Lounging in the lofty heights of the Conrad Dublin hotel, Niamh Mac Sweeney discovers there’s something special about this city centre pad, as a place where memories are made and savoured.
There’s something special about being a tourist in your own city. Perhaps it’s the easy pace of getting around, knowing precisely all the best places to go and knowing exactly how to get to them.
There is a familiarity; a newness, a flexibility even, and there is a certain sense of being right at home. Best of all − no maps or research are required; there’s no getting lost, and no excuse for missing out on the finest food, fun and fare a visit to your home city has to offer.
It was with this in mind − and a last minute surprise to spoil Mum on her birthday − that saw us checking into the Conrad Dublin hotel.
We wanted five-star luxury right in the heart of Dublin city. We were hoping for a sophisticated, central retreat from which to enjoy the birthday celebrations, and we were not disappointed as Conrad Dublin rose to the occasion on all fronts. From our suite overlooking the National Concert Hall, to dinner in Alex Restaurant, to delightful afternoon tea to the tune of the pianist playing in the background − style, sophistication and warmth were in abundance.
There is something special too about this city centre hotel, something that gets people talking and reminiscing. From the taxi driver who dropped us off, to family, friends and brief encounters throughout our weekend escape; everyone recalls celebrations, dinners, overnight stays and post-theatre cocktails – we all have memories of good times spent at Conrad Dublin.
If Conrad Dublin did nothing more than conjure up memories and nostalgia, it would be doing an excellent job. Thankfully, the hotel has many more accolades and honours to its name. From its emergence on the Dublin hotel scene in 1989, Conrad Dublin has remained consistent and committed to delivering five star service and experience. Facing directly on to the National Concert Hall, with Northumberland Road to the left and St Stephen’s Green to the right, Conrad Dublin holds onto a prestigious title as one of the Top 25 Luxury Hotels in Ireland in 2014, as voted for in the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award.
A truly modern ‘international’ hotel, whether for business or pleasure – or both – Conrad Dublin is synonymous for its hospitality, location, food, staff and service, and a cocktail menu that is no doubt the envy of many. All of which combine to create a charming, polished and impressively suave home away from home … so to speak.
But if you thought a stay at Conrad Dublin only amounted to relaxing, shopping, theatre, galleries and fine dining, you’d be mistaken. Whether using the hotel’s fully-equipped fitness gym, playing a round of golf at the nearby K Club, or taking a spectator approach by watching a rugby match at the nearby RDS or Aviva Stadium –relaxing or recharging – take your pick.
Given Conrad Dublin is the official hotel of the Leinster Rugby team, and in keeping with our ‘true blue’ allegiance, we went to see Leinster take on Zebre at the RDS on the first night of our stay. Luckily, Leinster saw off a tough Italian side to rein top of the RaboDirect PRO12; and, on this celebratory note, it was back to Alfie’s Bar for a nightcap.
Renowned for its enviable terraced garden area − often described as ‘the best in Dublin’ − Alfie’s is a casual Irish-American affair and is home to an impressive array of craft beers (21) and whiskeys (30), all produced by Irish and US artisan brewers. On a wild spring night, Alfie’s provides a cosy enclave away from the wind and the rain. But note to self – come back in the summer time when the terrace is basked in sunshine.
A spring in our step
It might not be quite summer yet, but spring had definitely sprung during our stay at Conrad Dublin. Weary, and with soar feet from a day-long shopping extravaganza, it was refreshing to find a sprightly new menu at Alex Restaurant that will not only tempt and tantalise the taste buds, but is sure to also put a pep back in your step. Executive chef, Dmitry Stroykov has come up with an impressive and all encompassing menu that is a real taste sensation. The king scallops with vanilla-scented, fennel puree are a must; and the pig croquette with Pinot Grigio compressed pineapple and cider jus comes highly recommended.
Starters on this fruity menu are light and adventurous, and set the course for things to come. With an emphasis on seafood, we couldn’t resist the halibut with mussels and saffron foam; and the loin of monkfish wrapped in Kataifi pastry and served with pak choi and citrus, coconut cream. One word – delightful!
There are more than a few of my favourite things on the desert menu too, and pastry chef, Janja has pulled out all the stops to produce a desert menu that punches well above its weight. Thankfully, when it came to deserts we didn’t have to make any big decisions. Deciding between the coconut cake with pineapple sorbet, the white chocolate crème brûlée with mandarin jelly; the pistachio cake with roasted strawberries and raspberry sorbet; or the Panna Cotta with port poached rhubarb, was an impossible feat, especially for two ‘sweet tooths’. And so a tasting plate gave us all the pleasure without any of the fear of having missed out on a sweeter treat.
It was refreshing to find a sprightly new menu at Alex Restaurant that will not only tempt and tantalise the taste buds, but is sure to put a pep back in your step.”
Lazy Sunday afternoons
When the sun made an appearance on Sunday morning we took the opportunity to stroll through the nearby St Stephen’s Green and explore the many cultural meccas all within a one mile radius of Conrad Dublin.
The Little Museum of Dublin on the Green is a treasure throve of fascinating and quirky historical facts and folklore; the National Gallery is home to one of the largest Irish and European collections of fine art; and close by, the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) which is dedicated to developing new Irish art, gives a contemporary twist.
If you don’t have time to take in the host of galleries or museums, Conrad Dublin itself houses an impressive art collection with paintings from the likes of: Louis le Brocqu, Richard Gorman, Barrie Cooke, Patrick Hickey, Elizabeth Cope, Margaret O’Hagan; Tim Goulding, Tom Walsh, and Trevor Geoghegan, to mention a few.
Tea for two
Not wanting to leave the comfy confines of Conrad Dublin, we decided to finish off our stay with afternoon tea. What’s not to like about tea and cake, right?
Afternoon tea at Conrad Dublin is full of pomp and ceremony and whether it’s the enticing intrigue of the tea menu – which encapsulates the world of tea in all its global entirety – the delicate cucumber, egg and smoked salmon sandwiches; the petite pastries, scones, meringues and delicate cakes with coloured icing tops and soft sweet centres; oh and the lashings of cream. Did I mention this delightful treat was all to the sound of a pianist playing discreetly in the background?
There really is nothing as sweet as tea and cakes on a Sunday afternoon. The only challenging part was lugging ourselves out of the hotel for our short spin home. And lug we did, with a smile on our face and that sense of satisfaction that comes with have enjoyed a superb weekend.
Conrad Dublin is good at many things. Great hospitality, great location, great food, great staff and service, and above all great atmosphere and great legacy.
Will I return? Of course. Will others? Naturally! The hotel’s legacy lives on and long live the past, present and future memories that will be enjoyed there for a long time to come.
Conrad Dublin offers a range of flexible meeting rooms that can accommodate between eight and 350 guests, including executive boardrooms the elegant ballroom and a wide selection of meeting and banqueting rooms. The fully integrated executive meeting centre on the first floor has three small meeting rooms, two boardrooms, a foyer and a business centre, all of which benefit from integrated screens, ISDN and wireless technology.
The hotel’s experienced planners, are always on hand, paying particular attention to detail and ensuring a personal and successful event for all occasions.
Conrad Dublin’s central location means the entire city is but a stone’s throw away.
Take five, five minutes from Conrad Dublin:
- National Concert Hall
- The Little Museum of Dublin
- Grafton Street
- Trinity College Dublin
For more information and to book, visit placeshilton.com/conrad-dublin