Following their opening gambit in Croke Park, Family Hammond decamp from one fine hotel to another and discover that not only is it a tough life, it’s one that makes you wish you lived it all year round…
HOT from the cab dropping us in Dublin’s heartiest of heartlands, and we’re now standing outside the tour de force that is The Westbury.
Think style, think panache, think oodles of class. This is the tippety-top of hotel experiences and boy, does it deliver. A five-star slam dunk of a hotel in the middle of effervescent Dublin, just a jaunty step of famous Grafton Street and a haven of peace, tranquility the best of Irish bonhomie, The Westbury exists in its own sort of arcade, complete with high-end perfumery, florist and glittery jewellers for those jaded travellers who can’t even face stepping outside the compound, as it were.
But as you’ll already know, that’s not for the likes of us and we stride out to meet the best the city has to offer. That includes the Viking Duck Tour (amphibious vehicle leading a whistle-stop sightseeing and chug in the docks – hilarious), more pub shenanigans, more shopping (eek), book browsing and more.
All this requires fuel. And it is back to not so humble Westbury that we tread to take in on board. As you can imagine, this place isn’t shy of a great spot to indulge.
When we’re with the girls, an afternoon tea is always an appreciated delight; and this one is taken in the achingly beautiful lobby, known as The Gallery. It’s Pullmanesque, all banquette seating and comfy armchairs, and gentle glitter and polite service. There’s a cracking view of a (perennially?) soggy Grafton Street, appropriately enough grafting away this afternoon while we schmooze like Miss Marple and taste dainty little sarnies and sip tea from bone china. There’s nothing that gives one such an appetite as watching one’s fellow man work, I always find.
If fancy afternoon dining isn’t your thing, then I’ll be blowed if the ground floor, adjacent to arcade, French-style bistro Balfes doesn’t do the trick. Trendy, friendly, accommodating and cool – all those things that the Irish seem to do so effortlessly. It seamlessly offers something for everyone, from healthy brekker to somewhere to have a fag with a coffee comfortably seated outside. Mums and babes came here to meet and chat, elderly couples with a few quid came by for lunch, a hip crowd use it as a cocktail bar in the early evening. It’s the sort of place you’d give your right what-not to have in your town, to be honest.
I haven’t finished eulogising yet, sorry. The Sidebar is a rollicking 1930s train-ride of a bar, all Brief Encounter and cocktail shakers. I can attest it makes a killer Old Fashioned and the young ‘uns were transported by their mocktails. My Dearest made do with a glass of fizz, poor thing. No-one in the world does affable, nothing-is-too-much-trouble service like the Irish, I reckon. They are such lovely people, with infectious smiles and accents that melt the hardest of travelling hearts. Certainly, those of the Doyle Collection persuasion are, anyway. We spent ages chatting with our bar crew while we waited for our table at…Wilde.
I’m sorry if you’re one of those people who get their kicks from caustic-tongued know-all reviewers, but you’re not getting one here. As if you hadn’t realised. Wilde is a stunningly presented, light and airy, seemingly sunshine-filled (it rained our whole stay) restaurant with real flowers and green tendrils and beautiful green velvet seats of a calming hue. The food is thoughtful and artfully presented, wholesome and indulgent, and the place is packed with the great and the good of Ireland as well as the obligatory odd miserable American.
Largely, this is a place of joyous celebration; on my wanderings last night, when the girls had gone to bed and I nipped out for an Irish whisky and a cigar, I got talking (easier here than most anywhere, I reckon) to a nice lady who, when she learned of my abode, told me she was bringing her friend here later this week for a special birthday celebration).
Once again, it’s the sort of place you wish you could have, and covet, and visit, and make friends with, in your own local town.
Hospitality as its meant to be and a mighty incentive to return to wonderful Dublin again and again. It’s a city with a heart and it never lets you down. A little like the Doyle Collection, in my humble experience.
The Westbury is part of the Doyle Collection, members of the Leading Hotels of the World. For more information, including their ‘Slice of the City’ and details of offers, visit www.doylecollection.com.