One of the Irish capital's original boutique hotels is still charmingly unassuming.
Hotel Insider: High design meets Irish hospitality at Dublin's Dylan
"Ah now, that's a lovely hotel," my taxi driver says appreciatively when I tell him that I am going to the Dylan. This 44-room, five-star boutique hotel is the place to stay in the Irish capital, and I wanted to find out whether its well-established reputation is deserved. Not that anyone would expect to find a chic retreat on such an ordinary side road, and from the slightly austere Victorian façade there is little to indicate the glamour awaiting you inside. Irish hospitality is legendary and I receive the warmest of welcomes.
Located in south Dublin, a 10-minute walk between the business area of Ballsbridge and the City centre, this 19th-century townhouse originally used to accommodate nurses from the hospital behind it. But while the immediate vicinity is a testament to the City's past, turn right at the nearby canal and a short walk brings you to Grand Canal Dock, the face of new Dublin. Here you can find Google's European, Middle East and Africa HQ in four or five separate offices; so, too, are Facebook and LinkedIn. Around 300,000 workers - average age 25 - live and work around the quayside. Elsewhere Dublin is suffering, thanks to the country's debts, but right here the bars and restaurants are packed out with people spending.
The rooms are all different shapes and sizes and each is individually decorated. It hardly seems worth taking the lift up one floor but I am drawn by the sumptuousness of the leather-padded lift. My room is large with a disproportionately small bathroom. An iPod is already playing and there's a plate of four chocolate brownies, all of which I eat even though I have just had lunch. The colour palette - crimson and olive - is more muted here than in the public areas, which are accented with crimson, and the room feels more traditional in style. I conclude that the brown velvet chaise longue is for looking at rather than sitting on. The windows allow lots of natural light to flood in; the only downside being that the blinds failed to fully shut out the street lighting at night.
The Dylan is a family-owned hotel and it shows. The manager, Grainne Ross, also family, can be seen chatting with the guests, many of whom are regulars. The reception staff, too, are good, and did not patronise me when I could not find the phone in my room, not having recognised the long skinny object that looked like hair tongs as the latest Bang and Olufsen. I left my notebook in the room and it was retrieved after my departure, enabling me to be reunited with weeks of work.
This is one of the coolest places in Dublin to see and be seen. The decor - vivid purples and crimson against black, with over-sized furniture - makes its own statement: this hotel has no intention of being anonymous. The glitterati come to drink on the terrace and mooch around the uber-cool reception with its handmade pewter bar. The guests from Monday to Friday tend to be businessmen and women while weekends are for couples on romantic breaks or celebrating special occasions. The Dylan also has its higher-than-average share of pop stars and celebrities checking in.
My evening meal served in a pretty cream dining room hung with chandeliers was fabulous. Chef Richard Carmody produces Irish food with his own unique spin. I tried the Dylan salad (€9.50; Dh45) followed by a Boxty Pancake, a typical Irish dish made with potatoes, served with roasted flatcap mushrooms, wilted spinach and Crozier blue cheese (€21; Dh101). Other dishes on the menu include 8oz Hereford Irish fillet steak for €32 (Dh154) and poached salmon for €25 (Dh119). I took advantage of an unusually sunny day and took my breakfast on the terrace. A buffet with fruit, cereal, yoghurt and home-baked bread costs €21 (Dh101); a "full Irish" breakfast costs €25 (Dh120).
The "Alice in Wonderland" style, slightly crazy decor as well as the genuine warmth of the Irish welcome make this hotel immediately feel special.
Not being able to sleep in total darkness.
A wonderful mix of old and new in one of Europe's most likeable cities. Great service, lovely bedrooms, terrific food and, thanks to the current economic climate in Ireland, good value for money; this is what a five-star boutique hotel should be like.
The bottom line
A double room costs from €152 (Dh730) per night, including taxes. Dylan Hotel, Eastmoreland Place, Dublin (www.dylan.ie; 00 353 1 660 3000).