Fitz puts on glitz

Claire Droney indulges in some five-star treatment at No 128 St Stephen’s Green.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

It’s all about location, location, location – and The Fitzwilliam must have quite possibly the best hotel address in Dublin: No 128 St Stephen’s Green.

Designed by Sir Terence Conran — he of Habitat fame — the hotel has an ultra modern exterior, all glass and steel. Inside, though, there’s a strange and very instantaneous feeling of homeliness and cosiness — deep purple luscious rugs, an open fire, and sumptuous sofas.

Parking, often a source of stress in centrally located hotels, was seamless.

We left our car at the door and it was whisked away by a member of staff to the underground car park — another very unique addition.

But back to the welcome. And no one beats manager Fergal O’Connell. As he greeted us on arrival and chatted us through check in, his smile never once wavered. An absolute professional, and so personable with it.

This was five star treatment without question — the staff were smiling attentive throughout our stay — but with none of the unwanted pomp and ceremony.

Irish-owned and Irish run, with no international chain overseeing the hotel, the Fitzwilliam makes it own rules, Fergal tells us, and boy do they do it right.

THE ROOM

Here’s where things got really exciting. There are 138 rooms in the hotel, each one a perfect showcase for Terence Conran’s contemporary design — think deep purples and lime greens.

Many overlook the stunning gardens (it’s hard to believe they exist in the heart of Dublin).

The Fitzwilliam was one of Dublin’s first designer hotels. It opened its doors 13 years ago and underwent a complete renovation three years ago. It’s all easygoing sophistication and understated luxury.

We stayed in a deluxe room. The gold, gilt-edged mirrors, the four poster bed — this was something very special indeed. And then we saw the balcony.

We stepped outside to sweeping views of St Stephens Green, to our left the top of glass dome of the shopping centre.

This, we decided, has to be one of Dublin’s best kept secrets — and one everybody should experience in their lifetime.

The balcony was stone paved with simple patio furniture — it was all that was needed, you couldn’t take your eyes off the view.

We savoured a night-time glass of wine, warmed by the outdoor heater, and enjoyed a post breakfast coffee with the complimentary newspapers, the next morning. Bliss.

THE FOOD

Thorntons is the big drawcard, unsurprisingly with its Michelin star.

But we opted for Citron, a funky little restaurant on the hotel’s mezzanine.

The design is ultra modern — perhaps a little too much so for our tastes, with more lime greens, low ceilings, dark lighting and modern light fittings.

The staff were top notch, explaining each dish in precise detail.

Citron has a new chef, Matt Fuller, who previously worked as head chef at Conrad Gallagher’s Salon des Saveurs.

He was nominated for chef of the year in 2010 and 2011 — we weren’t one bit surprised when we sampled the menu.

Fuller spent a lot of time working in Spain, so there are Mediterranean undertones to his cooking.

I tried the goats cheese katafi with pepper stew and pickled beetroot chilli for starters, €9.50, with the atlantic cod and salmon roe tarragon rosti, €24.

It was exceptional. It’s time for Citron to get its place in the sun.

And for the fun factor? Our predinner crisps, not on the menu, came cut out in the shape of a top and trousers, hanging on little pegs on a ‘washing line’, the garlic mayo dip set inside the ‘washing basket’. It was the talking point of every table.

We’ll be back for the food alone. We enjoyed breakfast there the next morning — fresh fruit, cereals, full Irish and endless coffee.

THE AMENITIES

The Fitzwilliam’s spa is very unique too. Forget your Celtic Tiger treatments, where any one of 20 people might end up giving you a massage.

Here, there’s just one woman — the lovely Ursula, who comes to the hotel by appointment.

The treatment room is small, but very beautiful and Ursula, just like the hotel manager, makes the experience just that little bit more special. High recommended.

We enjoyed a cocktail after dinner in the hotel bar, the Inn On The Green — and it was the only slight let down of our stay.

The music was a little too loud, the venue lacked a little atmosphere. But our Cosmos went down a treat — and we had our own private balcony upstairs with the best view of Dublin to enjoy a final glass of wine.

THE BOTTOM LINE

A one night stay-over with evening meal and spa treatment costs €155 pps.

Contact www.fitzwilliamhotel.com or 01 4787000

ANYTHING TO ADD

Back to location. After a morning browse through the papers on the balcony, we checked out and were straight on to St Stephen’s Green and Grafton Street for a Saturday morning stroll.

Like I said — the Fitzwilliam has one of the best addresses in Dublin.


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