Mary Gostelow says Scottish teas are, well, something special

Girlahead stays at the Queen of the scone brigade

My mother-in-law lived outside Edinburgh and she knew that ‘afternoon tea’ was a vital meal – many, in their own homes, would add a hot dish, say kippers, a Scottish speciality. Hotels, naturally, do it rather more elegantly.

Queen of the scone brigade is undoubtedly Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian (which locals have affectionately called The Cally since the hotel, designed in red Permian sandstone by architect J.M. Dick Peddie, opened in 1903).

Grand Staircase - Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh - The Caledonian

Today the hotel is run by a Canadian GM, Dale MacPhee, who is one of those female leaders whom you immediately consider to be your best friend. It is owned by the Indian-Dubai philanthropic entity Lulu, whose MD, Adeeb Ahamed, really cares about being part of the community. Last month, for instance, he loaned a Bentley to The Cally, for more stylish delivery of meals-to-go to happy Edinburgh diners.

Peacock Alley Lounge, Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh - The Caledonian

Yes, unusually the hotel remained open during on-off pandemic lockdowns in Scotland. At all times, however, it has been delivering over a thousand meals a weekend. About half of all these orders have been multi-course gourmet dinners, completely pre-cooked apart from the main course, veggie or not, which arrives as measured ingredients, with a photo and full instructions for do-it-yourself. The other orders are afternoon tea, delivered, with or without a full bottle of Champagne, in a beautiful front-opening box. Opening up its front doors to find savoury finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, and a range of sweet pastries and cakes.

Castle view, Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh - The Caledonian

There are 268 rooms here, and many regulars do try to reserve a room overlooking Edinburgh Castle, a mere ten minutes’ walk up the admittedly-steep Royal Mile.

I had such a view, from #106, the Alexander Graham Bell Suite, named in honour of the Scottish entrepreneur who invented the telephone: among other notable points, he set up AT&T and National Geographic. I loved the suite’s oh-so-Scottish soft purple and grey colours, and having stylish Ferragamo toiletries, and a simple Nespresso machine.

Alexander Graham Bell Suite, Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh - The Caledonian

And, as you have correctly guessed, after a serious work-out, either in the fitness centre or by running up to the Castle, down the Royal Mile to Holyrood and further, to Arthur’s Seat hilltop, it was time to order room service. Afternoon tea, with the Champagne, please.

Mary Gostelow publishes the daily and the weekly 15-minute Mary Gostelow Girlahead Podcast.

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