Elegance and decadence
EMMA CURRY enjoys a week in the lap of luxury at one of the finest hotels in Ireland’s capital
I STARTED my exploration of Ireland’s capital city the moment I stepped out of the airport. As the chauffeur drove my honoured guest, my father, and me to the five-star Merrion hotel, our home for the next two days, he pointed out landmarks and talked us through the history of Dublin.
We drew up at The Merrion, which sits on the edge of Merrion Square, face to face with Leinster House, the home of the Irish Parliament, and were greeted by the doorman in tails and a top hat.
The concierge swept our luggage up the stairs, opening doors and ushering us through, taking every care possible of their new charges.
Our room was a junior suite on the first floor of the beautiful Georgian building.
The hotel was originally four Grade I-listed town houses – 21 to 24 Upper Merrion Street – which were home to wealthy merchants and nobility, including the first Duke of Wellington. However, businessmen-cum- entrepreneurs Lochlann Quinn and Martin Naughton purchased the buildings and began lovingly restoring them in October 1995, combining them to create the stunning Merrion.
They worked to retain features from the Georgian era, such as stucco ceiling work and marble fireplaces, opening two years later in 1997. As my dad and I entered our suite it was hard not to gasp, as elegance and decadence enveloped us.
The sofa, armchair and beds – complete with a waterfall canopy spanning their entire width, were dressed in burgundy and cream toile de jouy fabric. A chandelier was suspended from the ceiling, dripping with glass crystals, and everything from the light fittings and the mirror’s edge, picture frames and table legs, glimmered gold. The whole room oozed seductive style.
The staff could not do enough for us, even providing us with tickets for the hop-on hop-off bus on which we continued to explore the city.
From the roof of the bus, my dad and I watched the sights unfold. Around each corner was something new, as we passed Dublin Zoo, Kilmainham Gaol, and the famous Guinness Storehouse – fermentation plant of the world-famous ‘black stuff’.
We plunged into the raucous heart of Temple Bar, crossed the River Liffey, which divides the city in two, and drove out through the green expanse of Phoenix Park – where the rare sight of a deer caused much excitement.
When we arrived back at our original stop, by the doors of The Merrion, we went on foot through the wide, open streets, marvelling at the buildings’ curved Georgian doorways and huge brass door knockers, to see St Patrick’s Cathedral.
In Dublin’s largest and tallest cathedral, the light winked through stained glass windows as we took a self-guided tour past the organ with its 400 pipes, the marble plaques and stone effigies.
Returning to The Merrion, I soaked in the bath and then my dad and I both wrapped ourselves in fluffy, white dressing gowns to lounge on the sofa. It was reluctantly that we later dressed in real clothes to head for dinner in the hotel’s new restaurant, the Garden Room.
That reluctance vanished, however, as we were seated, enchanted by the outdoor terrace on view through glass bi-folding doors. The patio was lined with shrubs, sparkling with white fairy lights, reflected in the rectangular slip of water running through the centre.
Our attention was soon focused on the table as our dishes arrived.
My dad chose a salad of avocado, spring onion, aduki beans, duck egg, red chilli and baby spinach, followed by citrus Clare Island organic salmon, while I opted for steamed Kilmore Quay lemon sole with organic cucumber, shallot and coriander brown butter. We shared a salt caramel tart with popcorn ice cream to finish, and felt, with a day of sightseeing and full stomachs, we had been given a real taste of Dublin.
We packed as much as we could into our trip, heading off on the second day on foot to see the impressive Trinity College Campus, then tapping our feet to buskers on Grafton Street. One young singer had a voice so sweet and melodic it could have melted the cobbles.
We headed next for the Ha’penny Bridge, traversing the Liffey, before heading for Dublin Castle, where we acted like royalty in the grand rooms, twirling through the blue-carpeted ballroom and preparing for a feast at the heavily laden table in the dining room.
Then we walked through to the Chester Beatty Library, where we learned about this philanthropist who built a museum in his name and donated his collections of books and artefacts.
Our final foray of the day was to the National Gallery of Ireland, where an exhibition of artwork by Turner – my favourite artist – was showing just for the month of January. I felt so lucky and privileged as I walked through the rooms, following the changes in his work over time.
My dad and I finished our day in this vibrant city by heading into Temple Bar, buzzing with the music bursting out of bars and pubs.
After mussels in a restaurant by the water, we headed for the bar in a warmly lit pub, where we listened to music from a guitar, banjo and tin whistle. We felt like they were serenading us home.
The end of our trip came with breakfast in the Garden Room.
I ordered blueberry pancakes – complete with berry compote, cream, maple syrup and fresh fruit – and my dad chose from the selection of cereals, pastries, fruit, yoghurt and cold meats from the extensive buffet.
Our chauffeur talked us through the streets of the city as we headed to the airport, and it was sadly that we boarded our flight back home. It was the perfect weekend break.
Visit merrionhotel.com for more about the hotel and to book.
The Merrion hotel and (right) The Ha’penny Bridge Emma and her dad’s suite at The Merrion hotel
●● Emma Curry and her dad Andrew in a cafe in Dublin