I have a confession to make — I fell in love with Edinburgh this summer.
Of course, I adore Europe because I grew up there, but I just can’t get Scotland out of my mind. I’ve even considered going there in the future to do my Master’s degree.
Leading up to our recent fall visit, I spent several weeks randomly looking up Edinburgh online and searching mostly for castles (more on that in FAJO next month). In my mind, I pictured a city filled with history and I was not wrong. Strolling through it on a foggy afternoon, surrounded by buildings that go back as far as the 12th century, is an unusual and dreamy feeling. It’s like being on a historical movie set 24/7, until you stumble upon a random modern structure, similar to the one that houses The Scottish Parliament.
After spending a few days in the stunning Scottish borders, sampling delicious food, and relaxing on café patios surrounded by peacocks who just roamed around, we had arrived in the city. We stayed for 3 days, but in this feature I wanted to share the details of the first one.
As Scotland’s capital and financial centre, there is a bustle to Edinburgh that goes far beyond tourists. Striving to get caught up in it, we stayed in the new apartments at the The Rutland Hotel, a boutique location that straddles the city’s old and new towns, and is just steps from Waverly train station and the Princes Street shopping district. The apartments are a new addition to the bright, modern hotel, and provide travellers looking for a bit more space with ample room to work, relax or entertain guests. With high ceilings and luxurious touches such as a free-standing soaker tub, our apartment was the kind of place you don’t want to leave, no matter how spectacular the city around you may be.
The Rutland’s décor was elegant, yet funky and colourful. We walked over to the apartments that were a couple of hundred meters away from the hotel. Upon entering the building, I immediately noticed the chandelier that looked like a birds’ cage. The ceiling here and in our living room reminded me of a museum or a theatre. You’ll see what I mean when you look at the pictures.
The apartment itself was exceptional. I’ve stayed in hundreds of hotels around the world throughout my career and I have to say that the décor of this one is a hands-down all-time winner. The vintage and the modern merged seamlessly here: the traditional fireplace was contrasted with moose statues who looked like humans dressed in elegant clothing, the wallpaper in the living room was reminiscent of one massive 60s postcard collage, and the flat screen TVs in both rooms kept us on top of the Referendum that was about to happen a few days later.
The desk in the bedroom was ready for my writing sessions, so I started typing away on my iPad immediately. I also discovered two hair straighteners in the closet, which was incredibly handy as I forgot mine back in Canada. There was a polka-dot ironing board, and pop art on pillows and bedroom walls. Not to mention the chair that looked like a throne, and was decorated with colourful patchwork.
Other features included WiFi, Nintendo Wiis, under-floor heating in both the bathroom and the kitchen, and a Nespresso machine. The Rutland had created an apartment that was highly functional, very entertaining to sit in and look around at, and somehow still cozy. I wish they had a space like this in Toronto because I would have loved to throw a fashion party here. Or a luxury photoshoot.
The team at The Rutland was very friendly: we chatted about the Referendum, browsed the map together for the best parts in the city to do shopping, and discussed the mix of the fog and rain outside. Everyone was upbeat and incredibly polite.
Later that day, after much sightseeing, we had a dinner reservation at Wedgwood. Located in the Royal Mile behind an unassuming exterior is one of Edinburgh’s finest venues. The cozy but elegantly modern dining room sets the tone for an exquisite meal driven by fresh, local ingredients.
We were welcomed by one of the owners, Lisa Wedgwood, who runs the venue with her husband Paul. The space was quiet at first, but we had arrived a bit early. Within approximately half an hour, it was completely full with a crowd of all ages. I always observe other guests and their experiences, and this is how I form my impression of a restaurant. Everyone seemed to be very pleased, greatly enjoying the drinks and ordering several courses. There were couples on a romantic date, a few families, and a large party of what looked like a big touristy group. And yet, despite being full, the venue never got too loud and maintained its coziness. Small chandelier-style pink lamps and cream-coloured walls made the space look warm and inviting. Hand towels in the bathrooms added a touch of home-like feel.
The Wedgwoods opened the restaurant in 2007 and their focus is on seasonal produce, paired with carefully selected wines that they choose themselves. In fact, the list gets updated every couple of months: during summer — the lighter, crisper wines match the lighter more delicate dishes, while in winter — slightly richer options complement the more wholesome dishes. Sometimes, the family discovers new wine during their travels around the world and they then bring it back to the restaurant to share with their guests.
Lisa stopped by our table a few times, be it to drop off a plate or to tell us a bit more about some of the dishes we had ordered. She also mentioned that Paul was in the kitchen, making the dinner that day. Paul himself has worked at several Michelin-starred restaurants and his creations were both delicious and artful without being over-the-top, allowing the flavours to burst through.
The highlight on the appetizers’ menu was the pressed lambs tongue (paired with coffee-roasted carrots, chanterelles, beets and vanilla). For mains, the sesame and soy glazed sea trout was a hands-down winner (paired with crisp scallop roe, braised pak choi, lobster and black bean nori roll, lobster and tomato dressing). And if you love cheese and come to Scotland, an absolute must is a cheese plate for dessert. It was remarkably different at all restaurants during our stay, but one thing was always consistent — there were a lot of cheeses and all of them were really good. Paul’s selection consisted of 4 medium-sized pieces, ranging in texture and softness, paired with chutney, oatcakes and pickled apples.
Walking down the brick roads of downtown, back to The Rutland after our meal, I chuckled as my heels got stuck in the space between the bricks. “This city is not made for fashion journalists,” I thought. But then I looked up at the hills around me, and saw the Edinburgh Castle on one side and The Palace of Holyroodhouse on the other. I observed the university students who biked home from classes and the businessmen who were heading to the pub in jackets with elbow patches. I watched the double-decker buses fly by, and the snails crawl out on the sidewalk after the rain. And a big smile spread over my face.
For more photos from the trip, follow us on Instagram and search for #FAJOinScotland