The Dome in the heart of Edinburgh is a hugely popular place to eat, drink and be merry. It is also a beautiful Victorian building with a banking history.
If you’re looking for somewhere special and uplifting to have morning coffee, lunch, early evening drinks or dinner, then The Dome on George Street, in the heart of the Scottish capital, won’t disappoint. The standard of catering is high, the cocktails are first-rate, and the service is formal, yet friendly and discreet. But it’s the building itself that always draws gasps of appreciation from first-time visitors, because of the splendid architecture and interior decoration.
Christmas Decorations Are Renowned
If you’re in Edinburgh in December, be sure to visit the Dome to admire its Christmas decorations – they are an extravaganza that has made it as much a spectacle worth seeing as New Year’s Eve fireworks in Princes Gardens. Huge trees, thousands of meters of tinsel and fairy lights, shiny glass baubles… the designers show that less is not always more when it comes to making an impact.
This magnificent building, with its huge decorative domed ceiling, is on the site of the old Physicians’ Hall, designed and built by James Craig, the renowned planner of Edinburgh’s New Town in 1775. However the site was bought by the Commercial Bank of Scotland for £20,000 in 1843. The bank’s managers decided to demolish the existing hall and commissioned their own architect, David Rhind (1808-1883) to create a grand new headquarters.
Rhind designed a building in the Graeco-Roman style, with a colonnade at the front. Walk inside and it’s rather like walking into a cathedral – you look up into the heavens to see an ornately decorated domed ceiling. The first big space on the ground floor is a courtyard-like square hall, with superimposed Ionic columns, which are fluted at the top, with smooth scagliola below. (For anyone not familiar with the scagliola, it is a composite plaster-like substance that imitates marble.) The ground floor has been divided into different bars and restaurants, and the interiors feature dark brown wood, upholstered benches and moody lighting. Huge floral displays stand on the bar ends and are always impressive.
The building served as the headquarters of the Commercial Bank of Scotland from the mid-1850s until 1969, when the Royal Bank of Scotland, which had merged with the Commercial Bank in 1959, decided to concentrate its head office functions in the St Andrew’s Square site in the city. RBS finally put the building up for sale in 1993 and it opened as the Dome bar and restaurant in 1996.
Visitors rate the Dome highly, invariably commenting on the opulent surroundings and lively atmosphere. It’s widely deemed the place for cocktails and drinks, and while its restaurants are not Michelin-starred, the quality of food is felt to be pretty high.
Another added benefit is that it has jazz musicians in to play on Sundays. Well, a benefit if you like jazz, of course.
Remember that The Dome is ideally placed for shoppers. It’s close to Princes Street, while Harvey Nichols’ superb department store is just across the square.