Valentine's Day: A night at One Devonshire Gardens
I’ve always been suspicious of Valentine’s Day. It’s not that I’m not romantic, I just object to being told how, with what colours, and on what day I ought to be expressing my love. All that pink. All that expense. All that expectation. While I can see that hiding away in a hotel room in your own city for a night could feel exciting and decadent, the idea that romance can be packaged and marketed is exactly what I object to about Valentine’s Day in the first place. So I arrive to try out the ‘Valentine’s Experience’ at One Devonshire Gardens, the flagship of the Hotel Du Vin chain, if not cynically, then certainly needing to be convinced.
The highly rated, vintage-styled hotel sprawls over five interconnected Victorian townhouses, set just back from Great Western Road. Everything from the oak-panelling and roaring fires in the reception area and the excellent (not obsequious) service, right down to tiny details like the cigar shack in the walled garden, gestures to an old world sensibility and a taste for the good life. The word ‘luxury’, often used to reward five star hotels for bland corporate gloss, is far too brash a description to apply here. There’s a great feeling of the history of the hotel, and the history of Glasgow’s merchant-wealthy areas, all around, and this only deepens the experience.
The sense of refinement extends to the Valentine’s package, too. Champagne on ice and tiny, indulgent squares of hand-made chocolate, are waiting for us in our room, Robert Mondavi (rather than numbers, the rooms are named after wine producers), but thankfully there are no girly flourishes, no rose petals or pink cushions chucked on the bed. There’s no need for them: the gigantic room (taking up roughly the same area as a fair-sized tenement flat) has been designed with sensuality in mind; the décor is a range of deep, warm blues and purples, tactile silks and velvets on the cushions. Then there’s the huge, freestanding rolltop bath sitting on a raised dais under a small chandelier in the window-gable of the bedroom. ‘Yes, people usually find the bath very romantic,’ says the member of staff who brings us up, with a fantastically discreet smile.
The sensual pleasures only intensify over dinner, of course: the bistro has won as many awards as the hotel, and is the current Scottish Restaurant Awards Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year. The menu is French-influenced with a contemporary Scottish slant: there’s a special Valentine’s carte with foods chosen for particularly sensual or aphrodisiac qualities, but we choose from the main menu for a slight surcharge, sliding caviar-topped oysters resting in Champagne down our throats and trying not to groan too loudly in appreciation at mouthfuls of pigeon breast and lobster soufflé. Master sommelier Sebastian is always on hand, taking a positive pleasure in successfully matching a glass of wine to each course.
We stop for a cocktail by the fire in the cosy snug cocktail bar before retreating back to our bedroom. Someone has thoughtfully (and, ah, discreetly) drawn fine black muslin drapes in the windows while we were out: the streetlights come twinkling through, but we can bathe in peace, with our champagne, right in the middle of the bedroom, with each and every one of our senses feeling thoroughly pampered. It’s sexy, and yes, I admit it, absolutely romantic, without a rose in sight.
Valentine’s packages start at £300 for one night’s dinner, bed and breakfast at Hotel Du Vin at One Devonshire Gardens, Great Western Road, Glasgow. www.hotelduvin.com, or 0141 339 2001 for further information.