One Square, Edinburgh

Few people went out of the way to visit the bar at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh, with its traditional, old-fashioned ambience. That has now changed as part of a multimillion-pound refurbishment of the hotel which has created a totally new bar, One Square, specialising in cocktails and gin.

Part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and operated by the Hotels Corporation of Edinburgh, the hotel has been transformed by London-based MKV Design, which has worked on bars, restaurants and hotels around the world. This saw a set of meeting rooms facing onto the small Festival Square replaced by the One Square bar and brasserie.

The bar’s interior is light and sophisticated, drawing inspiration from the tradition of grand European cafés but with a modern look. Alongside deep-toned timbers such as the walnut flooring, there is brightly upholstered furniture and clusters of multi-coloured globe lights hanging from the ceiling.

Some of the upholstery fabrics hint at tartan but generally MKV Design has sought to create a “cosmopolitan” space with vividly toned wing-back chairs, leather-covered poufs and a bar made from solid grey Scottish Ionian marble.

The hotel’s management have also made a statement with the recruitment of its team to run the bar and brasserie. Instead of appointing people from traditional hotel food and beverage backgrounds, the general manager Gavin Purdie was previously in restaurant management at Jamie’s Italian and Fifteen, while the lead mixologist Paul Stewart worked at several Edinburgh bars including Tigerlily.

This background is helping them position One Square as a destination bar and restaurant, Gavin says. “You have to do something to make people want to come to you, and some hotel companies find that difficult to do. The commercial bar and restaurant sector is more cut-throat and different in pace.”

One Square has its own signage and separate entrance in Festival Square, emphasising its intention to be seen as a stand-alone bar. In the daytime, it is a laid-back spot for meetings over coffee or a light lunch, but the tempo picks up in the evenings, with DJs on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays playing a mix of disco classic and soulful house music. Gavin says they are also looking at introducing film screenings on Sundays. Located next to the restaurant and its lounge area, the bar offers a grazing menu of smaller dishes.

The back bar is filled with premium spirits, with a particular emphasis on gin – at the last count, there were 42 different gins. The menu encourages people to experiment with the classic G&T by using different gins and tonics, while gin tastings have proved to be popular. “Most people don’t know that there are that many gins out there,” Paul says. “Some are willing to try different gins if they are recommended.” Martinis also figure prominently in the drinks list, which has plenty of classic gin cocktails.

Classics dominate the menu generally but Paul says they are looking to add more original cocktails, with updates planned on a regular basis. “There’s no point having something like a Mojito on your menu as everyone knows to ask for that,” he adds. “We want to create our own cocktails and introduce some ‘lost’ cocktails.”

The line-up of beers includes St Mungo and Munich Red on draught from Glasgow’s West brewery and bottled Innis & Gunn ales and Turnberry Ailsa Amber Ale which was created for Starwood’s Turnberry resort in Ayrshire. There is also a humidor for cigars which will come into its own when the new outside terrace facing Festival Square is enhanced with a glass roof this month. They are also working with drinks company Maxxium UK, distributor of brands such as Courvoisier, Laphroaig and Highland Park, to develop recommended pairings for cigars with whisky and cognac.

One Square is establishing itself as a new player on Edinburgh’s thriving bar scene, Gavin says. “There is something about five-star hotels that is a bit intimidating and can stop people coming in to the bar. The key was to break away from being a traditional hotel bar and restaurant. We are working hard to reposition something that was old-fashioned. It will appeal to anyone who wants good service, good drinks and a good atmosphere.”

1 Festival Square, Edinburgh EH3 9SR Tel: 0131 221 6422

Previous Bars warned over liquid nitrogen
Next Leading industry names plan Chinatown bar