STYLE and the city
Cheshire Life: November 2018 Glasgow is among Europe’s must-visit cities, and one of its most enticing hotels is the Principal Blythswood Square, writes Louise Taylor
It’s a Sunday afternoon and we are perched at a cocktail table in the Salon of The Principal Blythswood Square in Glasgow. Parties of women in their finery are taking afternoon tea, this being the kind of room – high ceilings, long Georgian windows, gold-topped white columns – which makes you want to dress up a bit.
Through those long windows, we can look down across the private gardens around which Blythswood Square’s houses for the well-to-do were first built in the 1820s – a supposed new centre for Glasgow, high on a hill, above the hoi-polloi.
By 1910, the homes on the side of the square which is now the hotel had become the clubhouse of the Royal Scottish Automobile Club. Hence the square was one of the start points of the 1955 Monte Carlo Rally. It’s tempting to think of a daring chap downing a stiffener in The Salon – perhaps the cocktail menu’s Corpse Reviver No 1 – before getting behind the wheel and screeching off in search of glory.
The club’s crest survives on the hotel’s frontage. It’s more prominent, in fact, than any corporate branding. This is a hotel too sophisticated to need to scream its presence. But, for all the enticing whiff of history and the Georgian charm of the exterior, the five-star Blythswood is a 21st century proposition, with all the style, the spa, the food and the cocktails, which go with that. A multi-million pound refurbishment is ongoing to keep it looking shiny and contemporary. If our room was anything to go by – lots of elegant grey with the bathroom a riot of brown marble – the results are as shiny and contemporary as you’d like.
The upstairs Salon is a peerlessly stylish place to while away time sitting on a Harris Tweed-upholstered bar stool.
But what about the ground floor restaurant? Once the automobile club’s ballroom, the restaurant is a mix of booths and tables above which hang a profusion of statement black lampshades, fringed in red.
It’s a room which must strike a balance in terms of formality and informality between breakfast and evening meal, and a menu which runs the gamut from a cheese sandwich to £65 Chateaubriand from the Josper grill.
We tried a starter of tuna tatiki (£12) – lush slices of pink tuna edged in sesame seeds, with dabs of avocado purée, a slightly tart cucumber consommé and a sprinkling of smoked herring roe. Lots of delicate flavours there, deftly juggled. As was our other starter of honey and pine nut baked goat’s cheese (£7.50).
A main of roast chicken (£18.50) came with a beautifully musty mushroom stuffing, sweet and sour turnip and beets and a £3.75 side order of hand-cut rooster potatoes... yes, upmarket chicken and chips, and very delicious.
Another main of seaweed butter roasted brill (£19.50) was a golden, flaky fillet with solid little potato gnocchi, broad beans and a deeply-flavourful pea velouté.
A white chocolate cheesecake (£7) using Scottish crowdie was dense, deep and satisfying, accompanied by berries and honeycomb ice cream. Lemon posset (£7) looked almost as good as it tasted – decorated with freeze-dried raspberry fragments and teamed with fingers of meringue and a vanilla cookie.
Out of the door of the hotel, the heart of Glasgow city centre is but a ten-minute walk in one direction, and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum – one of my favourites anywhere in the world – is a 20-minute stroll in the other. There’s so much to see and do in this lively city, but should you be inclined, this is one of those hotels where you could enjoy a short break without setting foot outside, thanks to its fabulous spa with fully equipped gym. As well as offering a wide range of facial and body treatments – using high-end brands like Ishga and Ila – the Thermal Experience here is a big asset. You can loll around relaxing for ages in either the pool – big enough to swim in – or the saunarium, the crystal steam room, the tepidarium or the hydro pool with its body massaging jets of water. After a couple of hours in here, you’ll feel blissfully serene and have little inclination to do anything other than head for The Salon and relax again, taking in the splendour of it all.