Imagine my surprise upon entering the brightly lit, bistro bar of the seven-floor, 191-room hotel Conrad Dublin to find a colorful row of 27 craft beers and ales on tap and Cillian, a knowledgeable and articulate bartender, to guide me through the selection.
Here was a hotel, under the management of Martin Mangan, proudly displaying its five-star rating, trusting in the discerning nature of its clients for thirst-quenching drinks qualitatively different from the usual, mediocre mass-produced beverages you find anywhere.
With the help of the distinctly hoppy, Galway-brewed ‘Goodbye Blue Monday,’ ‘Storm and Fury’ and Indian Pale Ales from the Boundary Bay Brewery in Michigan, our few hours in cozy ‘Alfie Byrne’s,’ named after an obviously popular man elected Lord Mayor of Dublin ten times, was a highlight of our stay.
Not the only one, mind you.
We also enjoyed a most relaxing dinner in the ‘Alex’ restaurant named after ‘Alexandra Ladies College’ which once occupied the space where the hotel now stands. In a modern setting with touches of art deco and an impressive triptych of traditional Dublin scenes by Kildare-based artist, Elizabeth Cope, travel tiredness was eased from mind and body by a fine ‘surf and turf’ dinner of scallops from Kilkeel, a northern Irish fishing town, and chorizo as a starter and Dublin prawns in a cheese and mustard seed sauce together with a steak served on a wooden board accompanied by pepper sauce as a main. All washed down with a Napa Valley Zinfandel 2011 from Chateau Montelena.
After a short interlude, dessert followed – Tonka and mango panna cotta coconut crumble with crème de cassis sorbet. To ease digestion, herbal teas were served – and what a lovely presentation: delicate designer tea pots each on its own special individual heater. Breakfast is also served in the Alex, with a generous buffet and delicious breads supplied by local bakery, The Bretzel. A must-have is the chef’s granola mix, rich in berries and moist, almost like a porridge, but tasty crunchy bits still intact.
Conrad Dublin displays a contemporary setting. The reception desk with a wood surround faces a central table, several chairs around it, garlanded with flowers, lending a genteel air to the whole atmosphere. The speckled marble lobby opens on to the Alex Cocktail Bar where clusters of people gather on soft, blue armchairs and creamy-colored leather sofas, a baby piano at one end. Staircases, rooms and corridors throughout the hotel are bedecked with diverse work – rural and urban landscapes, still lifes, seascapes, and even ancient architectural sites, all mainly by Irish artists from places such as Strabane, Waterford and Belfast.
While not spacious, a boutique gym offers cardiovascular equipment, free weights and running machines. With ten meeting and conference rooms accommodating up to 350 guests and a large ballroom featuring an ornate Waterford crystal chandelier, the Conrad Dublin is also well suited for weddings and business events.
Later, peering from our upper floor corner suite after dinner into the shadows to the impressive façade of the National Concert Hall opposite, reminded me of a winter scene from James Joyce’s ‘Dubliners.’ The suite, dressed in warm colors, featured deep, sand-colored carpet, twin crimson armchairs beside a low-slung coffee table, a writing desk and an Essenza Nespresso machine.
In-room coffee-table reading included ‘The Irish in Hollywood’ and ‘Dublin: A Grand Tour,’ focusing on the city’s diverse architecture. A trio of silver-framed abstract paintings lined the entrance hallway, with a larger version on the sitting room wall. The bathroom featured both bath and shower facilities with toiletries from England-based Aroma Therapy Associates.
The Conrad Dublin offers friendly and efficient service and a convenient central location within easy walking distance of many of Dublin’s leading landmarks such as Grafton Street, the city’s main pedestrian shopping area, the leafy St. Stephen’s Green, the National Museum and the Little Museum of Dublin, as well, as the concert hall literally across the street.