Set in lush parkland, yet only five minutes by taxi from the Royal Mile, Prestonfield is home to Edinburgh's latest destination restaurant - Rhubarb. Recently lavishly restyled by James Thomson and his Witchery team following an extensive restoration, the charming seventeenth century Prestonfield is now regarded as Edinburgh's most indulgent retreat and is the only AA 5 Red Star Hotel in the city.
Rhubarb could well lay claim to the title of Edinburgh's ultimate restaurant, occupying two linked grand oval-shaped Regency rooms that overlook Prestonfield's eighteen acres of parkland that, added to Prestonfield in 1816 by Architect James Gillespie Graham.
Still home to a collection of ancestral portraits that have hung in the house since they were commissioned, the walls are now indulgently upholstered in striking specially-woven fabrics in burnt rhubarb crumble colours of reds, black and bronze, whist two over scaled carved and gilded tassel chandeliers hang from the domes ceilings. Striking armchairs, grand banquettes and chairs modelled on those at Brighton Pavilion ensure diners are seated in comfort as well as elegance.
Named as a memorial to the introduction from China of rhubarb here in the 18th century, Rhubarb continues the tradition by promoting the excellent produce available from small artisan suppliers with delights such as Lindisfarne Oysters, Skye scallops, Black Gold beef and Borders hare and lamb leaning heavily on an inventive and imaginative menu. Puddings are likely to include an assiette of rhubarb desserts of jam doughnuts, rhubarb and custard parfait, and ginger and white chocolate.
Rhubarb is reintroducing leisured grand-luxe dining as an antidote to those uncomfortable blonde-wood canteens. A black-kilted porter greets you at the door and leads you across the marble floor to the Yellow Room, which with its golden walls and black crocodile banquettes is the perfect place for a fireside aperitif, whilst the Whisky is ideal for sampling one of 100 Malts in its warm and clubbable atmosphere surrounded by equine portraits.
After dinner or lunch you can retreat to the Tapestry Room - still hung with its series of seventeenth century Mortlake tapestries, and marvel at the baroque excesses of the cupids and fantastical characters romping on the plaster ceiling commissioned in 1687. Coffee and drinks could hardly be anywhere more dramatic, unless you choose the adjacent Leather Room - still panelled with the stamped and gilded leather original to the house, where a log fire roars daily.
Private dining is a Prestonfield speciality, with an exceptional range of private rooms to welcome any size of party. The panelled Italian Room with its painted classical scenes or the dramatic red and black Stewart Rooms are perfect for smaller dinners in the most dramatic of settings, whilst the light and chinoiserie Garden Room opens onto its own terrace and seats fifty.
For larger numbers the nearby circular Georgian stables are a sumptuous red velvet lined space, frequently hosting gala dinners or weddings for up to five hundred guests. The twenty-eight decadent rooms and lavish suites at Prestonfield are not for the faint-hearted - the décor is full-on opulence in every shade of red imaginable! The stated intention was to be "an antidote to the bland uniformity of hotels".
All rooms feature red Venetian glass mosaic and marble bathrooms, sumptuous soft furnishings, Frette linens and antiques alongside the more contemporary pleasures of air-conditioning, high speed internet access, 30" plasma TV, Bose CD player, DVD, direct dial telephones and a well-stocked mini bar.
More information is available on their Website
Some comments: "A Baroque extravaganza where more is most definitely more!" Gillian Glover, The Scotsman; ".....fabulous!" Joan Collins; "A Beau Brummell kaleidoscope of gilt, ormolu and scarlet pinstripe" Allan Brown The Sunday Times.
Experts at the super-exclusive 'Mr & Mrs Smith' guide for 2005 to Europe's sexiest locations named Edinburgh's 5-star Prestonfield as the only destination for lovers in Scotland and the only UK destination outside of London.