Steve Dinneen takes a break in his former hometown of Glasgow, where he finds a much improved hotel scene and restaurants that are as good as ever.
The weekend: For many southerners, a weekend break to Scotland involves a trip to Edinburgh Castle or a few rounds at Gleneagles. And while these are both perfectly lovely ways to spend a few days, they overlook Scotland’s beating heart – and straining liver – Glasgow.
While the capital may have Holyrood and the Fringe, Glasgow is the undisputed cultural hub, second only to London for arts, theatre, bars and restaurants. Vice named Glasgow the UK’s best party city and its Finnieston area in the West End was voted the “hippest” place in the country by the Times. I lived there for a decade, and neither of these sound unreasonable.
Where to stay? Until relatively recently, Glasgow had a dearth of quality hotels compared to its wealth of bars, restaurants and clubs. There was One Devonshire Gardens in the West End if you were feeling fancy, and Blythswood Square and the Malmaison in the city centre; after that, you were struggling. It’s getting better, though: newcomers Village Hotel (riverside) and CitizenM Glasgow (city centre) have opened to cater for the low-mid end of the market and now Dakota Deluxe, located right between the shops of the city centre and the bars and restaurants of the West End, is offering a more refined experience.
What’s it like? It’s no coincidence that Dakota Deluxe is the brainchild of Ken McCulloch, the man behind the aforementioned One Devonshire Gardens and Malmaison hotel groups, and the biggest player in the Scottish hotel business. Aesthetically, it’s in the same ball-park as the Malmaison, with a muted colour palette and a general air of quality, from the framed sheet music on the walls to the thick, grey carpets.
The rooms are especially grey, to the extent you could be completely colour blind and not miss out. A friend who stopped by while we had the curtains closed rather astutely pointed out that it looks a bit like a branch of Hollister; the fact the staff are all beautiful does nothing to shatter that illusion.
The food: Glasgow’s restaurant scene is first class. You should start at Dakota’s own Bar & Grill, which serves a typically eclectic, hotel-friendly menu – sample dishes include chicken kiev, rigatoni and monkfish curry – but it’s well enough cooked to overlook the scattershot approach.
Stand-out dishes include the Asian-style crispy duck salad, served with a sliver of lotus, and a hearty plate of lamb cutlets with pea puree, girolles and confit lamb belly. Asparagus with a poached egg and lashings of hollandaise was also dreamy, but it’s out of season now so bad luck.
If you want to venture further afield, there are dozens of great places to eat: The Gannet (Finnieston) does excellent traditional Scottish food, Stravaigin (Kelvin Bridge) has the best nasi goreng outside of Indonesia, Bar Bloc+ (city centre) has a brilliant line in dirty, trashy burgers and Trans Europe Café (Merchant City) serves my favourite brunch in the whole world.
And after that? Kelvingrove Art Gallery is one of the best in the country, a must see if it’s your first visit. The Gallery of Modern Art is also fantastic. Once you’ve struck these off, find a bar you like and just soak up the atmosphere of the “hippest” place in the country.
Need to know: Classic rooms from £120/night. For more information or to make a reservation go to glasgow.dakotahotels.co.uk