Two shades of Blu

IF LIMERICK is a tale of two cities, its Radisson Blu is a tale of two hotels.

Where media impressions of a gritty, troubled city quickly give way to a more rounded sense of Limerick as a spirited riverside hub, however, the hotel goes the other way. Pass beyond the styled public areas, and standards take a nosedive.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Set just off the Cratloemoyle roundabout on the Ennis Road, the Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa is nicely stashed away in a leafy setting 10 minutes outside Limerick. A long, low building leads to a decent car park, and a colourful little playground adds to an airy first impression.

The former Limerick Inn was reborn as a Radisson in 2002, I’m told, and the lobby and public areas are what you’d expect of the chain. There are bright, maple check-in desks, frosted glass backdrops and a fireplace set into a column in the middle of a tiled lobby. Little purple lights dangle like exotic flowers about the receptionists, plants are plastic, and the restaurant is separated from the rest of the space by light curtains spotted with fairy lights.

It’s perfectly contemporary and not a little anonymous — exactly the kind of confident styling Radisson churns out in its sleep. So far, so four-star.

THE ROOM

Past the public areas, however, the tone dips dramatically. Suddenly, we’re pulling our luggage through fire doors that have been heavily bashed and scuffed.

Ushering the kids into rooms 365 and 367, the first thing that hits us is an overwhelming smell of air freshener. Inside, there’s a crack in the mirror, a layer of dust on the mini-bar, damaged wallpaper and tears in the desk chair. It feels like the hotel equivalent of a rental car.

We had requested interconnecting rooms, which these aren’t, so we change to 165 and 167, which are much brighter, though still throw up scuffed chairs and a chipped toilet seat.

Despite all this, comfortable beds provide a good night’s sleep for all. There are splashes of colour in the satin curtains and throws, and Anne Semonin products line the bathroom. But the difference between the spanking website images and the reality is very frustrating.

The hotel’s 154 rooms include standard and business class options and two suites. You can also book ladies’ rooms in a wing reserved for female travellers, serviced by female staff and featuring glossy magazines, Elemis products and a special hot chocolate.

THE AMENITIES

Limerick’s Radisson has free wi-fi, and we were pleasantly surprised to be allowed keep our room until 2pm on a Saturday.

The hotel comes equipped with lots of meeting rooms, a wedding space and a fairly standard bar, but its biggest selling point is probably the Rain Spa (rainspawellness.ie). Behind all the usual rejuvenation bumf, you’ll find a list of treatments ranging from wraps and massages to microdermabrasion and teeth-whitening, and the space is nicely styled.

My little girl and I enjoyed a swim in the small pool, and guests can continue on to a Canadian hot tub, steam rooms, tropical showers and the like.

WHAT TO DO

There are plenty of good news stories in Limerick, from the Munster Rugby Museum at Thomond Park to works including Picasso and Jack Yeats at the Hunt Museum. We spent Saturday morning at the Milk Market, picking up little nibbles at the foodie stalls under its new canopy. Tomorrow is National Trails Day, so see nationaltrailsday.ie for events, and the Radisson is also close to Bunratty Castle.

THE FOOD

The Radisson’s super buffet breakfasts are always a selling point. The range of juices, pastries, breads, cereals, yoghurts, fresh fruits, meats, cheeses and hot options always beats the average four-star, even if Limerick doesn’t quite match the best of the brand’s offerings in Ireland.

Elsewhere, Porter’s restaurant does a range of Irish and international cuisine, with early birds and table d’hôte menus, and you can grab bar food at Quench, a cosy pub with flatscreen TVs.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Two nights’ B&B plus one dinner from €135 per adult during the mid-term break, with kids sharing for free. 061-456506; radissonblue.ie/hotel-limerick.

ANYTHING TO ADD

I’m bothered by just how much Radisson Hotels can vary in quality in Ireland. Despite its tidy spa and public areas, the accommodation wing in Limerick feels like a motel when compared to Farnham Estate in Cavan, say, or the Radisson Blu in Galway.

Its special offers are good, and it’s clear from TripAdvisor that the management cares, but first and foremost, a four-star hotel should be a nice place to lay your head.

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