Raising the bar: The Morgan is a breath of fresh air in Temple Bar

Raising the bar: The Morgan is a breath of fresh air in Temple Bar

The Morgan is a breath of fresh air in the tourist trap that is Temple Bar, writes Caroline O’Donoghue.

Temple Bar is a problem. The place where, fifteen years ago, provincial teenagers (hello) would stop by on their way back from Slane Castle to buy vinyl and vintage clothing, has since become a sort of urban hellscape of Irish tourism.

It is the intersection where all of our Ireland’s most middle-class woes meet: there are too many doughnut shops, too much bad live music and too many pubs that smell like bleach, taste like gravy and look like 1922.

All of this compiles to create the most middle-class Irish question of all: where in the hell are you supposed to get a decent drink and a bite to eat in Temple Bar without being treated like a tourist?

The answer, to quote my favourite sitcom character, Jack Donaghy of 30 Rock, is to climb down.

“In 1994, I went ice-climbing, and I fell into a crevasse. I hurt my leg, and I couldn’t climb back up. So fighting every natural instinct, doing the thing that seemed most awful to me, I climbed down into the crevasse. That’s how I got out.”

In order to find a good place to hang out and to escape the tourism of Temple Bar, you have to climb down, fight your natural instinct, and go to a hotel.

I’m here with my friend Avoca Reaction, a drag queen who hosts a weekly show Avoca Reaction’s Big Durty Queer Cabaret on Thursdays at Dublin’s Drop Dead Twice, and we’re availing of The Morgan’s Afternoon Tea Package. 

Said package includes a room, a 3- layered tier of snacks in the hotel restaurant 10 Fleet Street, and a bottle of Prosecco. The package costs €215; a standard room usually costs around €180.

Raising the bar: The Morgan is a breath of fresh air in Temple Bar

Our first question, therefore, is: is the afternoon tea worth the extra €35?

It all depends on your opinion of afternoon tea in the first place. 

It is, after all, a fairly pointless meal, if we can even call it a meal, because it’s just artfully arranged very small snacks.

It was invented by Queen Victoria, doyenne of very small things, and who, on reflection, was probably so dependent on small meals that it led her to accidentally ignoring the Famine.

But anyway, 12 Fleet Street works very well within the confines of this fundamentally pointless meal.

Salmon with pickle; crab with lime; strips of fillet steak with horseradish.

A soy chicken skewer that is just salty enough for you to reach for your glass of Prosecco, which was also good — sweet, light, boozy. 

The scones were probably not as good as your mother makes, but no scone is.

Raising the bar: The Morgan is a breath of fresh air in Temple Bar

The squares of nutty banana bread had that nice Farmer’s Market feel.

It’s hard to review an afternoon tea as though it were a meal, because, once again, it’s not one: when reviewing a meal, you’re stuck with the same bowl of pasta for 20 minutes, and it’s easy to think lots of unkind thoughts about it. 

Afternoon tea is a series of tiny bites.

Nice bites. But how do you review a single bite?

I’ve decided that the only way to review afternoon tea is to review it as a social occasion: and in that regard, 12 Fleet Street does an excellent job.

I know this because we stayed there.

We stayed, and we ordered a second bottle, and a plate of parmesan chips, and another plate of tempura prawns that I inhaled while my date was in the bathroom.

A mixologist brought us cocktails of smoked whisky that involved plumes of actual smoke coming out of a science beaker. And unlike most cocktails that come with its own floor show, these actually tasted good. Delicious, even.

The bar begins filling up for after-work drinks, and a barbecue is assembled outside with stacks of hotdog buns arranged in a self-service buffet pile that felt like the First Holy Communion of a first cousin.

Everyone’s in good humour and receiving tiny, specifically-placed sunburns from the light reflected off of the glass atrium.

It’s an easy, friendly gathering of young-ish Dubliners enjoying good weather and the certainty that there is no fiddle player waiting to break into “She Moved Through The Fair” for tips.

Avoca and I, absolutely roasted at this stage, decided to ourselves that if we were truly going to review The Morgan in full, we should really use the leisure centre, located in the Westward gym across the road.

One trip to H&M later and we were floating in an underground pool with a sort of Aladdin’s cave vibe – the showers have glittering golden tiles.

Forget standard hotel leisure centres, which is usually an Olympic swimming pool filled with screaming children riding pool noodles – the Westward is a little island of shadowy, glittering solitude in Dublin’s liveliest postcode.

Then it’s back to the room, where we don bathrobes and try to make the TV work.

We are told that watching Netflix on the smart TV couldn’t be easier, and after several attempts we cannot make it work.

We cannot figure out if this is the hotel’s work, as we are both drunk, and also, idiots.

We watch Sex and the City season four on my laptop and eat Pringles from the minibar. Avoca goes home, I go to sleep. The bed is great. 

The next morning breakfast is served in the dining room — your standard array of meat and eggs kept under hot trays, coffee or tea, white or brown toast, tiny shot glasses of juice.

Honestly, why mess with a classic?

I stumble out into the sun-drenched, vomit-speckled Temple Bar and feel ready for a day in Dublin.

Overall, The Morgan is a solid choice for anyone looking to stay in the city centre, with just enough individual touches to transform it from being a standard hotel experience.

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