By Ben Thorpe on 05 Dec 2017
I hadn't quite realised just how insanely busy Edinburgh would get around Christmas. I've been to Edinburgh a few times and obviously understand that as a major global tourist destination it's bound to be popular, but the thronging crowds surrounding the Christmas market in Princes St Gardens still took me by surprise. I also gathered on the train up that there was a rugby match taking place somewhere local on the day of our arrival, further contributing to the crowds. I'd not paid attention to any of this stuff when deciding on the date of our trip to see family, but was rather fortunate to find myself with a delightful place to stay and retreat from the madness.
After I was so impressed with Virgin Trains when I checked out the food with James Martin a little while back, I booked First Class travel to buy us a bit of time in bed by virtue of grabbing breakfast on the train. Sadly, it turned out that there's no hot food at the weekend so the fry-up was on hold, though we were still able to enjoy the wonderful views in the company of plentiful coffee and pain au chocolat.
Our accommodation in Edinburgh came courtesy of Hotel Indigo on York Place. Despite being only a short walk from the train station and major streets, we found it a calming space with no hint of the craziness outside being allowed through the doors. With no fuss around check in, we were quickly back on the street to carry on around the city and take care of catching up with family over a delicious lunch.
The meal needed to be family friendly and accommodate a push chair, so Hemma fitted the bill perfectly with a great combination of space and good food. The meaty smorgasbord we went for included fantastic white fish, smoked cheese, pickles, ham and rollmops with white onion along with boiled eggs perfectly judged to leave the centre of the yolk just soft. The burgers that circulated the table were just as satisfying, and the hasselback potatoes we ordered on the side made a spectacular snack under their dusting of parmesan. I'd happily order these any time I saw them as a bar snack. I'd absolutely recommend a visit to Hemma.
After a couple of hours spent happily exploring Princes Street and the various winter attractions we retired to the hotel bar and the good company of Ermina, who was a welcoming presence behind the bar while also seating guests for dinner. After a sensible interval, we retreated to the room, opting against ordering breakfast in bed for no extra cost, and enjoyed the tranquility. I was impressed at the sound proofing; the only sound penetrating the room from outside being the infrequent ping of a passing tram.
No matter how good a hotel is, if the parting shot of breakfast doesn't hit its target, one can easily leave with a bitter taste. Thankfully breakfast set us up beautifully for more family engagements (to which we were given accurate public transport directions by the reception staff) without a single duff note. The buffet was varied and well stocked while the hot dishes were as hearty as one would expect. I worked my way through eggs, bacon, square sausage, black pudding, haggis, mushroom, tomato and potato cake while the other side of the table delighted in eggs Royale with smoked salmon. Obviously I can vouch for the quality of that dish too. Due another shout out at this point is Ermina, whose disposition wasn't dampened by the combination of a late finish and early start.
On the train back, over pleasant sandwiches that almost made up for the lack of the curry I'd hoped for, we happily considered what a pleasant weekend we'd had. Edinburgh remains spectacular, crowded or otherwise, and the food and hotel choices complemented the city beautifully. Huge thanks to the staff at Hotel Indigo for making us so welcome.
Disclaimer: We were given a reduced rate at Hotel Indigo, opinions are impartial. Check their website for latest rates.