“ Address: 99 Gordon Street / Glasgow / Scotland / G1 3SF „
I remember at the age of eleven meeting the famous Scottish comedian, Stanley Baxter whilst also meeting George Best and John Smith MP; all famous Celtic celebrities who apart from Mr Baxter are no longer alive. This was not at a special function or a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was at the very grand Central hotel in Glasgow and it all happened during the 1980's. Back then the Central Hotel was the place to meet friends, have lunches or simply go somewhere to get out of Glasgow and into another world. Aside from their restaurant, "Ailsa," bar and lunch lounge, the Central hotel retained its brass call buttons in the luxury lined wallpaper walls that held its very function for the demand of a first class service that the family owners took pride in. They also retained a fastidious approach and solid reputation to being extremely clean and professionally organised. This review is entirely mine but it is long for all the right reasons.
Whereas it takes me roughly half an hour at the most to book a room with a hotel, it took me a whole day with Central hotel. This was just the start of it, having been invited to Glasgow for a job interview at an early hour necessitated the need to stay over rather than travel and trust local transport services. The hotel's switchboard took their time in arranging my call and promises that they would call back as their phone line wasn't working. Five hours later and I was still waiting for that call. When I phoned again, I got some assistance, then the phone line went dead, then it went live again, rang, then it went dead again and naturally I wasn't impressed. When I got an answer the receptionist took my details, requested my credit card number (but not the number on the back) for securing the room and it was done! Hurrah! But surely, it shouldn't take a whole day to book a room with a hotel, should it?
At £64-00 for a "standard" twin room per night over the phone, Central Hotel offered me what they had at the time although their rates on the actual board at reception shows different prices stating "from £120-00," per twin room; this is just the beginning of how to be misled! I was happy with what I was getting; the most basic room they had on offer with an ensuite shower room, TV, coffee making facilities and a lovely double bed and all their rooms start on this basis of equipment including a single electric dry iron, a trouser press and a hair dryer amidst the usual tea bags, coffee sachets and kettle. I had previously looked online to Quality hotel's site and found an independent site which could do me the same room for £47-00 as a seasonal offer. Central Hotel's response here was that if I had seen this price online, I'd have to make the payment online with that company. In terms of check out times and check in, Central Hotel offered that after 12pm I could check in and departure in the morning could be done before 11am. This is really quite a fair deal because breakfast which is included in the price starts at 7am and finishes at 11am.
After I arrived and made my way through the gleaming marbled floor of the reception at the Central hotel and checked in, I paid up for my room and collected my swipe card although I found it initially strange that I should pay for the room first before staying there. I was told that my room, number 200 and something else was on the second floor. I looked around the bright surroundings and initially assumed that with the gleaming look and professional service, everything would be rosy. Naturally you'd think that with the starter number being "2" you'd think your room would be located on the second floor. Well...
For a start, out of three lifts, one lift appeared to be working and the lift looked big enough to accommodate one wheelchair and two people - now think about that if you have suitcases. Thanks to a wedding occurring at the same time as my time of stay, the hotel was packed with 500 wedding guests and I had been initially warned by an English woman at reception that I should look elsewhere to stay as she had enough of dodgy lifts, bad attitudes from the various staff members and the hotel's apparent lack of understanding for package tour holiday residents. I ignored her advice since it was only one night I was paying for as opposed to the "three day hell" she had already endured. When the lift did arrive, I was greeted by a horrific gold tinted mirrored closet that shook and jolly well took its time as it raised itself up the floor levels; even some of the buttons had been broken off and taken out and was difficult to push to get the lift to stop at the floors. I had to let some tourists out who were before me, and then realised that the sensor in the roof must be damaged as the door closed hastily soon after it had opened; not a good reassurance well before I got to my room of the hotel's quality or standards of basic service needs.
