This opulent 19th-century hotel on St Stephen’s Green (Europe’s largest garden square) underwent a facelift in recent years that took away none of its iconic charm and ensured it remains one of Ireland’s most stylish addresses. Woven into the very fabric of Dublin’s history, the Irish constitution was drafted here and this landmark hotel is still central to life in the city today.
The uniformed doormen, revolving door, faux-marble entrance, sparkling chandeliers, art collection and sweeping staircase all hint at the grandeur that awaits guests checking in. New rooms added at the back of the hotel have increased the accommodation, and all are luxurious – but the older suites, named after famous people who have stayed here in the past, have all been refurbished to bring back the original glamour, and are very much in demand. Rooms and suites at the front of the building overlook St Stephen’s Green and afford a wonderful vista over the heart of the city.
But you don’t need to check in to enjoy the Shelbourne’s charms. The old world elegance of The Lord Mayor’s Lounge is as popular as ever for Afternoon Tea while the famous Horseshoe Bar, favoured by local politicians, media and celebrity figures is charming and cosy, and nothing short of a Dublin institution.
The larger No. 27 Bar & Lounge is open for lunch and dinner and it buzzes seven nights a week with a lively mix of tourists and sophisticated locals sipping cocktails or enjoying the casual food. For a more formal setting dinner can be enjoyed in the hotel’s stylish Saddle Room (see below).
The wonderful Spa at The Shelbourne has been sensitively designed to offer high spec pampering and fitness wrapped up in a historic building. Treatments use luxe lines like Pevonia and Elemis and guests can pop in for everything from a quick manicure to an indulgent two-and-a-half hour signature treatment that finishes up in the opulent scented relaxation room overlooking St Stephen’s Green.
Hotel guests can use the small but striking gym which wraps around a surprisingly big swimming pool that’s beautifully lit. There’s a thermal suite too and personal trainers; annual health club membership is available and includes a choice of fitness classes which are also open to hotel guests.
The hotel is understandably popular for events and meetings, with a number of restored meeting/private dining rooms in the main building available, including The Constitution Room and The George Moore Suite - and also the state-of-the-art Great Room next door, for larger events.
As one would expect from a world-class hotel, service is delightfully friendly and professional on the whole – although it can sometimes be lacking at breakfast time, with queues for tables and elusive waiting staff.
Conference/banqueting (500/400). Business centre, Broadband wi/fi, lap top sized safe in rooms. Gift shop. 24 hour room service. Lift.
The Saddle Room:
Although there is no obvious sign over the door, hotel guests will spot this enticing looking restaurant within minutes of entering the large hotel foyer. The Saddle Room majors in seafood and steaks, cooked in a large open plan kitchen.
Divided in two by dramatic gold banquettes, the quieter side of the dining room is more traditional and old world with comfy seating and low lighting, even if some tables feel rather close together. The more glamorous of the two areas has large booths and a seafood display, and is usually only used at night, so if you are going for lunch you are likely to find yourself in the room to the side which overlooks Kildare Street.
Menus are designed to have wide appeal, rather than push culinary boundaries.That said, there is evidence of real skill, competence and an awareness of contemporary trends in the kitchen.
At night, the focus is on seafood, steaks, game and fish, and à la carte prices are considerably higher than on the set menu at lunch. Pre-theatre and table d'hote menus are also available, however, and offer good value.
Menus include a statement indicating a commitment to local foods and producers: "As a member of Good Food Ireland Executive Chef Garry Hughes is committed to prioritising the core indigenous ingredients of Irish cuisine and promoting local and artisan food producers".
There is certainly plenty of Irish place-checking - and some, such as Lambay Island (lobster), and Mullaghmore (mussels) as quite specific - but it would be nice to see provenance information on menus that credits suppliers rather than simply giving the geographical origin of ingredients.
Typical dishes include a classic braised daube of Charleville beef with good, meaty depth from long, slow cooking; it may be served with celeriac purée and plenty in the way of vegetable prettiness, while two generous, perfectly cooked tranches of Kilmore Quay turbot might be accompanied by a cauliflower velouté and kale.
Service is thoughtful and attentive and beautifully created desserts are a high point - an impeccable vanilla-scented crème brûlée, for example, has just the correct ratio of crunchy topping to custard, and a warm chocolate and raspberry tart with pistachio ice-cream delivers a perfect chocolate hit with panache.
An extensive and informative wine list is conveniently divided into drinking styles, and the friendly and knowledgeable sommelier helpfully guides guests towards further recommendations.