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  • Writer's pictureSharon Wilson

Commons Club at the new Virgin Hotel Edinburgh

The Bar

The new Virgin hotel, at the former registry office in iconic Victoria street, is a flagship example of what can be achieved when re-imagining a historic building. Respect for heritage, a sense of fun and attention to detail are hallmarks of Phase One of what will be a more extensive development.

The Library

Stonework and floors have been unearthed and given new life. A wood-panelled warren of rooms, characteristic of the old town, includes displays of eclectic art so a wander doubles as an art tour. And, as you meander, you happen upon individual spaces accented with features in Virgin scarlet such as stair-carpets, walls and a Veuve Cliquot faux fire extinguisher. A room of glass, mirrors, and foliage gives a view of a tenement building soaring up from the Cowgate. Then there is the circular roof oculus, below which sits Sir Richard Branson’s suite, a quirky library, a plush crimson ‘party prosecco room’ and a classy, comfortable bar is to the left as you step into the hotel.

Liz and I scrutinise the wine and cocktail list in the bar. Wines are served in 125 ml., 175 ml., glasses plus half-carafes and bottles and range from affordable to high rollers. Charles Smith Band of Roses 2020 is described as ‘pale and interesting, probably went to art school’.

Thoughtful curation is a theme which extends to all the menus.

General Manager Callum

we eat in the open kitchen area of the Commons Club restaurant watching executive chef Steven Wilson and the team plate up; a buzzing area where clean Scandic lines meet homely, Italian artefacts. There is a more intimate, lower-lit dining room adjacent. We haggle over starters, mains, and desserts. It’s a good sign when you would be happy to eat anything including the vegetarian and vegan options.

For starters, Commons Signature Caesar with creel-caught langoustines, chicken skin wafer, lettuce emulsion, anchovies and Wagyu beef from John Gilmour Butchers, fried garlic, ponzu green onion purée, and parsnip crisps are shared. Shellfish are sweet and tender, Cos charred, emulsion generous, wafers salty and anchovies dusted with tempura for a clever crunchy surprise. Beef is presented in sumptuous slices and coats the mouth with lingering flavour.

The cuisine is accomplished with a good balance of flavours and textures, ingredients are seasonal while service exudes the confidence that comes from tasting and training.


Dry-aged Scottish Beef and Slow Roast Organic Chicken are both cooked sous-vide, (the beef at 55 degrees centigrade) for optimum fleshy tenderness. Charcoal mash accompanies the meat and is mostly butter (no complaints!) while the beef is smoky and caramelised at the edges.

Diverted from an early choice of compressed pineapple, coconut & lime dessert, Liz is tempted by a special that, like the broad beans with the steak main, captures summer. Strawberry juice & elderflower flavours teamed with a cheesecake rather than a ‘plain vanilla’ cream? Well, who wouldn’t? Meanwhile, I have a gorgeous take on Cranachan, a puck of raspberry and rose mousse, a jug of vanilla-speckled crème anglaise and crumbles of whisky and honey flapjack plus freeze-dried berry bits. Eat these puddings and weep.

The food, like the hotel, brings Scotland bang up-to-date to meet the high expectations of a cosmopolitan clientele but not at the expense of a friendly warm welcome

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