By the time I got to the third floor I was really getting annoyed. I was carrying a suit carrier and a laptop bag, of which the strap had snapped off; I was tired, annoyed somewhat and in badly need of a strong cup of coffee; the lift however just refused to stop at the second floor! Not helped by the digital display that kept saying "2" when it meant something else. Eventually the lift was recalled to the ground floor and by then I really gave up on taking the lift! I eventually walked up the stairs slowly to the second floor to get to my 200 and something numbered room. Whilst I did this, I remembered fondly the soft white shiny marble steps I used to love walking up and down as a child. I remember too the beautiful blue/gold squared carpet that used to line the steps. What I saw horrified me however; the marble is chipped, the carpets are torn, withered away, worringly moving out of place on some levels despite being locked down with brass holders that badly need cleaned and the beautiful Greek like carpet had been replaced by horrible mauve pink flowery hoof held down by black sealing carpet tape in some places and a cigarette end proudly stared up from me as I reached the last couple of steps; yes against the best decision made, I had booked a smoker's room - for £68 I would be charged to stay in a non-smokers room! Do you think I could find my room after endless hall ways and miles of stained carpets on the way?
After discovering the hallway where my room was located, it didn't occur to me that what I had known all those years ago as long hallways would turn out to be indeed that. After going through a long hall way separated by three separate fire doors down a wide hall way with rooms adorned with white doors, I was reminded of the image of a residential home I used to work in as a student; the smell of dry rot, urine and dust hit me strongly whilst I could have done with the vehicle of choice such as the little boy's tricycle in the film, "The Shining," only with a basket on the front. The walk to my room was the furthest I've ever experienced in a hotel yet. Save for the wall lights where some of them sit on an angle and have shades of burnt black on the wall it was very apparent that a lot of deprivation goes on in Central hotel even though the wallpaper is pink and peach and holds some positive welcome. Certainly, despite Central Hotel having a "Leisure Centre," gym, there's simply no need to exert your money - the walking and running up stairs you'll be put through will be enough thanks to non-working lifts and acres of corridor just waiting for you to trek..!
Throughout the "living quarters" of the Central hotel I'm saddened to witness withered wallpaper throughout the entire hallways; water damage is evident from the way paper has air pockets behind them whilst the lighting in the hall is minimal, casting up a huge hue of pink thanks to the stained carpets and emergency lighting at the tops of the ceiling with blackened dust and plenty of fire hazards to note down - oh yes my training in Health and Safety as a cleaner started to approach me! At last I saw a sign on the wall which showed an arrow pointing to my room. I dumped the stuff on the floor only to see a lovely view of Glasgow's Central Station glass greenhouse roof and a back end floor outside the window littered with moss and rubbish. I opened my door to be greeted by a lovely looking room with a clean double bed and crumpled curtains showing off a rather large set of double windows; the ensuite bathroom is rather long than wide to the left hand of the room, but at least in white it appeared to be clean and dirt free in the small light that had been switched on in the room to greet me.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not the kind of traveller who turns their nose up if a sheet is crumpled, or if there are some stains on a carpet, but at the level of expertise Quality would have you think about, the Central Hotel needs money fast since it seems to be haemorriging well before its time whilst its heritage where once favoured amongst other hotels seems to have been lost and the phrase that springs to mind is an unfavourable word that rhymes with Brit and begins with S!!
After spending some time in my room and unpacking, my room's overall appearance started to reveal the truth the moment that all the wall lights were switched on. On greyish beige wall paper I was surrounded by faded blue Celtic cross inspired imprints that look like a child's rubber stamp imprint. After locating the light switch for all lights in the room by the main door entrance, the grace and beauty of my room was revealed in its glory; all the walls had peeling air pocketed wall paper; the wall opposite to the main work table/dressing table had what looked like hot drink stains splashed on the side whilst below one of the spot lights by the mirror red blotches which look like old blood or nail varnish had been dabbed on the wall and a poor attempt to wipe it off.
