“ Address: 80 High Street / The Royal Mile / Edinburgh / EH1 1TH / Scotland „
I have a new rule in life. I'm not staying in rubbish hotels any more. If I need to be away from home, whilst I'm not going to go bonkers and book into the presidential suite, I refuse to stay somewhere that doesn't meet my expectations of standards of service and accommodation. For business purposes, of course, it helps that I'm charging it back to someone else.
Radisson is a US-based family of hotel chains, with a reasonably strong presence in the UK. The parent company is Carlson. The following brands are prevalent in the UK:
Radisson Blu - is a group of four star luxury hotel/resorts outside the US. They feature predominantly in major cities. This chain used to be called Radisson SAS but has since been renamed.
Radisson Edwardian - a small, four-star luxury chain, largely in the London/Heathrow area.
Park Inn - a chain of mid-budget hotels springing up around the UK. These aren't always as luxurious or traditional as the other two chains but are generally still 3 to four star accommodation.
==The Radisson Blu Edinburgh==
The Radisson Blu in Edinburgh was purpose-built around 15 years ago, and occupies an excellent central location for tourists, shoppers and business people alike.
The hotel is located on the Royal Mile, right in the middle of the city's most historic quarter. It's entirely walking distance from Edinburgh Waverley railway station, although some of that walk will involve a walk up a steep hill or some steep steps, so you might wish to get a taxi anyway, especially if you have a lot of luggage with you. The central location is also pretty easy to find if arriving by car and the hotel has a small dedicated car park with 131 spaces. The street on which the car park is located is a one-way street though so you need to approach from the right direction on the A7. If you're flying into Edinburgh, the quickest and easiest link to the hotel is a taxi but there are also bus and shuttle services, with one service stopping right outside the hotel. There's also a taxi rank directly out the front of the hotel, which is very convenient, even if it does encourage laziness. I tended to find I got taxis relatively short distances, just because they were there - I'd normally advocate walking.
Architecturally, although less than two decades old, the hotel has been designed to be entirely sympathetic to its historic setting and is generally pretty effective in this. The imposing structure looks rather like a modern-day castle and looms up from the street as though it is guarding its residents. The actual entrance to the hotel is curiously innocuous and largely step-free, although the cobbled streets and pavements of the Royal Mile are largely unsympathetic to wheelchair users.
The hotel features a total of 238 rooms, arranged within five overall types. All rooms feature as standard free wireless internet, air conditioning, tea/coffee, digital flat screen televisions with pay per view movies and security safes.
I stay in the standard rooms and pay around £120 bed and breakfast for a midweek stay. There are also the following room types:
Business class - aesthetically more appealing than the standard rooms, with upgraded facilities and freebies (which aren't free at all, of course - room rates are between 30% and 50% more than standard rooms.)
Classic suite - essentially an upgraded business class room with a separate lounge area. Expect to pay between 60% and 70% more than a standard room.
Turret suite - a small number of rooms located in the hotel turrets with fantastic views over the Royal Mile. These are the best rooms available at around 220% the price of a standard room.
The fixtures and fittings in the hotel are luxurious and contemporary. The colour schemes are reasonably traditional but the furniture and lighting is more modern and the bathrooms have a sleek, fashionable finish to them. The hotel feels like a large boutique hotel.
The reception area is spacious and service is brisk and efficient. There are a number of self-contained desks to which you are called in order to check in and despite arriving at reasonably busy times, I am usually checked in without delay. Unlike most London hotels (where the staff members clearly don't understand the systems being used) the staff members at the Radisson Blu seem competent and professional. There is a full-time concierge available, willing and able to answer questions and give directions and the service is managed with the sort of effective precision that you expect from an operation of this size.
Staff members in the restaurant/café and in the breakfast room are less impressive. The usual problems with very poor/limited English speaking waiting staff rear their heads here and I noted one particularly amusing heated exchange between an elderly lady and one of the waiters who couldn't grasp her instructions for how to make a 'proper' cup of English Breakfast tea. In the restaurant and breakfast room, the service is that faceless, automated level of attention so common in the larger chain hotels. I couldn't describe it as unfriendly but it's vaguely unwelcoming too.
==About The Room==
The first thing that strikes me about the room is the temperature - stuffy and warm, even on a relatively cool evening. The windows are triple-glazed for noise insulation but the lack of cool, fresh air is noticeable. The air-conditioning is efficient but as with any other system, too noisy to have on overnight so I'd be slightly reticent to stay here in the heat of summer.
The next thing likely to strike any guest is the size of the room. These are spacious guest rooms, with heaps of room to manoeuvre around the bed, along with a small table and two lounge chairs by the window and a long desk/workstation against the other wall. There is a large double fronted wardrobe, along with a full-length mirror in the corner and a real feeling of space. In fact, I'd argue that the bedroom is larger than it needs to be, with a compromise on space for the bathroom, which is arguably a little cramped. I couldn't help feeling that a couple of extra feet in the bathroom would be welcomed and largely unmissed from the bedroom.
There's a definite feeling of quiet, comfortable relaxation in these rooms. The bed, for a start, is large and extremely welcoming. Iit occurs to me that you could easily fit three in that bed. Four pillows are provided as standard, but you can order more and exchange them for different softness/hardness as your personal tastes dictate. The bed linen is simple - clean and white, with a continental quilt and sheets for ease of slipping into slumber. The rooms are superbly sound proofed. I am llargely unaware of other guests in the corridor or in adjacent rooms and there is certainly no noise from outside thanks to the multiple sheets of glass between the world outside and me. On one occasion, my room faced to the west, which provided a view straight into the student accommodation next door and it occurred to me that it wouldn't be such a good idea to swing naked from the chandelier without the curtains drawn. Of the curtains, they are excellent black out curtains that completely deceived you over the time of day and night and blotted out every last ray of sunlight.
