Grand Central Hotel, Belfast
BACKGROUND This latest venture from Hastings Hotels opened its doors in June. The brand’s portfolio also includes the Europa Hotel, the Culloden Estate and Spa, and the Stormont Hotel. The Grand Central Hotel is the largest and most expensive hotel construction project in Northern Ireland’s history.
WHERE IS IT? In the centre of the city, close to Belfast’s main stations Great Victoria Street (six minutes’ walk) and Belfast Central (13 minutes’ walk). Belfast City airport is around 20 minutes’ drive.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? The sparkling glass-clad 23-storey Grand Central Hotel, the tallest building in Northern Ireland, has risen phoenix-like from what was once a rather nondescript office block. The resulting structure could symbolise the city itself – on the up, newly glamorous and a lure to tourists and business people from around the world. Once inside, the look is equally striking. The double-height atrium has veined marble flooring and dramatic lighting.
ROOMS There are 300 rooms, including ten suites, from 25 sqm for an Executive to 77 sqm for the Sir William Hastings suite.
I was in a Deluxe Double (29 sqm) on the 21st floor that offered sweeping views through floor-to-ceiling windows, which kept the room bright and airy despite the dark wood furniture and rich fabrics.
A couple of chairs with a small table were positioned beside the window, while the desk was supplied with USB and AC power. There was also a large wardrobe with an iron, plus a safe, and tea- and coffee-making facilities.
The “Cloud Bed” was very comfortable, and towelling gowns and slippers were provided. All rooms have digital radio with Bluetooth, a 50-inch flatscreen TV, free wifi and air con.
The bathroom was extremely appealing, with its large tub, rainfall shower and vanity unit. My only complaint? When my room was serviced the cleaner left the powerful handheld shower facing outwards, so that when I opened the cubicle door and turned
FOOD AND DRINK I arrived around midday and stopped for brunch in the elegant ground-floor Grand Café, which serves an all-day menu. As the name suggests, the mood and look are inspired by the grand cafés of continental Europe, with booths, banquettes and table seating all adequately served with power sources, making it a great place for a spot of work or an informal meeting. The buttermilk waffles with smoked pork belly and maple syrup are not to be missed.
Seahorse on the first floor comprised three stylish and distinct spaces – a bar, lounge and the main restaurant – which had a relaxed yet lively atmosphere the night I dined there. The menu showcased produce of mainly Northern Irish provenance. I had whole roasted sole with Jersey Royals, capers, raisins and brown shrimp butter. Other options included beef wellington to share, and steak with thick chips and bearnaise sauce.
Breakfast here was excellent, a bountiful buffet spread of fruit, cereal, porridge (with optional whiskey), Northern Irish breakfast (including white pudding) and muffins. Afternoon tea was also available.
Topping things off, literally, was the Observatory on the 23rd floor. The rooftop bar, the highest in the city, was swish with velvet-covered furniture in jewel-like shades. The appealing bar was lined with cut-crystal bottles and skilled bartenders knocked up delicious cocktails, while a piano that once belonged to titular hotelier Sir William Hastings’ wife was being played beautifully the night I visited.
MEETINGS The Blackstaff and the Farset, seat 45 in theatre set-up. There are also two boardrooms and the Panorama suite – an 80-seat reception room.
LEISURE A gym is under construction and is expected to open by the end of the year.
VERDICT Glamour meets comfort at this smart addition to the Belfast scene. The welcome is warm and the location is great, as it’s in one of the city’s best areas for food, nightlife and culture. That said, the hotel’s restaurant and bar options are destinations in their own right.
A piano that once belonged to Sir William Hastings’ wife was being played
it on, I was sprayed slap in the face. ESPA toiletries made up for this indiscretion.