The bathroom in terms of its wall paper wasn't any better. Consisting of a self print-less beige/cream colour it is evident that no thought has been given to include an extractor fan on the frosted bathroom window - another disgrace. Despite the lovely size of the full size bath with a combination shower above it, there is no extractor fan of which the steam can be expelled, which is why, go figure Nar, you have each part of the wallpaper looking badly steamed as well as wrinkling at two corners. I decided the moment I got into the room that I would make a cup of coffee to calm myself down. I was pleased to find that next to the 14" colour television that has apparent interactive services, but guess what, mine didn't! There is a small hatch when opened, reveals a full size kettle and tea/coffee making facilities. Full marks for Central hotel, Glasgow to supply a full size kettle! But to go and fill it was another experience. Now whereas normally you'd find lots of cold water flowing at a fast rate, even with the tap turned all the way on, I got a flow as slow as a drunk in a side street taking a leak - and of course I was at a loss to know whether the water in the bathroom sink is drinkable or not given that there are no signs to tell you.
I then decided or reckoned that perhaps I had been given the wrong room. I checked the door and it stated the number I was given but it also included the letter, "P." P for Poor, perhaps? The thought did cross my mind. I noticed at the right hand side of the bed there was a natty looking telephone alarm clock. I picked up the phone thinking that it would put me straight through to the reception. Wrong! There was no live phone line! I pulled the corner unit away from the bed and noted that the phone line was indeed plugged in. I couldn't believe it; the buggers hadn't even given me a phone that worked! As for the combination radio itself; poor sound and a cracked volume and tuning dial made for very little use to listen to an actual station. A wall mounted hair dryer that appeared to work was included whilst a handy trouser press with an additional corded iron was quite frankly not expected. Clearly for the price I'd got a bargain for just one night in terms of equipment supplied in the room.
And then, as the saying goes, the piece de resistance was revealed in its full glory. Since I had arrived early evening it was just beginning to get dark. I drew the curtains apart and took a look outside, drawing a breath sharply. Part of the window at the nearest bottom is frosted which is just as well - the view was hellish and gave me a close range view on the back end of the hotel looking out into a close with another building looking in and a horrible trash infested landing sporting old bits of linoleum, smashed glass and a fire door which literally looked like it had been in a fire showing off a blackened, spooky entrance.
The fire exit on my floor was no better in terms of its outlook, sporting silver panelled doors as if they were taken out of a Casualty department in a hospital. A dark, dusty stone stair meets you, poorly lit and a photo taken in the morning to give its true hue can also be found on You Tube; it looks like a landing out of a tenement flat featured in the crime series, "Taggart," and certainly doesn't inspire confidence either to try out to see where it goes, or indeed looks like a safe environment since it is the main fire escape. Another fire exit at the end of the hall is rather optimistic, especially for the older residents I met in my travels. That exit leads up a very narrow stair and has a fire exit sign hanging off a light with an accompanying "Mind Your Head," banner over a white wooded fire door that just looks like it doesn't belong there. Certainly from just walking through the hall ways the first impression you get from Central hotel is that it is an extremely large and capable hotel that can cater for a lot of visitors but those fire exits simply don't look large enough to handle copious amounts of people in a panic should a fire alarm go off and you have to ignore the burnt stains where emergency lighting has burnt parts of the ceiling. Yes, that's very reassuring to the eyes!
On return to my visit to reception I reported the faulty phone. I was told however that due to the time of reporting (nearing 9pm) that the Maintenance team weren't around but they could fix it for the morning. When asked when this could be done, I was told after 9am. Ironic really when I won't be there at bloody 9am!
