“I feel like I’m in an episode of The Apprentice,” said Stringer, as we sipped at our drinks. “This looks like the sort of place they’d force the candidates to live.”
We were in the bar area – the ‘Canteen’ – of Glasgow’s citizenM hotel, and I could definitely see his point: from where we sat I could see paper lanterns; a couch that looked like it was built from oversized fruit Polos; two copies of Wallpaper magazine; a self-serve mini freezer full of tubs of Mackie’s ice cream; and a double decker sofa chair that looked like a modern art sculpture (it’s the one Joe and Carla are using in the Ette publicity shots). Like everywhere else we’d been since checking in to the hotel half an hour before, the space looked like a dorm room notice board collage. And I absolutely flipping loved it.
I’m going to hold my hands up right now and admit that I’m a sucker for all that hipster shit – which is a good job, because citizenM has it in spades. But what sets the chain’s Glasgow hotel apart from other places we have stayed with the same over-the-top, knowingly kitsch presentation, cutesy slogans and price tags to match is that these do not come at the expense of what the weary traveller needs from a hotel: comfort, and service.
Oh, and there are no f***ing trees growing out of the lobby.
I’ve had my eye on citizenM Glasgow, oh, probably since it opened back in 2010. The hotel just looks the part, you know? plus it’s in a great location: I can’t tell you how many times I have eyed it enviously on exiting into the rain from a late showing at the Cineworld across the road. But who can justify a hotel, even one pitched as “affordable luxury”, when you live close enough to town that you can get a taxi for under a tenner?
I’ll tell you who: this guy, when offered a night’s stay for review purposes. And so, on the first Friday in January in celebration of a successful (three-day) first week back, Stringer met me from work and we headed up Hope St to drop off our bags before a night on the town.
The chain promises a one-minute check-in/out process: a bold claim, but one I’m happy to concur with. Checking in is as simple as finding a terminal, typing in your surname, indicating your room preference and then holding up your plastic keycard to the little reader to activate it. If all that sounds a bit daunting, worry not – the hotel had at least one staff member on hand in the area whenever I was passing, to offer any help needed or just a friendly greeting.
Stringer and I opted for a high floor (as far away from the city centre streets as possible on a Friday night, amirite?) with a courtyard view and were assigned a room on the 6th floor. We were amused to discover that our small room was almost entirely bed, even if we were expecting it from our experience of the Hudson in New York. Unlike that boutique experience, however, you could tell that considerable effort had gone into the room design – everything was perfectly proportioned (with the under the bed area indicated for luggage storage, for example) while the bed itself was so huge it would have accommodated a small village.
Room features including light, heating, blinds and colour-changing “mood” lighting were controllable from the iPad supplied with the room which was a really nice touch, and kept me occupied for a good 20 minutes while Stringer was antsy to get to the bar. The iPad also contained a selection of free-to-watch movies that could be beamed to the TV, which was controlled by the same device. The best thing about it? Everything worked seamlessly.
We had a quick drink at the bar before heading out for dinner. It’s decently priced and even offers a few (admittedly not very adventurous) cocktails, plus it’s open late – it seems my husband is quite the regular, since many of his writer friends stay there when they’re in town. We were dining out at the five-star Blythswood Square Hotel courtesy of a Christmas voucher from my excellent mother-in-law, and in true first-Friday-in-January tradition everybody else in the restaurant seemed to have vouchers to spend too.
My dislike of fancy food is legendary, but since most places will do you a steak and chips it’s not usually a problem. So please, invite me to all of your fancy restaurants. The “steak frites” option on the menu turned out to be the tenderest piece of fillet, which is not my usual cut but made a very, very nice change. My mandarin cheesecake was quite soggy and a little disappointing, but Stringer was delighted to discover a place in Glasgow that served a Sazarac: confusingly, rather than rinse out the glass with absinthe in traditional New Orleans style, it was served with a shot of (very watered down!) absinthe on the side, to be added to taste.
We then saw Rogue One at the cinema – a film that Stringer, the non-Star Wars fan, had been more interested in than I was but that I enjoyed way more than he did. Then back to the hotel, where it was almost like having the comfiest of king sized beds each given the size of the thing. I sent a few frantic Star Wars-related texts to my brother, while Stringer had the best night’s sleep he had had in ages.
Thanks to an uncharacteristic lack of planning, I was unable to take full advantage of the breakfast buffet – with plans to meet Alice Rose for lunch at the wonderful Singl-End, I chose just to line my stomach with some bread and cheese from the continental selection. Oh, and a sugar waffle. Which I ran through the toaster because obviously. Stringer, of course, did me proud with a full hot breakfast.
I did, however, take full advantage of a glorious rain shower, bathed in purple mood lighting, before we headed downstairs. citizenM boasts two in-house shampoo/shower gel blends: I opted for the revitalising citizenAM which, it is claimed, is specially formulated to combat jet lag.
One-minute checkout later, and Stringer was off home to feed the cats while I killed an hour with a book in the chilled-out societyM meeting space. At least, it’s usually chilled out – it’s just that a certain blogger of your acquaintance canny resist a good bubble chair. To the group that I didn’t realise were actually, you know, having a meeting: I hope you had a productive day.
Would you ever book a hotel stay in your home town? And how glorious are bubble chairs??
Stringer and I received a complimentary stay at citizenM for review purposes, but all views are mine and unbiased.