Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- The Hudson, Hope Street, Edinburgh

The Hudson

The Location
Scotland's capital city is embracing its status as our visitors' "favourite UK city" (Guardian Travel award for 6 years running) with a stream of new hotels, restaurants and bars opening this year (2006). The Hudson, a boutique hotel, with bar, restaurant and nightclub, opened in June 2006, in a prestigious West End Georgian property within the former Hope Street Post office, just off Princes Street. For those who know Edinburgh, it's just around the corner from Fraser's department store, formerly known as Binns Corner, and south of Charlotte Square, location of the official residence (see illustration) of the Scottish First Minister. Its modern lifestyle ethos, a place to sleep, eat, drink and dance is aimed at the fast growing city break leisure market, business travellers and weekend crowd. The £ 7 million project is part of a portfolio of 21 hotels and bars run by Festival Inns.

The Bar and Restaurant

The name, The Hudson, was particularly selected for its resonance with New York City on the Hudson River. The interior design is based around New York loft apartment living, blending the classical architecture of the building with contemporary, industrial urban chic style. The philosophy is based around creating an intimate, private hideaway to stay, relax, eat and drink but the heart of the city. There are two entrances, one direct into the Hudson bar and restaurant, the other takes you into the coffee house/bar combined with the hotel reception desk.

The Hudson has certainly been designed with an emphasis on tradition and quality using natural furnishings. The long polished wood and copper bar stretches the entire length of the "loft apartment-style" Bar and Restaurant. Key features are brick walls, dark wood flooring, American walnut panelling, tobacco brown seats and row of neat dining tables opposite the bar complemented with cool art and lighting features. The setting is like a modern take on a traditional Scottish pub. It's warm, comfortable, inviting and a refreshing change from the glitzy cocktail bars along George Street. There's also an attractive pavement terrace if you wish to sit outdoors. (No smoking allowed indoors, as in all public buildings in Scotland). Bar staff and waiters are friendly and attentive. Continuing the modern Scottish style, all the men wear black kilts. This will surely be an added attraction.

The Food
The menu as you might expect, matches the décor with contemporary American -fusion dishes. On a Friday summer evening the bar was pretty packed out with local office workers, visitors and hotel guests enjoying a few drinks or a meal. As the tables were all taken in the main Bar Restaurant, we were invited to go around the corner into Hudson's intimate little café bar. This is where hotel guests have breakfast, coffee and deli snacks served all day, but it doubles as a quiet annexe to the Restaurant for dinner. For starters there's a wide choice of soups, salads, sharing platters, tortilla chips and dips. It all looks very fresh and health-conscious. I began with three tiny, delicious crab and cod fishcakes, green salad with a dash of Arran mustard on the side. My dining partner selected a bowl of Seafood Chowder, which was a generous portion, and crammed full of chunks of tuna, mussels, potatoes with a king prawn sitting on the top. A meal in itself.

The selection of main courses is extensive: Steaks from the grill including 10 oz New York sirloin served with French Fries or baked potato; Hudson Burger in a bun with fries; Cajun chicken wrap with salsa; a choice of beef, prawn or vegetarian wok-stir fry with noodles; Caesar salad - and the menu goes on. I selected Mussels in white wine garlic sauce with a side order of French Fries. My dining companion selected a spicy Mexican dish - Vegetable Fajitas complemented with guacamole, cheese, salsa and sour cream. We were both extremely impressed with the perfect preparation and presentation of the food. This is no pub grub - this is serious restaurant quality. Head Chef is William Thomson who served his apprenticeship no less under Jeff Bland at Edinburgh's Caledonian hotel. He gained great experience while cruising the world as Chef on board the QE2 before moving to Rufflets country house hotel, St. Andrews, which was awarded 3 AA rosettes. Thomson was formerly at the Beluga Bar and restaurant in Edinburgh before taking over as Head Chef at The Hudson. His background in top class Scottish hotels, a cruise ship and city restaurant certainly shows by the inventive, modern international menu and creative cooking skills.

For Dessert - perhaps you can guess? New York cheesecake or Apple pie and ice-cream just like Mamma used to make. The service throughout was exemplary and the short, but well selected wine list offers extremely reasonable wines by the glass including NV champagne. The bar serves a special Hudson Ice Tea cocktail, as well as all the American classics - Manhattan, Mojito and Whisky sour.

The Bill
See for current menu and prices.

Further Information
The Hudson is at 7-11 Hope Street, just off Charlotte Square, in Edinburgh's West End. Telephone number is 0131 247-7000. For more information, see The Hudson Web site.

On arrival I was slightly wary that the restaurant is located actually within the bar area. And it was pretty busy. But sitting at a table in the cute wee café bar this offered a quieter place to eat while the crowd in the Bar next door added a party ambience. This was a Friday night and weekdays will be less crowded. If you love the spirit of youthful, artistic, modern day New York, and good fresh American/Latino food, then the Hudson is the place to be. Fabulous food, genuinely friendly staff and lively atmosphere. And those boys in kilts. Wow!

Vivien Devlin

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