Edinburgh food: Virgin Hotels’ Commons Club has an exclusive touch when it comes to dining
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Housed in a building where generations of sweethearts tied the knot, it's perhaps unsurprising to discover a 'lips' motif peppers the Commons Club, Virgin Hotel’s beautifully chilled basement restaurant and ground-floor bar.
Located on Victoria Street, inhabiting India Buildings, the old Registrar's Office, this exclusive addition to the Capital's hotel scene is already attracting tourists and locals alike; many who swore their undying love here are returning to celebrate anniversaries over a meal, cocktails or, if it's a milestone year, perhaps even an overnight stay in the ultra-opulent suite of rooms known as Sir Richard's Flat.
So what can they expect? I popped in to check out the fayre on offer in the sumptuous venue, a feast of rich reds, warm woods, eccentric art and low-lights, all of which envelop you in a warm cuddle from the moment you step through the doors.
Below stairs, in the cool of what were once sealed up cellars, you'll find two very different dining experiences. One, where we are to dine, boasts clean white lines and an open kitchen and pass offering an oasis of chic modernity.
With phase one of the development completed, 55 of the planned 222 Chambers and Grand Chamber Suites are currently open for bookings (the remainder come online in September) and the hotel is currently operating at capacity. Consequently, across the hall from our table, in the cellars of the old marriage factory, the 'candle-lit' stone walls and arches allow a more traditional, intimate setting that embodies the historic past of the Old Town. The place is buzzing.
Back in the land of light the drinks have arrived, cocktails, a Breakfast In The Highlands and Hadrian's Wall. The former, described as 'rich, smooth and deep', is like nectar and the latter, 'fiery with a punch', certainly packs a zingy kick thanks to the crystallised ginger garnish.
Seated at a long, high table, capable of accommodating eight, Pedro ensures we are well looked after. While no one joins us at the table as we eat, Food and Beverage Manager Jamie explains that the 'community' approach has proved popular with lone travellers and couples, sparking unlikely friendships in the process. It's a lovely thought.
Each place setting also comes with its very own phone charging socket built into the table, perfect for a working lunch or the more anti-social among us who just want to engage with their phone as they eat.
If the cocktails hit the spot. The food when it arrives is on a different level, as you might expect from a mid-priced menu. From the 'Over Cocktails', oysters with a Virgin Mary dressing and oak smoked salt, to the desserts (try the Commons Cranachan, uniquely served in its component 'flavours'), all four courses are divine.
Between first and last, the Commons Signature Caesar starter proves my favourite course, although my dining companion's Tartar, hand-cut Highland roe deer and capers infused with charcoal oil, macadamia and juniper egg yolk is exceptional too - as someone who doesn't eat red meat, even I was tempted to a taste and completely won over.
My main, a deliciously marinated piece of rolled chicken that, as Chef Georgio happily explains, has enjoyed a lengthy preparation process, is the best. Like my chicken, my partner's halibut also arrives looking like a work of art on a plate, but then art plays a huge part in the Commons Club.
Finishing the evening with a last cocktail, the bar lives up to its 'club' appellation, attentive staff ensuring everyone feels special in the refined lounge.One final tip, if you can, enter through the hotel entrance, you really don't want to miss the 'light-box' lobby, the only way to enter the culinary wonderland that is the Commons Club.