Take an old Scottish church. Furnish it to look like a shag pad as imagined by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. You’re in business.
Debauched. One of those words that, being a pedant, I often flinch at.
‘Oh last night was SOOOOO debauched!’ some tool will indulgently groan at you.
‘Why?! What happened?!’, I’ll ask, my eyes widening, steeling myself for some jealousy-inducing tale of vomitorium-set Satyricon excess, the self-loathing that I missed this orgy of food, flesh and fun already burning acidically into my veins.
‘We got SOOOO drunk!’.
‘Hedonism’ is another word that gets bandied about. Meaning that pleasure is the only thing one should pursue in life. Sort of invented by Socrates’ student, Aristippus of Cyrene, it was eventually refined by Epicurus (of Epicureanism fame). He believed only in simple pleasures, not indulgent ones. By the time you get to those daddies of a good time, the Calvinists, it was the simple pleasures of sitting on a stone bench and shutting your gob.
Eventually, thanks to Calvin’s less cheery mate, John Knox of Church of Scotland fame, pleasurable existence meant breathing. And eating gruel.
So here I am in a former Scottish church, now a hotel that promises dedication to ‘a life of pure hedonism’. The irony is not lost. But Malmaison do know what they’re doing in this regard. It probably amuses them more than anyone to be housed here. This being Glasgow, the outside architecture is superb. Tall, granitey and grand. Inside, you are cocooned in a realm of the senses. The place has a touch of the art deco brothel. Purples, blacks, plush furnishings, shadows. What is this? The Vatican? Service is genuinely helpful and the staff can actually hold down conversations. These people actually look like they might enjoy themselves, too. Rare in many hotels, these days.
The air of rock’n’roll leads up to a bedroom that asks you, how bad can you be? One does feel special and insulated in the churiscro of low lit corners, geometric textiles and smoky lampshades. I do want to be bad. Luckily, downstairs has got enough to get me at least halfway there. The Mal Brasserie serves impressive iterations of all your favourite bad choices. The MalBurger is a stacked tower, a church of saturated joy. Knox would have seen it and run away to Mummy. Seasonal seafood and excellent cheeses are there for those requiring a less visceral communion.
MALBAR is a dark wood and damson hideout, stuffed with great malts (as one would hope) and a surprisingly vibrant social vibe. Many hotel bars feel like airports. This bar feels like a destination. With shimmering Glasgow outside, full of cultural and hospitable possibilities, I still choose to spend an entire evening here. It just feels right. Luckily, I do have some local guests for colour and company. Did I go the whole way to an epiphany of pleasure? Is the Pope Catholic?