The hotel does have a few official outlets however such as a Leisure centre and a bar called "Grahamstons," where non-residents are welcome to visit; on the week days the opening times are between 12pm and 2am and the bar is at best clean, open spaced and has a pool table on a raised stage to one side of the bar. However in the past and on many occasions I have stopped here before getting my train home and have often felt it to be far too hot. After the explanation at reception for my faulty phone I went up to Grahamstons and ordered a pint of Grolsch since out of beers available there were only two at the time. Despite this, the pint came in at £3-00 whilst half pints are quite literally half price. Although not overly stocked there are plenty of juices, soft drinks and alternative alco-pops such as WKD Blue (I call it "Toilet Bloo," because that's just what it looks like) on sale. Grahamstons bar had one staff member who was very friendly and made the bar welcoming; however they really need to add a few more sofas rather than hard upright chairs that feel out of place and offer no long term comfort to enjoy a fresh cool pint or other beverage and for heavens sake for the elderly residents they really don't need MTV being played constantly from the wall mounted television!
In terms of car parking, it is possible to use the NCP car park located at Oswald Street where Central station is located, however it is particularly restrictive on car park spaces and unless you park on level 5 you'll have some walking to do. Restrictions in height to 6ft 2 inches mean that a van is not possible unless it has a lower roof and for the charging prices it starts at £5 for 24 hours if you are a resident and £11 for 24 hours if you aren't.
In terms of the room that I paid for, I was informed that internet access was not available in my room. Oh the joys; the available options were presented to me; I could either sit in a room on one of the levels and use my own laptop provided that it had a wireless internet signal or I could sit just beside reception in the hotel which has large comfortable leather sofas with my own laptop and do the same. Although coated in shiny laminate tiling, the general impression of the reception area is very bright and welcoming, so it is a pity that there is no bell ring or similar to try and get the attention of the Concierge. Put simply, you either stand there for some time coughing or end up having to knock on the door to get some assistance; not good.
I was informed that if a company called "Chenet," appeared on my screen I was to accept this as this was the company name that would appear on my screen. Naturally nothing of the sort appeared and the older gentleman who served me offered me two prices; namely £5 for an hour of internet facility or £9 for 24 hours. After I had logged in, my PC refused to budge with constant warnings from Norton Symantec warning me that the hotel site had phishing filter problems and fraudulent risks. It took me quite a while to disable everything just to get through and the home page of "Real hotels," in black with the login & password details just kept bouncing back. Anyone at reception able to assist in the nature of I.T knowledge? Of course not! After trying to fix the system I eventually managed to get internet service but noticed generally and also boosted by the info of my Toshiba configured software that the actual internet signal at around 12am was pretty poor and not particularly strong either on the level where the private room was situated or downstairs in the reception area. At this point I decided to go out in Glasgow to get some air freshener from a nearby 24 hour shop because I couldn't stand walking down the long corridors infested with that pee/rot smell each time I had to get to my room.
Spraying Lavender (I can't stand Lavender even though it is a good herb for aid of sleep) naturally didn't take me long to fall into a deep sleep. Although the temperature in the room couldn't be adjusted I had noted that as soon as I returned to my room after internet surfing that the room was beginning to get too hot; imagine the joy on my face when I discovered that all the windows the room had been painted shut and couldn't be opened! Luckily for me the bed linen is continental in style and had thin sheets accompanied by a thin duvet on top. The bed however was too bouncy and had not seen the bottom of the bed before until I actually hit my foot off the bottom; the hotel has fashioned two single divan bases, turned them around and then fitted a double sized mattress on top. Whilst I don't think that this is anything unusual I didn't expect to the find the runners at the bottom to have been badly scratched as if a cat had been in the room and decided to attack the stitching. I sank into bed immediately, didn't need many of the covers and went to sleep instantly.
When my alarm went off at 630am I was already awake thanks to an alarm call which had occurred in the building opposite outside my window around 6am. After a hot shower and taking advantage of the double brace of clean towels (two large double bath towels, two hand towels and a proper terry cotton bath mat to put down) I emerged at the lift waiting for it to arrive to go to breakfast. Unlike the rest of the floors, if you want to get to the dining room it is located on the first floor, but the lift has the silly principle of calling the 1st floor, "E" which has its pre-marked button in the lift; this however probably gives you some indication of why the lift is so messed up when it comes to the floor levels because there is an additional floor marked "1" but it won't take you to floor "E"!
