Great Places to Stay
- Bonham Hotel, Edinburgh
The Bonham Hotel has picked up a string of prestigious awards since it opened in 1998, in a quiet area near the centre of Edinburgh. Even though they are based in Edinburgh themselves, travel writer Vivien Devlin and her partner just had to go along and see what all the fuss was about. Here's what they found.
Boutique, Minimalist-chic, Luxurious, Hot, Hip and Cool....
These and many other sumptuously enticing words have been used to describe the Bonham Hotel, an intimate townhouse hidden in a corner of a quiet tree-lined crescent in Edinburgh's West End. Within a few months of opening in 1998 it was already being noticed by discerning world travellers, not least the editors of the Conde Nast Traveller magazine who deemed it one of 21 Coolest hotels in the world. Its inclusion in such a prestigious list was based on its " relaxed conviviality". The AA has recently selected The Bonham as one of the Top 200 hotels in the UK for their 2003 Hotel Guide presenting it with four red stars for a high standard in style and luxury. It's given two red ticks in the Scotland the Best guide book, personally selected by the Good Hotel Guide etc. etc.
So what's all the fuss about? Let's have a look around....
From the moment you enter the lobby and turn right into the attractive drawing room you immediately gain an impression of something rather special and innovative going on with the style and design. The Bonham has been created within three adjoining Georgian townhouses and the grand elegance of the classic architecture is still in place with regard to the original ceiling cornicing and rich wood wall panelling. Within the period setting the furnishings, colour-scheme and paintings are all very contemporary offering a bold juxtaposition of old and new interior design.
The sense of "relaxed conviviality" is felt whenever you arrive. The reception is a simple desk at the far end of the drawing room which features comfortable seating including a giant circular red sofa perched at the window. Selected paintings by young contemporary Scottish artists adorn the walls, which adds even more bright and brash colour to the room. The reception staff are young, international and friendly. Personal service at your command whatever your wish, is the implication in their warm welcoming smile. We are offered valet parking for our car which is still parked precariously on a yellow line outside, (ideal hotel car-park to the rear of the hotel), and the bellhop rushes out to assist with our luggage.
We are taken up to the first floor to our room for the night. It's Room 100 and our first impression as we step inside involves words like "absolutely fabulous, stunning and gorgeous". The huge bedroom is dominated by an Emperor size "four poster" bed with a dramatic contemporary-styled canopy and drapes attached to the ceiling. The ambience is certainly "cool", given the black, grey and white colour-scheme. An animal print throw is placed casually over one corner of the bed. The design concept under the innovative eye of Janey Armstrong, is exquisitely well thought through and the bold dark colours and furnishings tastefully blend classic and modern styles.
This is the ultimate in chic and classy sophistication. This is the look which I drool over in Sunday supplements and dream about for my own home. To add a sense of original townhouse period, there's a delightful gold velvet chaise longue stretched across the bay window, with the three tall panes covered in white muslin and thick black drapes. Elegant lamps, prints, and a fabulous art deco carved bust of a woman furnish the room. Elsewhere the usual facilities - TV cabinet, mini-bar, dressing table and a door leading into an equally spacious bathroom. In the middle of the classic black and white chequered flooring stands a traditional deep roll top white bath with perfectly placed central taps - so ideal for two - with an old fashioned semi circular shower fitting, a marble pedestal, and quality fittings throughout - not forgetting Molton Brown toiletries.
But the tour of our bedroom is not over. There is a double door opposite the bed leading to the separate lounge, with a huge sofa, TV and coffee table. The Bonham has developed a very sophisticated eTV Interactive system for every room combining a communication and entertainment centre with internet and email access, computer services, Satellite TV, DVD and CD.
An Elegant Restaurant
The Restaurant at the Bonham has an exceptional reputation and in keeping with the contemporary surroundings, the menu focuses on creative and modern European cuisine using fresh, local and organic produce. Head Chef is Michel Bouyer who was classically trained in Paris and on coming to Edinburgh first spent three years as Sous Chef at the sister hotel, The Howard before being promoted to take over the kitchen at the Bonham in April 2001. The AA Restaurant Guide 2003 has presented the restaurant with 2 Red rosettes as well as a special commendation for the use of seafood.
There is no bar as such at the Bonham so drinks are served in the comfortable drawing room, beside reception. Here we had our pre-dinner G&Ts and studied the menu as well as the stunning contemporary abstract paintings all around us.
The restaurant on the other side of the lobby is an elegant, long, wood panelled, wood floored dining room stretching from the front door to the tall windows at the back of the hotel, with central doors dividing the space into two more intimate areas. The ambience is smart casual, bistro style - modern square tables for two or four with no tablecloths; we were placed at a (rather tiny) table near the front window and all around us a small army of aproned waiters were rushing around. The restaurant, as usual for lunch and dinner, was busy. From a list of five starters, I selected a crab and avocado timbale with gazpacho dressing, while my partner took the pan fried scallops with artichoke salad. Other choices included Scottish beef carpaccio with potato salad or warm wood pigeon salad.
On this particular menu that night there were no vegetarian options for either starter or main course which is rather surprising. On request my partner was offered a mushroom risotto. Main courses included Fillet of Beef with braised oxtail, Roast Venison, Roast breast of Duck, Parma ham wrapped loin of cod with mushroom and pancetta. Yes, even fish eaters are meant to like meat too!. I like fish to be just fishy and instead selected the Tranche of salmon with pomme puree.
We enjoyed our meal with each dish freshly prepared and imaginatively presented. Service is more casual and friendly rather than personal and attentive. A mixed salad with fresh truffle had not arrived half way through our main course and when a waiter eventually came over to ask if everything was alright we mentioned the missing salad, to which we were advised, "It's on its way". And, as we quickly realised, this is a contemporary brasserie style restaurant where guests are expected to pour their own wine and water.
Eschewing a rich selection of desserts - eg Apricot soufflé, Chocolate Tart - we shared a selection of Ian Mellis cheeses with oatcakes, grapes and celery. All in all an excellent dinner of particular quality but certainly 'casual' is the name of the game here.
For the Bonham to be selected one of just 200 best hotels in the UK is an Oscar-like accolade which should be recognised widely. For a business or leisure trip to Edinburgh, if you wish a little touch of luxury, a fabulous West End location just minutes from Princes Street, a small-scale homely residence with an award winning restaurant, then this stylish, sophisticated and definitely "cool" hotel is for you.
For more information or to make a reservation, see the Bonham Hotel Web site or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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