Travel: The Dakota Hotel, Glasgow

There is a point in life - around the time you start selecting bars on the basis of seating capacity and noise levels - at which you realise the true worth of the mini-break.

As far as bang for relaxation buck is concerned, a night or two away a few times a year can recharge the batteries as much as a week abroad, if you choose your destination wisely. Airport hassles, roughing it and long drives are out; luxury, stylish surroundings and fabulous food and drink are in.

We found a place which ticked all the boxes, despite one sizeable hurdle: the M8.

Not so much the traffic, as there's no rush-hour travel required; or the tedium - pyramids, trumpets and giant heads notwithstanding it is a dreary stretch.

It was the location itself. Right at the side of Scotland's busiest road and in the midst of Eurocentral business park.

Still, it was easy to find. The Dakota looms over the M8 like something from a stylish sci-fi film, huge, dark and with flashes of neon at night.

We pulled off the motorway and suddenly we were there. As soon as we stepped into the hotel, the background traffic noise stopped. So did we, slightly confused by the fact that the place is an almost exact replica of our local Dakota at South Queensferry, a frequent stop-off point on the way back into town.

As soon as you step into the lobby it is clear why the place was awarded Most Stylish Hotel in the Scottish Style Awards when it opened in 2006.

Amanda Rosa's signature is clearly stamped on the interior - the huge, luxurious sofas, neutral tones, soft suede and leather set against bare brick walls, and dark wood blinds with a few quirky touches, including a giant page from a vintage Eagle comic and a couple of plush, crimson armchairs thrown in to spice it all up.

The style is followed through in every air-conditioned room, along with free Wi-Fi, 65 channels on the LCD TV, complimentary tea, coffee and cookies and bespoke toiletries. The lifts might sound like some sort of fetishist dream - all mirrors and studded leather walls - but the effect is actually sophisticated and sleek.

There certainly isn't a single whiff of the corporate here, yet this is one of a small chain of hotels based on a blueprint by Ken McCulloch to bring affordable luxury to business travellers.

During the week it's full of business people but at the weekends, it's all about leisure. If it was curiosity that first attracted locals from Lanarkshire and Glasgow, it's the bar and grill that brings them back. Steaks are incredibly popular - sirloin, rib eye, rump or fillet, with a choice of sauces. Head chef Tony Tapia also has a talent for seafood, honed by a couple of years with Rick Stein. So, scallops with chorizo preceded a succulent sirloin on one side of the table, and on the other the most delicious mushroom omelette, with fresh fungi picked locally by the chef.

A substantial pre-starter of freshly baked bread, goat's cheese with tomato and herb sauce meant that there was no room for pudding.

There was a chance to sample the pastry chef's work at breakfast - after one of us had worked through poached egg and haddock, the other a muesli, soaked overnight with milk, cream and yogurt, with a side of vanilla poached pears.

A little croissant and a pain au chocolat verified what we'd heard about Colin Wilson's "magic touch" with sweetmeats. And with three separate groups booked in that weekend to celebrate significant birthdays, 30, 60 and 90, with afternoon tea, it seems his cakes are pretty special too.

The upside to resisting dessert was that we felt justified in enjoying a cocktail in the bar. A mojito, good- humouredly tailored to meet the fussiest demands, went down well and it was good to see a fine malt whisky served in a perfect whisky glass.

Although the sofas by the fire were tempting, we felt that kicking off shoes and stretching out in the lounge might try even the most accommodating host.

So, we saved that for the privacy of our suite, where candlelight and the laidback music from the hotel's soundtrack provided the perfect background while we lounged in fluffy bathrobes and enjoyed the view.

It might only have been a steady stream of head and tail lights but it seemed a ribbon of light in the darkness. Who'd have thought the M8 would be such a perfect destination?

THE FACTS

The Just the Two of You package costs 64.50 per person and includes dinner, bed and breakfast with complimentary upgrades depending on availability. January offers include 55 room-only deals and free spa treatments. For details tel: 01698 835 444 or visit www. dakotahotels.co.uk/glasgow

This article was first published in The Scotsman, 11 December, 2010