Hotel Review: Sandman Signature, Aberdeen
This is one mighty hotel which has been built in a former Robert Gordon’s University building, so big that it takes up a whole block in the city centre and whose scale is hard to take in without moving your head from east to west. It is that big.
There has long been a lack of hotel rooms in central Aberdeen, particularly when the big oil conferences come to town, with reports of astronomical prices driven by the irksome theory of supply and demand and anecdotal late night chat of delegates being forced to stay in… Dundee.
Sandman Signature should fill that void but hopefully will also help to fuel a little buzz around a trip to Aberdeen for the casual visitor. The hotel sits right behind the newly refurbished Aberdeen Art Gallery, which has a new peep in its pipe after a £35m upgrade, and next to His Majesty’s Theatre, where of course the curtains remain down for now. But the hotel fills in a piece of the jigsaw of Aberdeen’s ambition to be an attractive getaway destination for those from across Scotland and further afield. The Sandman fits well into this vision with its big city feel.
Step through the strapping granite exterior and a colourful and inviting foyer unfolds. Exposed brick work meets leather and tartan and a collection of bright umbrellas drop down from the roof to offer a centrepiece in this high, open space.
We were right up in one of the executive suites which offers a studio apartment set-up, presumably created with the weary business traveller in mind. Enter, and a sleek kitchenette, where you could happily heat up a meal or make a quiet breakfast, gives way to a living area with sofa and television. Through a heavy door is a rather big bedroom, which is dark, like a boardroom after everyone has gone home. The bathroom is also huge, with a walk in shower and a smaller stand alone bath. It all felt very masculine and a few softer touches might have made it feel a bit more pleasing. Credit to the bed though – 10 out of 10 for comfort. They say money never sleeps, but here it surely would have been out for the count.
Budget or Boutique
It’s hard to put Sandman in either category, really because it is so big. A behemoth, indeed, with 218 rooms. I’d be surprised if you stayed here for any length of time and saw the same guest twice. It took five years to turn the university’s lecture spaces, libraries and laboratories into the signature hotel of the Canadian-based family run group that owns it. It offers that downtown, almost anonymous feel, where you can rattle along empty corridors and sit in oversized chairs in the foyer and not come close to anyone. That is actually really handy during a pandemic.
Wining and Dining
The Chop Bar and Grill is where the hospitality unfolds. The central bar is surrounded by television screens, which seemed unusual for an upmarket hotel bar, but maybe a great idea for guests hoping to unwind with a beer and a big match to watch. Chop prides itself on offering a Canadian-style experience and the whole atmosphere is pretty informal, where you can tuck away in leather booths and order up plates of uncomplicated food that comes in big portions. Think chicken wings and double cheese nachos, haggis bon bons or mini mac sliders. Mains include chipotle mango chicken (£16.95) and fish tacos (£12.95) and a whole lot of meat coming off that grill. We both had fillet steaks and they were spot on, cooked exactly as asked for and with crunchy fries and a good, strong peppercorn sauce. It’s not fine dining at Chop, but it is good eating.
The breakfast buffet in these pandemic times was a different experience, where you were taken with a member of staff to the hot plates and asked for what you wanted. All good quality fare with lots of hot coffee to wash it down.
Worth getting out of bed for
Right in the heart of the city centre, you are moments away from the art gallery, the cobbled streets of Belmont Street, the two main shopping centres and the striking granite delight of Marischal College. Sandman Signature is a perfect base for getting to know the Silver City.
The Spa at Sandman Signature is a great little haven tucked away on the third floor. The steam room is closed due to Covid but my express massage was excellent, the practitioner attentive and I felt in safe, knowledgeable hands. There are also two new spa packages, the Signature Spa Luxury Package – overnight stay with breakfast, with a bottle of Prosecco in room on arrival and a choice of 65-minute treatments: Ishga Full Body Massage, Ishga Hot Stone Massage, Ishga Deep Tissue Massage, Ishga Hot Poultice Massage, Ishga Marine Back Treatment, Ishga Mum-to-Be Massage or a Reflexology Treatment – and the Signature Spa Package, as above with choice of 35-minute treatments – Ishga Express Massage, Ishga Hand & Foot Recovery, Ishga Scalp Massage, Hopi Ear Candling or a Shellac Nail Application.
What brings it together is the staff, who were unfailingly patient and helpful in these strange times for hospitality.
Rooms from £60 for two adults sharing.