The flat screen Sony televisions are smart and contemporary and the picture quality is perfect. So often, these days, hotels seem to have weak reception and even premium hotels can have trouble picking up all the channels. As well as the main terrestrial stations, there are a selection of digital satellite channels as well as pay movies (unused or tested). The wireless signal for the free Internet is always strong enough to surf without irritation or interruption. Download speeds seem comparable with an average domestic connection but I'm not sure if the hotel uses bandwidth strangling for heavy downloaders.
It is nice to see a (reasonably) full-sized bath in the room, with more and more hotels these days restricting guests only to having showers. The bath here isn't enormous but you'll be able to enjoy a bit of a soak (the bit being about 75% of my body at any one time.) The shower is set up over the bath but is easy to use and you don't require a degree to work out how to operate. It certainly isn't the most powerful shower that I've ever used and I am a little bit disappointed by the water pressure. The shower door isn't flush with the bath either, which seems to help the floor get quite wet. But the tiles, fixtures and fittings are immaculately clean.
The toilet seats are cheap. Sorry, I notice these things and I can't stand cheap plastic toilet seats. The room just isn't big enough either. Without feeling entirely closed in by the door, you have to close it whilst you are in the bath or you feel rather overshadowed by it. Towels are plentiful and all sorts of sizes too - not just those silly little ones favoured by some chains these days. A small selection of complimentary toiletries is provided (unused) and the wall above the sink is entirely mirrored so there is plenty of space to get ready and see what you were doing. A (rather feeble) hair dryer is provided in the main room that is just about effective enough to dry my short hair, but I suspect ladies with longer hair would want to bring their own.
If you book online, the best room rates usually feature breakfast for a price not that far removed from the room only, so it's a good idea to go for the combination. Breakfast is served in a lower ground floor room, starting from 06:30 during the week and, although expensive on its own (it's start at around £14 just for the continental) the range of food items is extensive. Along with a full cooked buffet, there are cereals, juices, cold meats, fruits, salmon, cheese and pastries and the buffet selection is large enough to warrant having its own room in an annex off the breakfast room.
I can't say that I am massively enthused about the breakfast. It isn't bad but for the price, I'd expect better. The hot buffet items suffer from being in the hot plates for too long and seem dry and overcooked. Had I considered it, I'd certainly opt for a freshly cooked omelette (or similar) as the scrambled eggs on the buffet are pretty awful. Some items were missing when I was last eating (mushrooms and tomatoes) and it struck me that the buffet didn't cater well for vegetarians with a lot of the hot buffet dominated by sausages, haggis and bacon. (They'd also done that thing with bacon that I hate whereby they folded it over when placing it in the hot plate, leaving each rasher partly barbecued and partly almost raw). The juices, cereals and fruits all look very appetising and I do wonder whether I should have ignored my gin-induced gluttony.
I'm not particularly keen on the layout of the breakfast room, either. Arranged over two levels, the tables where the staff seemed to dump all the single business travellers all look out over the breakfast room, albeit with an irritating muslin curtain in the way as if there was a need to protect somebody's privacy. The nature of the buffet, however, is that you are obliged to walk right through the middle of the lower dining area, and I can't help thinking that if I were sat at one of those tables, I might get a bit fed up of people traipsing past me. There aren't many "big" tables either, so if you are a large group, I think you'd find yourself scattered about a bit.
I rather like the main eatery in the hotel, which is the Itchycoo Bar and Kitchen on the ground floor. It's modern, vibrant and sociable and doesn't feel stuffy like many hotel restaurants. I'd be happy to eat here alone, or with company. There are two menus - a traditional lounge menu, with a selection of sandwiches and meals, and a tapas menu. When I ate there, we opted for a combination of the two and ended up with some lovely food. The menu is sorted into sea (fish) farm (meat) and field (vegetarian) dishes and whilst expensive, the presentation and quality were good. We enjoyed some hearty chicken fajitas, along with a meat paella and grilled aubergine (tangy!)
There's no real theme to the lounge menu, with a range of world foods, some of which are quite daring (a lamb coconut curry) and others a little more sedate (Caesar salad) but there are enough choices to suit most tastes. Dishes are marked suitable for vegetarians, for low calories or for low carbohydrates, which I've not seen before. The hotel boasts a strong environmental policy and claims to use local suppliers 'wherever possible' but this lacks definition and I was disappointed that the menus didn't feature words like 'free range' and 'organic'.
In another place and time, I think I would have thought the service a little slow, but without being in a huge hurry, this seemed to pass me by and I liked the bustle and pace of eating here. It's comparably expensive - the fish/meat tapas were all around £7/£8 and the sandwiches on the lounge menu were around £9 - but not unusual within this kind of hotel.
I enjoy my visits to the Radisson Blu and would give them full marks for the standard of accommodation. The rooms are hugely comfortable and well fitted and if I am not in and out during the evening, I'd happily chill out here and relaxed nicely. I am impressed at how quiet the hotel is, despite its central location and it really is in the middle of everything. I'm not hugely taken by the breakfast and in future, if I am able to get a good discounted rate without the breakfast, I'll go and get that somewhere else nearby. I quite like the Itchycoo eatery though - it's fun, sociable and the food's not bad, so it's a perfect meeting point.
Overall, I'd give the hotel four stars and a general thumbs up - I reckon I'll be back again soon.
Freephone: 0800 027 1022
Web site: http://www.radissonblu.co.uk/hotel-edinburgh