Breakfast in the morning was a strange experience; no wonder it is free. The quality of food offered wasn't particularly aspiring; you have to make your own toast by standing around waiting for the mini oven to toast the bread; of the cooked foods available, bacon was moist and watery for the most part, scrambled eggs were over buttered and too watery and the fried eggs had the hardest yellow yolks I've ever had the misfortune of cutting into. Being Scottish and based in Glasgow, I assumed that the Chefs at Central Hotel had tasty black pudding on offer and would be cooked to a high standard but assumptions are the mother of all fuc* ups! The black pudding was over cooked, far too dry crumbling away in the plastic lifter utensil provided and offered no taste sensation other than just another simple offering to add to your greasy cooked plate. Fried bread and potato scones were also available but I was put off by the sheen of oil on their coating and the greyness of the potato scones generally. Whilst the whole self service idea was initially good thanks to the open planned design of the dinning room many guests just helped themselves after they were shown a table; no signs to tell you its self-service of course and the Foreign speaking waitresses are no clearer when asked. The only aspect you'd have a waiter or waitress near you is to collect your dishes or deliver a coffee or tea of your choice. Other foods included fresh melon chunks, pineapple chunks, something that resembled cheese chunks but it could well have been another fruit such as banana (but then again I've never seen Banana cubes) and Muller Light yogurt pots. In terms of cereal choices, it was the 8 pack mini-box Variety of Kellogg's on offer, or hot and what looked like, creamy porridge which had to be taken out of paper napkin tied cast iron cooking pots that had the most difficult to grip tops. Infact apart from the sausages, baked beans and hot savoury sauce type foods for breakfast came in all of these heavy Le Creuset type pots, all of which had burning tops and a poor paper napkin tied to them so that residents could help themselves; some elderly residents struggled and muggins had to help out! Naturally I ate up my breakfast eagerly, heartily and quickly but throughout all the hot food there wasn't really much of a taste from each food picked. Although most residents are probably waking up to the food as they tuck in, I generally got an air of disappointment in the room from many people and had already been informed by several residents entering the breakfast room with their cameras that they were collecting "evidence." Certainly from just one night and going on a trek to check out other hallways, there have been some real eye openers both with my room and in terms of the general structure of the hotel.
The Central Hotel therefore is a general no-no to anyone who has to stay here and put up with the lack of thought and its general disgusting state; worse however if they happen to be a smoker. Being so centrally located, the Central Hotel clearly don't think much of their location; whilst their main entrance goes onto Hope Street which has a few good restaurants and bars not to mention a long taxi line and part of Glasgow's Central train station on Gordon Street itself whilst the second rear entrance leads into Glasgow's main Central station and has plenty of shops you can visit including a Boots, a small M&S Express shop and a WH Smith amongst a plethora of other shops. This also means that during my first departure out of the hotel to buy a sandwich for my evening dinner, I also happened to go into Boots and buy one of their disposable cameras to record a photographic display of my stay... Amidst all this, there is the other side of Gordon Street itself, of which the 222 ensuite roomed Central Hotel is based on and has an easy 3 minute walk to Buchannan Street precinct which is completely pedestrianized and has oodles of great shops including House of Frasers, The White Company and other great name stores.
Despite the fact that the price of my room appears to be cheap I'm not angry by the lack of care with the dodgy lifts, poor food quality, lack of care with the rooms or the fact that the hallways had a poor, unclean odour. Instead I am annoyed and disheartened however that for a hotel which was once grand, oozed class and felt like a world away where the strains and pressures of daily life could be taken away, has fallen prey to a mass franchise company who clearly don't go by their very name.
Last Chance Central? Absolutely; I'll never stay here again and if you have any sense, neither should you! Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2008
An historic Victorian hotel.