Words by Hannah Moore
Famously discrete, The Merrion is hidden in plain sight directly opposite the Irish Government Buildings in Dublin’s city centre. It is arguably the most luxurious and certainly the most gracious hotel in the city, housed as it is within four interconnecting Georgian houses. The minute you alight from your carriage (okay, Uber) you are embraced with the warmest of welcomes, as if an absent friend returning to the fold. The reception room glitter with open fires and display an astonishing number of museum quality Irish art. If that wets your appetite for Irish culture you can trot a short distance to the refurbed The National Gallery, keen observers can spot current portraits of John Rocha (father to Simone), and the beloved Graham Norton.
The grandest rooms are located within the original houses at the front of the hotel. Each suite is faithful to the original features. Delicate cornicing and floor to ceiling windows, toile de jouy fabrics, cool crisp bedlinen and ‘so deep you can swim in them’ baths give the impression that you are staying in a grand country house akin to Downton Abbey. The modern wing, to the rear, overlooks the abundantly green central terraced gardens. Rooms are all sleek lines but without any compromise on the comfort factor.
Executive Chef, Ed Cooney, has been in situ since the hotel first opened in 1997 and he is a champion of quality Irish ingredients. You can get your fill of Irish organic smoked salmon and oysters, along with Wicklow Venison and champ mash. The Garden Room is the principal dining room and as the name suggests, it is a pretty and airy room with plenty of floral motifs looking out through floor to ceiling glass doors onto the pond and abundant gardens, heady with Japanese anemones and lush ferns. The Cellar Bar, below ground, is great spot to grab a pint of Guinness and feast on the generous and appealing gastro pub style menu. If you want to push the boat out step next door to Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, the first restaurant in Ireland to hold 2 Michelin stars.
The Merrion spa is another area within the hotel that can boast an air of calm and comfort. Open seven days a week, the Spa offer the most innovative of gold-standard treatments, along with wholly restorative therapies using Biologique Recherche and Espa. The pool is the perfect size for a relaxing swim and the changing areas are spacious. There is a gym too with all the requisite machines, useful to burn off any excess accrued during you stay.
How did it strike you on arrival?
Very welcoming with two concierges in top hats on the steps to welcome all guests into the smart lobby before being ushered into the plush guest check in area. The warmth of the welcome that the Irish are known for did not disappoint.
What’s the crowd like?
Grown up, sophisticated and low key. There is an understated vibe to the guests of all generations so it should be no surprise that this is the hotel of choice for visiting movie, rockstars and the art crowd.
How about the little things?
A children’s hot chocolate was delivered to the room with a helium balloon attached to the mug handle. This resulted in SQUEALS of delight. Exactly the right amount of magic sprinkled on top of an already magical stay.
Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Recommended for a winter weekend getaway, who doesn’t want to sit by a roaring fire in a Georgian drawing room in one of Dublin’s most romantic and finest hotels. Plus it’s SO easy to get to, with flights under an hour, worth every Euro spent…
Rooms prices start at: £336.
Find out more: www.merrionhotel.com