Market Street hotel in Edinburgh has emerged as a modern and design-forward property, with a neo-Brutalism-meets-Scots-heritage interior and innovative reinterpretations of classic national motifs. Katherine Price checks in
As the first Scottish hotel to join marketing consortium Design Hotels before it had even opened, Market Street hotel was always going to be a property worth keeping an eye on.
The site was both prime and difficult. Right in the beating heart of Edinburgh's city centre, it overlooks Waverley Station and Princes Street. However, being surrounded by historic buildings on three sides, located within both a Unesco World Heritage Site and the city's Old Town conservation area, and having been vacant for nearly 50 years, it was "a huge design challenge", acknowledges owner, the Carlton Hotel Collection.
The Dutch company, part of Hotel Management International, owns, operates and manages 10 hotels across Europe, includingthe Carlton George in Glasgow, while two other Edinburgh hotels – Le Monde and Angels Share – are operated by its sister company Glendale Leisure Group.
"It was definitely a very complex project," agrees general manager Jill Darling, who joined the property from the same role at the Chester Residence nearby and has also worked at fellow Edinburgh establishments, the Glasshouse, the Scotsman and the Sheraton Grand.
Thankfully, with the support of Edinburgh City Council's developer vehicle EDI Group, three years after construction began and two years later than planned, the 98-bedroom, £20m hotel opened just in time for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last month.
The design brief
The brief to Dutch design firm FG Stijl was "to bring a hotel that is design-led into the Edinburgh market", aimed predominantly at the leisure market, says Darling. "I think we've achieved that."
FG Stijl previously worked on sister property the Dominican in Belgium as well as the Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten in Germany and the Park Hyatt Regency Vienna. Carlton Hotel Collection properties aim to reflect the character of their location, and Darling is full of praise for the research FG Stijl did into Scotland, its capital and history.
Acknowledging the past without imitating it", is how the website describes it. With the aim of creating a hotel that was distinctly Edinburgh in a modern, designforward way, the firm has created a neo-Brutalism-meets-Scots-heritage interior with innovative reinterpretations of classic national motifs, including over 20 different tartans.
The hotel is a hop, skip and a jump away from Waverley station, across a street that smells of coffee, thanks to the Gordon Street Coffee roastery next door (which, of course, supplies the hotel).
"Market Street has developed so much since the project began," says Darling. "The refurbishment so many of the properties have gone through and the new bars and restaurants that have come in – the street's massively developed."
Guests enter a double-height sandstone lobby with a ‘cracked' textured wall – referencing the Nor' Loch that used to sit at the foot of Edinburgh Castle and has since dried up – and a statement chandelier.
The firm sourced stone for both the lobby and exterior that is similar to the Craigleith sandstone, from which many of Edinburgh's historic buildings are constructed, but is no longer readily available. This was with the aim of fitting in with the city's skyline, and, as with the buildings around it, the stone will age with time. Greeted by a concierge and a fireplace, newly arrived guests are directed straight to the lifts for reception.
Reception and Nor' Loft
Guests are whisked up to the seventh-floor reception where, immediately exiting the lifts, they are met with spectacular views across the city's Waverley Valley, Princes Street and Calton Hill through floor-to-ceiling windows – as well as a complimentary glass of Champagne on check-in.
"Some places you don't get access to the top floor or the city view unless you pay for them. We want to show off Edinburgh," says Darling. To the left is Nor' Loft, the hotel's rooftop Champagne lounge and terrace, named after the Nor' Loch, which also inspired the bar's ‘cracked' mirrored front and marble top.
The lounge has 20 different Champagnes on offer, 10 by the glass, and Darling hopes the more informal luxury of the space, compared to more formal Champagne bars, will offer something different and encourage guests to try something new. Nor' Loft is meant to be "luxurious but also very comfortable; you don't have to talk quietly, you can enjoy it", says Darling – hence the 10-seater tables. "We've designed everything to be luxurious but non-pretentious. We love Champagne, we want people to enjoy it as much as we do. It's for people that want to enjoy beautiful surroundings, beautiful views, and just to be looked after, but in a friendly and approachable fashion… like you're in someone's living room."
The bar, naturally, has an extensive whisky collection, including both well-known names and local brands, such as Royal Mile Whiskies. The space serves afternoon teas and small plates including smoked chicken rillettes with Caesar dressing and Parmesan tuille; aubergine caviar in choux buns; and Scottish smoked salmon tartare with crisp skin and oyster emulsion.
