Each year in early summer, tens of thousands from London and abroad arrive at the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea for Masterpiece London. Reaching its eighth edition this year, the week-long event has grown to be one of the top international fairs for cross-collecting art, antiques and design. After the whirlwind of treasure hunting and fitting in visits to museums and galleries, look for a change of pace - and taste - in Edinburgh, at one of Scotland’s most historic hotels.
Located in the heart of the city, The Balmoral is an exquisite 5-star Victorian premise managed by the Rocco Forte hotel group. Since its opening as a railway hotel in 1902 at Princes Street, the building has been a landmark of the city. Its grand clock stands out against the skyline, set 3 minutes ahead (save for New Years Eve) to ensure travellers don't miss their trains!
From Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Museum to the City Art Centre and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, city’s historical and cultural sites are easily accessed from the hotel’s prime location, while an easy stroll around the park at St. Andrew Square takes you to the boutiques and luxury retailers on Multrees Walk.
...the summer berries come from Blairgowrie in Perthshire, the grouse, pheasant and partridge from nearby Letham, and the lamb from the island of Orkney has been fed on seaweed
It is not hard to fall in love with the city’s quaint cobblestone alley surrounded by historic architecture. At the Balmoral, however, it is the rich bounty of Scotland’s countryside that remains front and centre for chef Jeff Bland. As the Executive Chef responsible for the hotel’s growing culinary reputation, Bland is devoted to bringing the best of Scottish fine dining to the hotel’s four restaurant and bar outlets. With guests becoming more knowledgeable about their food, sourcing locally and seasonally is just the beginning. Diners are keen to know the summer berries come from Blairgowrie in Perthshire, the grouse, pheasant and partridge from nearby Letham, and the lamb from the island of Orkney has been fed on seaweed. The hotel also keeps a hive of over 50,000 Italian honey bees on their rooftop. Light in colour and with a delicate floral taste, Balmoral honey becomes the star of a new dessert each year at the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Number One.
Whisky and food pairings is another curiosity diners are beginning to explore. On pairing the two, Bland notes the strong character of the drink would be better enjoyed with game or something smokey - flavour profiles the Scottish traditionally do best. Why not consider a dram with your next meal at the Balmoral?
...the rich bounty of Scotland’s countryside
that remains front and centre for chef Jeff Bland
The Balmoral boasts one of the finest restaurants in town – Number One, whose Michelin star Bland and his team have guarded for 15 consecutive years. Offering modern Scottish cuisine, Number One showcases the best of local produce. The Balmoral smoked salmon, a signature dish, took nearly two years to perfect. The salmon from Loch Duart is cured and smoked in-house with wood chips from Balvenie whisky casks. Other highlights include the Inverurie hoggett (lamb from the Royal Burgh of Inverurie) and Valrhona chocolate tart.
Following a refurbishment in 2015, the restaurant’s interior complements its menu in presenting a contemporary style while retaining a warm and inviting atmosphere which guests have enjoyed since the restaurant opened in 1997. The burgundy lacquered walls feature a large triptych print of a Scottish oak tree by Adam Ellis and artwork from the Royal College of Art in London.
The room is spaciously laid, the walls brought to
life by life-sized photographs of pirouetting
dancers by the late Lord Lichfield, a close
friend of the Forte family
Ideal for a light lunch or relaxed dinner, Hadrian’s Brasserie offers traditional cuisine with a Scottish twist. A mix of Scottish favourites and classic dishes are created using the finest regional and seasonal produce sourced from the same suppliers as Number One. This season, steak lovers should try the Blairgowrie chateaubriand served with handcut roosters and St Andrews jus, or the Traditional Sunday Roast with all the trimmings. The Balmoral smoked salmon served with shallots, honey and mustard dressing is another favourite. Smaller appetites are also catered for with a children’s menu. The room is spaciously laid, the walls brought to life by life-sized photographs of pirouetting dancers by the late Lord Lichfield, a close friend of the Forte family.
Beneath the glittering glass dome and
Venetian chandeliers, original from 1902,
palm fronds grace the canopy
Enjoyed by Edinburgh locals and visitors since the hotel’s earliest days, the award-winning Afternoon Tea at the Palm Court is no ordinary affair. Beneath the glittering glass dome, Venetian chandeliers and palm fronds grace the canopy. Hand-painted De Gournay wallpaper decorate the round room. Look, and you might make out the Calton Hill Follies hidden beside Nelson’s Monument. Traditional Scottish foliage is also added to the painted scenery, only spotted by the most perceptive of guests!
To accompany pastries and savoury bites, choose from a selection of loose leaf teas and coffee. The hotel’s own Royal Scottish Balmoral Blend is also a popular choice. In more recent years, Scotland’s tea growers have persevered and innovated, resulting in a blooming tea industry. If you are in luck, ask the wait staff for a recommendation of locally-grown tea! Those looking for a touch of decadence may find it in vintage champagne.
The ceiling-high cabinets glow with
aureate hues, housing over 500 malts,
blends and vintages...
Bourne out of a conversation between a member of staff from the Balmoral and one of its guests seeking a good whisky bar, Scotch is home to one of Edinburgh’s largest collection of whiskys. The ceiling-high cabinets glow with aureate hues, housing over 500 malts, blends and vintages from the Highlands, Lowlands, Islands, Islay and Speyside. Choose a dram or two by region, distillery, or decade and learn about its taste and heritage from the bar’s knowledgeable whisky Ambassadors. For diluting drinks, the bar offers Uisge Source, which bottles spring water from the region of your drink and designed to enhance its aromas and textures. For a gentler introduction to the dram, whisky cocktails crafted to your preference are also served.
Chef Jeff Bland in Hong Kong with the Balmoral's prized smoked salmon
brought from Scotland for the special dinner
Celebrating the cultural and sporting ties between Hong Kong and Scotland, and promoting its quality food, The Balmoral held a cocktail and dinner in collaboration with The Balvenie during Hong Kong’s Rugby Sevens. Bland and Ross Sneddon, Executive Pastry Chef at the Balmoral, teamed up with Neil Strachan, Regional Brand Ambassador of The Balvenie to host a special cocktails and dinner event - and entice guests with a whisky-paired dinner. Masterfully crafted by Bland, the menu featured iconic dishes, such as Leek and tattie (potato) soup, Balmoral smoked salmon, Tweed Valley beef sirloin, and single origin los Anconès chocolate. Each course was complemented by a glass of Balvenie whisky in increasing age, from 12, 14, 17 to 21 years.
Diners enjoyed steak and whisky as the Pipers & Drums of the Hong Kong Police Band entertained the crowd with traditional Scottish music.
Whiskies from The Balvenie Distillery, aged 12, 14, 17, 21 (from left)