Hotel du Vin at One Devonshire Place

“The Hotel du Vin chain takes on its first existing hotel, Glasgow's best: One Devonshire Gardens”

Review by Fiona Duncan, published 8th April 2007.

Hotel du Vin is the best hotel chain in the country; at least that's what I've always thought.

I've followed the company's fortunes from its earliest days, when I collected my young son from a friend's house and stayed for a chat with his parents.

Their kitchen table was covered with plans and samples: they were Robin and Judy Hutson and together with Gerard Bassett they were about to risk all by opening the first Hotel du Vin in Winchester.

Robin and Gerard had recently left Chewton Glen as manager and head sommelier respectively; Judy, an occupational therapist, was turning her hand to designing the interior.

The Winchester hotel, with its trademark hop-hung bistro, was a huge success. A stylish, informal townhouse, it delivered what it promised: high standards, good food, great wines and affordable prices.

Today there are branches in eight provincial cities, all set in quirky recycled buildings, with a further half dozen in the offing.

In 2004 Hutson and Besson sold out to Malmaison hotels and now, for the first time, the group has taken over an existing and very well-known hotel, Glasgow's best.

They must be losing their integrity, slapping their brand name all over the place, I thought, remembering Hutson's words: "Too many hotels are run by accountants; they have bad beds and the audacity to put chocolate on the pillows."

Is that what's started to happen here?

When One Devonshire Gardens opened in 1986, it was just that: a boutique hotel in the first of five imposing Victorian townhouses built for shipping merchants.

It hit the spot. Bob Dylan stayed. Madonna stayed. Kissinger declared it his favourite hotel.

Then things began to slide. Gordon Ramsay took over the restaurant, but it failed. New owners came and went, but now it has emerged as - a mouthful, this - Hotel du Vin at One Devonshire Gardens, engulfing all five houses in the terrace.

What's it like inside? Handsome, stylish, dark, perhaps too dark.

The Bistro, where there is nothing to remind one of Hotel du Vin's other much more informal bistros, is dark, effectively so in candlelight, less so by day.

"We call it Hotel du Vin Deluxe," says manager Denis Frucot, who has been with the company from the beginning. "It's more luxurious and the food more serious. But the ethos, the atmosphere, the friendly service, I promise you, remains."

By and large I think he's right, although there's a bit too much branding and too many staff who haven't grown up with Hotel du Vin for this to be entirely the case.

However, plenty of touches that are a world away from the lone pillow chocolate do remain: big bottles of shampoo and bath gel that you are encouraged to pinch, huge showers and deep baths, a "pillow menu" for the blissful beds, free internet, a neat little electronic putting machine in each room, proper keys and a decent radio.

As for the Bistro, its name doesn't fit, but the imaginative, wittily presented food, and the extensive cellar, easily live up to its unexpected formality.

To sum up: Hotel du Vin is still in very good hands, but it needs to do everything it can to prevent its unique appeal being subsumed by those chocolate-touting accountants.

Devonshire Gardens, Glasgow (0141 339 2001; www.onedevonshiregardens.com). Doubles from £155 per night; breakfast from £12.

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The Hotel Guru verdict

Rooms
4 out of 5

Deep baths, huge showers, great beds, dramatic touches

Service
3 out of 5

Staff have doubled; well trained but perhaps not yet entirely homogenised

Character
4 out of 5

Splendid original stained glass and staircases

Food and drink
4 out of 5

Very enjoyable; standards high, including a fine cellar and superb cheese trolley

Value for money
4 out of 5

Continental breakfast should be included, but various extras compensate

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