Grand old dame

I LOVE the glamour and romance of old railway hotels.

Grand old dame

And celebrating 160 years in Galway, the Meyrick ticks all of those boxes — it’s old, romantic, and steeped in railway heritage.

It was here, in a sweeping granite building bordering Eyre Square, that Prince Louis Napoleon of France called for lunch in 1857.

It was here that Alcock and Brown were entertained after their transatlantic flight in 1919. It was to here, in 1953, that Queen Salote of Tonga — “a rather large woman”, as the hotel describes her — had a special bed shipped from England.

George Best, Count John McCormack, Bing Crosby, John Wayne and Fred Astaire are just some of the other celebs to have stayed at the former Great Southern Hotel, now run (and recently refurbished) by the Monogram Group.

Can this Galway girl possibly live up to her glamorous history?

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Locations don’t come much better than this. Anchoring Eyre Square, the Meyrick is a hotel where you can happily hand over your car keys and proceed to explore Galway city on foot, knowing you are never more than a few minutes’ walk from your bedroom.

Stepping through the revolving door, the hotel feels every bit the grand dame. Inside, however, it takes a moment to get our bearings. To the left is a cafe counter. To the right is a fireplace, with two women chatting over afternoon tea. Ahead of me is a low-ceilinged series of lounges, a mash-up of black-and-white tiles, mirrored columns, zebra-print armchairs and gold-striped couches. It’s like a hall of mirrors. And where is the reception?

Hiding in a room behind the fireplace, that’s where.

Once we orient ourselves, the hotel starts to reveal its charm. There are recessed bookshelves, cosy chairs, and monochrome prints of its golden age, with guests out playing tennis on the square. Beneath funky new threads, the grand dame remains.

THE BEDROOM

The Meyrick’s 97 bedrooms offer lots of choice, ranging from standard doubles and twins to executive rooms, and both junior and executive suites. Checking in, we’re pleasantly surprised to find we have been upgraded to a suite, No 518, with views over Eyre Square.

It’s a large room, with an amazing panorama, but I’m not sure I could recommend it for a splurge. Bedspreads and furniture fabrics feel fusty rather than luxurious, and flicking some switches, I accidentally unleash a TV hidden in a luggage box at the end of the bed. The lid clunks open, and the TV emerges. It’s like something out of Hart to Hart.

Something else I’d suggest changing are the tiles that follow through from the lobby area outside the bedroom into the hall inside. They carry the sound of footsteps and conversation emerging from the lift into our room, not to mention a hoover at 8am.

THE FOOD

Breakfast is served in the Oyster Grill, a grand old space with large Victorian windows overlooking Eyre Square. Tall ceilings evoke old-school elegance, and modern flourishes — decadent, patterned wallpapers, sultry reds and blacks, over-sized light fittings and a monogrammed ‘M’ on the blinds — are a step forward into the 21st century.

We skip dinner at the Meyrick in favour of a meal on the town, but make sure to get a good breakfast in. Fresh fruit salad, smoked salmon, meats, yoghurt and juices (from concentrate) were available. There were tasty sausages, and we ordered up a nice poached egg, and some pastries.

THE AMENITIES

The Meyrick’s spa and health club is on the fifth floor, and its highlight is a hot tub and Jacuzzi overlooking the city skyline. It’s a great vantage point, not to mention a wow moment when you first encounter it.

A wide range of treatments is available here, including aromatherapy and hot stone massages, manicures, pedicures and facials. The pampering can be had at a pretty reasonable price, too.

WHAT TO DO

Galway’s star is in the ascendant — quite literally — when it comes to food. Aniar, the terroir-based restaurant run by JP McMahon and Drigín Gaffey, has just won the city’s first Michelin star. It’s not only a huge vote of confidence for chef Enda McEvoy and his team, but — as one of just two Michelin Stars outside Dublin — recognition that Galway has gone up a gear.

Whilst Aniar’s award was a surprise, the city’s foodie progress has been anything but. Restaurants like Cava, Raw (the new sushi place at the Radisson) and perennial favourites like Kai, Oscar’s and Ard Bia at Nimmo’s brilliantly complement local delis and the Saturday market at St Nicholas’s Church, putting the city in a similar culinary class to Cork.

Bring an appetite — and book ahead if you fancy Aniar. A Michelin star after just a year in business can be a blessing or a curse, but I really hope this spirited place uses it as license to evolve.

BOTTOM LINE

The Meyrick Hotel currently has two nights’ B&B with one dinner on special from €119pps midweek. At weekends, the price starts from €154pp. Contact 091 564041 or hotelmeyrick.ie

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