Hotel Review: Blythswood Square Hotel
Published: October 2010
Class and warmth under one roof as GARETH DAVIS discovers in Glasgow...
Gazing out over the sward of Blythswood Square, the old automobile club with its high ceilinged spaces and marble foyer has been transformed into a contemporary spot of luxury. Colour combinations and aesthetics are du jour; a broad white canvass picked out in bold dashes of colour. Giant red lampshades hang from the ceiling and in reception two blood red velvet-padded alcoves beg to be occupied by a seductive oriental James Bond temptress exhaling opium. These flourishes accentuate a subdued modish palette of blacks, charcoals, pewters and purples. The furniture is eclectic, creating its own sense of order. And contrasting textures respond to feel and touch. One nice motif is the presence of Scottish material and designs; tweeds in the bar, confident cheques evoking tartan on the banquette at the foot of my bed.
Entering this world on a blindingly sunny winter Saturday morning was like being wrapped in a blanket by one’s mother. And to clarify; whereas comparable properties in the south are often sterile and stuck-up, the great determinant here is provided by the city of Glasgow itself. Its warmth spills in from the street to take the edge off any posing. Staff laugh and banter with guests, they take their time to engage without being de trop. This is Scottish chic with a big cuddle. The kind one only finds in Glasgow.
The rooms are beautifully composed. Huge huggy white linen beds, a widescreen TV, a place for the iPod to click into the surround sound, and as ever it is the little things. There’s free Wi-Fi, a good quality steam iron and ironing board, and even a shoe horn. The bath products by Purdies of Argyll however failed to score; they may be organic but there’s more than a whiff of cooking oil about them.
My other criticism would be breakfast time on a weekend. Shutting up shop at 10am smacks more of a grim boarding school than a 5* adult luxury experience. It’s understandable however as the property is hampered by the onset of a busy lunch in the same space.
The large airy restaurant echoes the rest of Blythswood; pewters, silvers and purple tweed in a large white space. The bar runs along a wall but is not attached to it; an architectural block in charcoal wood with a nice use of mirrored mosaic that give a period effect.
The cocktail list combines classy contemporary creations with classics and others less familiar. My eye was drawn to Daisy, a late 19th century forbear of the Margarita. And a Joanie Walker brought a smile to my face. It’s a fruity take on the classic malt. All are hugely reasonably priced between £5.50 and £7.
I was a weekend luncher, sat bathed in sunlight from tall windows on both sides of the room. A couple of very stylish 30 something Sex in the City types sat gossiping in a booth.
What is it about hotels north of the boarder? They create menus that sing to me. £15 for 2 courses offered Aberdeen Angus, mallard duck breast, and panko crusted mackerel. A la carte one can choose from Scottish lamb with Toulouse sausage, Gressingham duck in cherries, black truffle gnocchi, even a cheeky prawn cocktail or chicken kiev. What aplomb!
Preparing for a large meal that evening, I opted for two starters. Firstly, Jerusalem artichoke velouté with panko crusted monkfish cheeks and hazelnut foam. The cheeks turned out to be a kind of upmarket fish nugget and the dish was utterly unctuous, fresh and balming. Second, hand dived scallops, scallop tripe, basmati crème, Vadouvan (an up-and-coming Indian spice) and pea shoots hit the spot. And what a joy to see a scallop dish not involving black pudding!
I seem to be blessed whenever I visit Glasgow. In 20 years, and I have visited almost every year since 1990, I have yet to see rain. The sun shone as I checked into Blythswood Square Hotel and it shone as I checked out. Need I say more?
Hotel Review: Blythswood Square Hotel
Gareth has been with TRAVEL CHANNEL since its launch in 1994. He has produced and presented on TRAVEL LIVE and THE TRAVEL BUG, produced ESSENTIAL... and reports on TRAVEL TODAY. He is a regular contributor to the website. In 2010 he produced the hit series THE HOLIDAY SHOW which he also co-presented with Ginny Buckley. Gareth’s passions are history, culture, food & drink.