Peter Ranscombe straps himself in for lift-off as he reviews Yotel in Glasgow.
I’VE never been a great one for gimmicks – “A sprat to catch a mackerel” was one of my Granny’s favourite sayings and often echoes through my lugholes.
But the spaceship theme running through Yotel in Glasgow even managed to make the mouth of this dour Teuchter twitch into a smile.
I blame a diet of classic science fiction books and unhealthy doses of Star Trek as a teenager.
The hotel chain was launched in 2007 by Simon Woodroffe, the founder of the Yo Sushi brand, who was inspired by the “pod” hotels he saw in Japan.
His firm now has 20 airport and city centre hotels, including outlets in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The Deer Green Place’s branch had been due to open in 2019, but finally made its debut last year on Argyle Street, opposite one of the side entrances to central station, with Motel One and the Radisson Blu for company at the same crossroads.
It’s a part of the city in which a herd of hotels developed to service visitors to the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre (SECC) and, with the addition of the Hydro, has continued to be in high demand.
On the night I stayed for my review, the receptionists reported that Yotel was fully booked because local hero and stand-up comedian Kevin Bridges was playing at the Hydro that evening.
Add in the fact that the name “Finnieston” – with its bars and restaurants – is listed as the first attraction on the hotel’s webpage and it’s clear that the western side of the city centre is cementing its position as hotel-land for visitors.
Hotels need to offer something different to stand out from that crowd – and Yotel’s rocket ship theme certainly helps.
Warp factor one
That theme began in reception – sorry, “mission control” – and continued in the design of its arched foyer and recessed lighting, leading to the lifts; I guess “turbo-lifts” would have perhaps been a little too Star Trek.
The sleek curved lines in the bedroom were more akin to the retro feel of Captain Kirk’s 1960s Starship Enterprise than the touchscreens of Captain Picard’s incarnation.
Mind you, there were still plenty of touchscreen elements, from the mobile phone app to control the giant television with its backlight – which it took me far to long to work out how to turn off – through to the thin strip of the desk lamp.
Chief among the gadgets in the room was the bed itself, which transformed from being a couch into a bed at the touch of a recliner button – and a good deal of whirring from a hidden motor.
As gimmicks go, it’s a great idea – although the double room already boasted generous proportions, turning the bed into a sofa revealed more floor space, and solved that perennial problem of propping oneself up to watch the gogglebox in bed.
The room was also laid out to make the most of the natural light, with the frosted glass in the bathroom window and the shower cubicle allowing more daylight to flood the room.
While those design elements definitely won it Brownie points, not everything gelled.
Although Australian toiletries brand Urban Jungle’s cruelty-free credentials are laudable, I’d still love to see Scottish shower accoutrements in every Scottish hotel, and I suspect they could match the ethical outlook too.
Both signs and cards advised guests to cut down on carbon emissions by not having their towels washed every day – but there was only a tiny rail to hold a single hand towel, and so getting the over-sized bath sheets dry each night would have been a challenge.
While the room had many hi-tech features, sadly the carpet didn’t appear to be one of them, with heavy staining after only a single year of guests’ visits, plus the crispy remnants of a leftover strawberry hiding by the power socket under the desk.
Beam me up, Scotty
Venturing down a floor – or should that be “deck”? – the hotel’s gym was well-equipped for its size, and offered a fun view from the treadmill down Oswald Street to King George V Bridge and Tradeston, along with opportunities to wave at the guests sitting in the windows of Motel One.
By far the best view though came from Vega, the roof-top restaurant and bar named after one of the brightest stars in the northern sky – presumably Sirius and Arcturus didn’t quite hit the spot for the designer.
One side delivered more views across to Tradeston and beyond, while the other stretched across the glass peaks of central station’s roof.
Vega is Yotel Glasgow’s secret weapon – its phasors or its photon torpedoes, if you will – complete with a photobooth, karaoke screen, arcade games, and a four-lane bowling alley.
While Yaphit from The Orville could easily have beaten my pathetic efforts at bowling, a quick lunchtime frame did provide a fun distraction ahead of tucking into an American diner-style meal.
The buffet breakfast had been competent if uninspiring – with the sausages the only real highlight – but there was a big step up to the Vega chicken burger (£11.50) with its generous portion of crispy fried chicken, Monterey jack cheese, hash brown, and hot sauce.
The fresh garlic and herb mayonnaise that accompanied the chips (£3.50) was excellent, while the beer-battered onion rings (£4) delivered the required crispy batter, and the haggis bon-bons (£6.50) were surprisingly and pleasingly meaty.
My selection of beige treats was well worth the extremely long wait between ordering and service, which came in stark contrast to how quickly the gooey double-chocolate brownie (£6) landed.
Overall, the food delivered for the price, as did the “Gutterball” cocktail (£9), a long mix of Beefeater gin, fresh mint, warm rather than fiery ginger, and lime.
What didn’t deliver was the selection of beers on tap – West Brewery’s excellent Heidi Weisse was the sole Scottish selection, which is verging on criminal as we’re living through this golden age of craft beer – while I’m not sure how the barman kept a straight face the night before as he charged me “only” £6.20 for a pint of Heineken’s alarmingly mediocre Beavertown Gamma Ray.
Open shuttle bay doors for departure
While the advent of internet algorithms to determine last-minute room rates has made trying to gauge prices harder and harder, watching Google for a few days after leaving Yotel suggested to me that the brand comes in a few pounds cheaper than the equivalent Travelodge in the city centre.
In that context, it’s a fun alternative to the bigger chain and, if its prices are indeed that wee bit cheaper, then it represents good value too.
On the strength of the Glasgow branch, it’s a chain that I’d definitely consider if I’m visiting other cities or airports.