting. That’s the inherent attraction of a hotel of this calibre on the fringes of the city centre: it allows guests the freedom and convenience to explore without feeling pressured to spend every moment getting their money’s worth back at base. It is the kind of place for which there is strong demand in the capital, and The Bruntsfield will do well to take advantage of that.

The Bruntsfield, 69 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh, EH10 4HH

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Catering Scotland

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