Hotel review: The Merrion, Dublin

Luxury Explorer

When it comes to 5-star luxury hotels in Dublin’s fair city, nothing quite compares to The Merrion. It is, by all accounts, a Dublin institution, imbued with Irish history and period charm.

Located at one of the city’s most prestigious addresses, in a peaceful spot between Merrion Square Park and St Stephen’s Green, it’s also just a short walk to the city’s Golden Mile, home to a host of cultural attractions, and dining and shopping hotspots. The National Gallery, the National Museum, and Trinity College are all a leisurely stroll away.

Georgian splendour

The Merrion sprawls across four Grade 1-listed Georgian townhouses, with a more contemporary garden wing behind. The property is an exquisite blend of old meeting new, tradition meeting innovation. A sense of history is felt throughout, with its stuccoed ceilings, fine antique furniture and open fire places. It goes without saying that this is an extremely smart establishment, but walking through its front doors, we are happy to be greeted first with a sense of comfort and cosiness – and the delightful staff offer the warm Irish hospitality that affords Dublin its friendly reputation.

The drawing room is a fine spot for a smart afternoon tea, looking out over the landscaped courtyard garden. Teeming with colour and fragrance, it re-creates the feeling of an 18th century garden with box hedges, water features, pathways, statues and obelisks. It is an oasis of calm, amongst the hubbub of a bustling city.

Fine Art

The Merrion is well known for its remarkable collection of Irish art. Its sensational displays comprise the largest private collection of 19th and 20th century art in Ireland, and are a visual feast while exploring the property.

We head to our bedroom – a Junior Suite overlooking the interior gardens – which we thoroughly recommend for the most peaceful of stays, and most lovely of views. We open up our double height windows and the scent of summer flowers from the garden below wafts in on a breeze, as we make ourselves at home.

Each room is furnished so sumptuously, I conclude this is the most pretty bedroom I have visited in a city hotel. It’s gloriously high four-poster bed, donned in luxury thread linen, and an embroidered canopy, feels fit for royalty.

Rich history

The hotel’s history and architecture has clearly been considered in every detail, with period-style furniture, original features, and Irish fabrics. The colour palette is white and pastel, in our room accented by a deeper dark pink. I’m told it is inspired by the artist Paul Henry’s landscape paintings.

There’s a separate living room area, which features all the mod cons one would expect of a property of this calibre – air con, a Nespresso machine, docking stations and the like.

There’s also a wow factor bathroom, with a vast Italian Carrara marble bath, shower and array of Asprey toiletries.

Dublin’s weather is notoriously unpredictable, and as a storm sets in, we head underground to the Tethra Spa. The spa is set for an expansion this winter, but in its existing guise, its tranquil blue-tiled infinity pool and marble steam room offers a serene respite at any time. The Tethra’s award-winning therapists, using ESPA and Darphin products, are on hand with an extensive menu of decadent spa and beauty treatments.

Michelin Cuisine

Guests have the choice of three restaurants here. For true gourmet formal dining, there’s Restaurant Patrick Guilband, the only two Michelin-starred destination in the city. This spot is internationally acclaimed, showcasing contemporary Irish cuisine, with a French classical spin. While we didn’t dine here, we were reliably informed by other visitors that the eight course tasting menu, experienced beneath the restaurant’s rose gold roof, is an unforgettable experience. From the a la carte menu, guests rave about the tantalising complex flavours of the slowly caramelised veal sweetbread with coffee, parsnip, mimolette and girolles, as well as the delicious classic fillet of Irish beef, with roast foie gras and truffle jus.

That evening, as the skies have cleared, we dine in the Garden Room, a brand new restaurant overlooking the courtyard gardens, which are now dappled in a late summer glow. Connected to the hotel via a chic glass walkway, the Garden Room’s floor-to-ceiling retractable glass doors are open, allowing the world-class voices of the Wexford Festival Opera to flood in. They’re performing an open-air concert of Leonard Bernstein numbers – part of an annual summer partnership. We enjoy ribeye tartare, and organic Clare Island salmon with celeriac, lulled by the sounds of West Side Story, marvelling that we are in the heart of the hustle and bustle of Dublin.

It’s time for a late night tipple, and there’s no better spot than the enchanting Cellar Bar. Housed in the original 18th century wine vaults of the Main House, the oak-lined meeting spot, with bare-brick walls and vaulted ceilings, is cosy and relaxed – as well as fascinating to look around. It’s a popular spot for a casual lunch or dinner, with a gastro-pub menu, using only the finest Irish ingredients. After a warming whisky, we’re ready to retreat to our palatial suite, reflecting fondly on our first-class stay.

The Merrion is a perfect city stop-over if you are visiting Ballyfin combining the fair city’s delights with the rolling Irish countryside.

Holly Rubenstein

Holly Rubenstein
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