24-Hour Room Service: Malmaison, Glasgow
Grecian earner for the Malmaison brand
Saturday 28 November 2009
Malmaison's property in Scotland's largest city sits in the Georgian heart of the Glasgow. But in the brand's non-conformist fashion, it eschews the architectural vernacular and occupies an 1830s neo-classical structure: a former Episcopal church, based on the Greek house of St Jude. The building flaunts a soaring temple façade and classically ordered architecture, its elongated frontispiece still bearing a Greek inscription above the door.
The church was once a fashionable place to worship. It fell into disrepair and sat derelict until it was bought by the embryonic Malmaison group in the early 1990s. It opened as a fashionable hotel 15 years ago when the chain was but two hotels strong (the first opened a month earlier in Edinburgh). The company now comprises a dozen hotels, many in historically interesting buildings, among them a prison, a warehouse and a sailors' mission.
The Malmaison was Glasgow's first boutique hotel. So, how has it fared in the intervening years? The signature style of deep velvets, checker-board fabrics and panels of dark wood is starting to look a little dated, but judging by the full house during my stay and a packed bar, its pull remains strong.
Next to the Veuve Clicquot bar, the Brasserie occupies what was formerly a crypt; the underground setting felt somewhat gloomy during the lunchtime sitting. However, vitamin D deficiency was compensated for by a tangy roasted tomato soup with basil cream, followed by succulent garlic and thyme roasted chicken with preserved lemons. The seasonal menu includes a "home-grown and local" section; two courses (£13.50) might include Lanarkshire bacon or home-pickled mackerel.
Malmaison's founding philosophy of "smart, stylish, no frills, low cost" is particularly resonant 15 years after the hotel and brand were founded – and perhaps therein lies the key to its enduring success.
The hotel stands near the end of a broad road that siphons off the city centre (10 minutes' walk) and angles up hill towards the West End (15 minutes). It's in the Blythswood Hill area, where wealthy merchants settled in townhouses as the city expanded in the 18th and 19th centuries; most are now occupied by financial organisations, so the vicinity is quiet at weekends.
Following expansion into an office block, the hotel has 72 bedrooms, of which eight are suites. All underwent a £1.5m refurbishment in 2006, which also added the Big Yin penthouse, a homage to local boy Billy Connolly, with a four-poster and tartan roll-top bath. Common to all rooms is a cosseting, homely feel bestowed by soft grey-striped carpets, butterscotch-hued walls and local accents like patterned wool armchairs, tartan throws and black-and-white photography of Glasgow. Beds are pillowy-soft, while the small bathrooms feature slate flooring and monsoon showers.
In keeping with the no-frills philosophy, you'll find just one bottle of shampoo/shower gel in the bathroom – but the rooms deliver on style and comfort at rates so reasonable that they are almost consistently full.
Malmaison, 278 West George Street, Glasgow, Scotland, G2 4LL (0141-572 1000; malmaison-glasgow.com)
Double rooms start at £99, room only. Breakfast is £9.95
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