Things have changed since I last stayed at 19-21 George Street. The former George Hotel is now The Principal Edinburgh and its facelift is looking good.
What used to be a smart but standard business hotel is now a more characterful and luxurious proposition: uniformed staff greet us at the door, and the foyer looks classy thanks to interior design studio Goddard Littlefair.
Traditional furniture pays tribute to the two buildings’ Georgian heritage while a subtle industrial edge adds contemporary flair – think brown leather straps on cushions and studded tables. They seem to be doing a roaring trade this weekend, with tourists and luggage in abundance, but there’s still plenty of room to sit in the lounge. Wedding music and guests spill out of a function room on more than one occasion; we resist the urge to gatecrash.
We have a Deluxe Room on the fourth floor, which has a large bed, sofa and a TV so perfect for watching Glastonbury that we get asked (very politely) to turn the sound down. There’s a welcome basket with edible treats and a snack bar with yet more temptation, from chocolate to crisps – refreshingly, this is all part of the package rather than an extortionate mini bar offering. The bathroom is sleek with a decent sized bath.
We have dinner booked that evening in the hotel’s restaurant, The Printing Press Bar & Kitchen, an expansive, classy eatery in an adjoining townhouse. The name is a nod to the site’s literary heritage: novelist Susan Ferrier was often visited by Robert Burns there, and subsequent resident John Oliphant’s descendants founded the publishing house Oliphant, Anderson and Ferrier. Vintage typewriters and classic novels continue the theme, and the place is bustling with a mixture of hotel guests and locals.
Food wise the emphasis is on local, seasonal dishes: our meal gets off to a great start with deliciously salty artisan bread, while my grilled goat’s cheese salad starter with truffle dressing is just divine: the type of dish you can still recall weeks later, mouth watering. It’s a hard act to follow, but I enjoy the dry-aged Tweed Valley beef burger with cheese and bacon while my husband has an excellent steak. We share a Valrhona chocolate crémeux with banana, salted caramel (yum) and wash it all down with a lovely Australian Shiraz from The Colonial Estate. The bar is comfortable and just the right side of lively when we pop in for a nightcap, and there’s also a smart coffee bar, Burr & Co (free coffee vouchers are included in our welcome basket).
Breakfast the next morning is back in The Printing Press, where a range of well-heeled tourists are tucking into the buffet – there’s a good continental spread and a help-yourself Full English, while coffee and toast are brought to the table.
There’s definitely an emphasis on service training for the staff at The Principal, and this extends to the cleaners: one is so helpful she shows me all the way to my room (the fourth floor is split over two buildings, as it turns out). She then greets me warmly by name every time we bump into each other. It’s little touches like this that help make our stay special: it’s not only a very easy, convenient hotel but a welcoming one that I’d definitely return to. I’ll be interested to see what their soon-to-open London hotel is like, and there are several more UK sites in the offing. Looks like this is a luxury brand to keep an eye on.
Tell me more about The Principal Edinburgh
Room rates at The Principal Edinburgh start from around £195
19-21 George Street, Edinburgh
+44 (0)131 225 1251