We’re visiting an old friend in Edinburgh and she’s recommended a bed and breakfast round the corner from her house. One problem: we can’t get a reservation. I’m intrigued. It’s just after Christmas – not exactly prime time for tourists – and we’re in the middle of one of the coldest snaps Britain’s seen in centuries. On top of that, Millers64 appears to be smack in the middle of residentsville, and a good 15 minutes walk from the Royal Mile, halfway down an unassuming sidestreet. And yet every weekend, the place is full. ‘But it’s only a B&B,’ puzzles Mr Smith...
Some bed and breakfast, we discover when we finally secure a booking. For a start there are only two rooms, lending Millers64 an instant and exclusive cachet of cool. And as guesthouses go, it’s as bonnie as they come – a cosy little bunk-up dressed in designer clothing. Louise Clelland, together with her sister Shona, runs this beautiful boutique outpost set within their own painstakingly restored Victorian home. It is her that warmly welcomes us when our chance to stay finally arrives.
The decor is a combination of period features, quirky modern artworks and the odd Oriental touch picked up from a childhood in the Far East. A sweep up the wooden staircase, past mini Thai Buddhas and colourful little canvases courtesy of local graphic designer Kate George, and we’re at the seriously spacious Park Suite overlooking Pilrig Street. (The room across the hall has views of the back garden.) Both have airy and luxurious ensuites loaded with large fluffy white towels and robes, organic Purdie’s of Argyll toiletries, baths and drench showers big enough for two, hammered-metal sinks shipped from South East Asia and underfloor heating.
Dominating the room is our king-size bed draped in fine, crisp white linen and set off with swathes of mahogany, dark-chocolate browns and champagne hues. There’s free WiFi and a sofa for Mr Smith to stretch out on and check his emails, a digital flatscreen TV and docking station for the iPod. There are even copies of Elle Deco and Monocle to leaf through. It’s all brilliantly five star and designery. What endears it most to us are the make-yourself-at-home, personable touches, like the little kilner jars of Louise’s homemade shortbread next to the coffee cups, and the useful manual listing the sisters’ favourite haunts for eating out and exploring.
Mr Smith fixes his eye on the breakfast menu. Not the one-choice-suits-all, like-it-or-lump-it, dodgy Full English of your average B&B, here. These well-travelled sisters have stayed in some of the world’s finest hotels – and it shows. Tick the right boxes on the menu, hang it up for collection, and in the morning you’ll be treated to your choice of the following: porridge with cream and brown sugar; smoked salmon and scrambled eggs; French toast with bacon and maple syrup; boiled eggs with soldiers or a full Scottish (locally sourced sausages and bacon, slices of black pudding, homemade potato scones, cherry tomatoes on the vine…) Still hungry? Expect thoughtful extras such as mini yoghurt pots, oven-fresh pastries or chocolately raspberry muffins, not to mention oodles of oatcakes, jams and marmalades, all made by Clelland hands. There’s even a tea menu. We joyously work our way through as much as we can, and it’s all glorious. Should we find ourselves up here in sunnier climes we’re told we can enjoy it all on the patio outside.
Louise is a foodie, which is obvious from the pedigree of the breakfast and the number of cookbooks stacked on the breakfast-room shelves, so we chat about Edinburgh’s food scene. She tells me about Martin Wishart and Tom Kitchin’s upscale dining rooms down in Leith and the legendary Italian deli Valvona & Crolla up the road from Pilrig Street; she even points out the kitchen shop round the corner where she picked up the cute little bone-handle bread knives, teeny tiny jugs for the cream and dainty, mismatched china plates that she uses to serve breakfast on.
Mr Smith and I follow her recommendations and hit the regenerated shoreline of Leith for seafood on the waterfront at the stylishly laidback Ship on the Shore and a pint at old-school boozer, the Roseleaf. Then it’s uptown in a taxi (the cabbie tells us there’ll be a tramline soon) to Harvey Nick’s for some light sales shopping, as well as sushi and cocktails with views of the city skyline from the store’s ‘Forth Floor’ bar. Our Edinburgh trips ends with drinks at the ultra-glam Hotel Missoni. Next time we visit, we reflect, we are tempted to stay at this luxury hideaway right by Edinburgh Castle. Or we could swallow the 10-minute cab ride back out of town, lap up the world’s warmest welcome at Millers64, save some shillings on our boudoir and spend the difference in the Missoni’s bar by night. A flashback to that breakfast menu makes the decision for us.