Following complete redevelopment of their original riverside site on Western Road, The River Lee Hotel regained its place as one of the most popular Cork hotels, especially perhaps for business guests.
Well-located, it is beside the university and within comfortable walking distance of the city centre in good weather, and also handy for those who wish to make a neat exit westwards on leaving the city.
Although it may not have the wow factor of some of the showier new hotels, it is imaginatively designed to make the very most of its waterside location, with all the main public areas having balconies as well as acres of glass - and the relatively low key decor is designed to last.
The Weir Bar, which also takes full advantage of the riverside setting and has a large deck, enjoys a reputation of being a lively bar. The River Lee Hotel is also renowned as a business hotel, and fills that niche particularly well.
The underground carpark (accessed by lift from the foyer) is extremely convenient and the business facilities offered include a range of meeting rooms and a dedicated executive floor and lounge on the penthouse floor; executive extras include complimentary continental breakfast and drinks and canapés in the evening as well as turndown service, daily newspapers and business magazines.
All bedrooms have been finished to a high specification, however, with air conditioning, 25" LCD TV, work desk, laptop safe, 'fair price minibar' as standard, and smart bathrooms all have separate bath and power shower and classy toiletries. Here again, good design is a feature that makes this hotel stand out – without being at all showy, rooms have many thoughtful details incorporated which make for a very comfortable stay, and the same applies to the bathrooms.
Leisure facilities include an 18m swimming pool, sauna, spa bath and a day spa, more recently opened.
The Weir Bistro
Informal dining is available in the Weir Bistro, an attractively bright and airy room at the end of the hotel with a surprisingly away-from-it all feeling that belies its position just a river-hop away from the busy Western Road; where else in the city centre could you watch a man out fishing with his dog, just yards from your table? And, as elsewhere in the hotel, this is a place where anyone expecting standard hotel fare may have a very pleasant surprise in store.
Friendly and obliging staff give out all the right vibes from the outset, as Head Chef Shane O'Sullivan’s menu, which begins encouragingly with a sourcing statement and promises simplicity. So far so very good indeed, and happily the promise is kept in fresh, appetising modern classic cooking.
Well made summer starters such as a tian of West Cork crabmeat partnered with an avocado salsa and gazpacho dressing, or crispy Ardsallagh goat cheese with Mediterranean vegetables, tapenade and herb salad are sure to please, and main courses offering perhaps 50% fish and seafood, will also include local meats - roasted rump of lamb, perhaps, with pea purée, a nutty-flavoured ratte potato gratin, pepper confit and a mint and basil jus.
Small details give side dishes a fresh slant (citrus salt with the French fries, for example), and the dessert menu includes a range of Cork cheeses (served with homemade chutney).
Interested staff have the companionable touch that makes a business hotel feel homely, and the same warmth and quality are evident at breakfast, which should be another pleasant experience and is served in the same room.
*This enterprising team devised an appealing menu to celebrate The Gathering in 2013.