"There are so many amazing independent restaurants in Edinburgh," points out Darling, and they are not trying to compete, but instead provide a small but tasty menu for guests and visitors.
The lounge, which also serves as the breakfast area, offers a variety of views across Princes Street and Edinburgh Castle. Outdoor terrace seats and a fabulous Julian Chichester Dakota 10-seater dining table benefit from uninterrupted views. Rockers, Boss Design Callisto sofas and Kruze chairs with flower of Scotland tartan cushions offer more private alcoves. There is also a cosy corner next to five modern fireplaces, installed at differing heights to represent the first five notes of the Scottish national anthem. "It's slightly abstract but it's acknowledging Scottish history in a modern way," says Darling.
Towards the back of the lounge is an open kitchen where the chefs prepare the small plates and hot breakfasts, including a ‘full Scottish' (with beef and haggis sausage, ‘tattie scones' and Stornoway black pudding) – or guests can make the most of complimentary breakfast bags of yogurt, granola, fruit and juice.
The hotel has a close relationship with the galleries with which it shares the street – the City Art Centre and Fruitmarket Gallery – with several pieces from both displayed in the lounge and books from the galleries filling the shelves.
The bedrooms – consisting of Cozy, Roomy, Roomy-bath, Vista and Alba Suite categories – are a textural contrast of white oak and stone, padded and woven felt headboards and rugs, designed to feel like a ‘modern Scottish fortress'. All feature king or twin beds and 43-inch smart televisions with Chromecast and Apple TV.
Coffee tables are decorated with images of dandelions, nettles, foxgloves, cloves, camomile and thistles from Elizabeth Blackwell's 18th-century book A Curious Herbal, sketched by the Aberdeen-born author during her walks in the Scottish Highlands.
Each room features three images of Edinburgh Castle and the Nor' Loch at different times. Armchairs feature tartans from the Edinburgh Tartan Weaving Mill, while safes and minibars are built into drawers, the latter offering complimentary fresh milk and local drinks brands such as Arbroath-based Bon Accord, "bringing that local element into everything", adds Darling.
"All the furnishings have had to be made individually to each of the rooms… everything has been made to measure," she says. As well as the usual Nespresso coffee machines and Roberts radios, each bedroom features Dyson Supersonic hairdryers, GHD straighteners and, instead of the usual iron and ironing board, Philips handheld clothes steamers. "We really looked at what the modern traveller wants and how we achieve that," explains Darling.
Vista bedrooms look straight out over Waverley Valley and Princes Street, while Cozy rooms, located at the rear of the hotel overlook the city's courtyards, tenements, winding streets and rooftops. Instead of curtains or blinds, guests can shut themselves away in their ‘fortress' with solid wooden shutters, inspired by the original window fixtures of the historic Old Town. The front-facing, sixth-floor Alba suite has its own private terrace, fireplace, super king-sized bed, a yoga mat and pilates ball, and a telescope.
"Regardless of the category and size, we've tried to make a lot of the elements consistent throughout, so if you book one of our Cozy rooms, right the way through to one of our suites, you'll get a lot of the same experience with regards to the products," says Darling.
Statement Italian marble sinks are outside the bathroom (more of a common feature in Dutch hotels), with magnifying mirrors, hanging succulents and quirky tap handles shaped like train wheels – a nod to Waverley station opposite. Full-size amenities in the Viabizzuno rainfall showers are from British vegan skincare brand Votary.
Just three days after opening Darling said guest feedback had been "overwhelmingly positive". Plans for the next hotel are already in motion; the Carlton Hotel Collection acquired a development site on Ann Street in Belfast earlier this year as well as the adjoining Tipsy Bird bar, with a view to building a modern, design-led hotel.
Contact and details 6 Market Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DE
0131 322 9229
Opened 9 August
Owner Carlton Hotel Collection
Design FG Stijl
Starting room rate £170
General manager Jill Darling
Head chef Tom Matheson
Showerheads Viabizzuno www.viabizzuno.com/en
Tartan Gold Brothers Tartan Weaving Mill www.heritageofscotland.com
Toiletries Votary www.naturisimo.com
Wallpaper Arte www.arte-international.com
Nor' Loft Chairs Fritz Hansen www.fritzhansen.com
Coffee tables Fredricia www.fredericia.com
Sofas and dining chairs Boss design www.bossdesign.com
Stools Allermuir www.allermuir.com
Julian Chichester www.julianchichester.com
Walter Knoll www.walterknoll.de
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