It always says a lot for a hotel and its restaurant when locals choose to dine there. The revamped Kingsley achieves just that, says Joe Leogue.
We’ve all ended up nursing the excesses of a Saturday night in strange places at some point, but sitting in a hot tub staring at an abandoned psychiatric hospital is up there.
But I digress.
Devastated by the unprecedented flooding that hit Cork in 2009, the Kingsley Hotel was bought by the Kang family — owners of the Fota Hotel — four years later and, after an extensive overhaul, reopened as a four-star offering in 2014.
The redesign of the hotel manages to strike a balance between being bright, airy, and contemporary without falling into the trap of employing more faddish motifs that plague other modern hotels and immediately date them.
Its location on the Carrigrohane Road, which runs alongside the Lee, converts the river that was its undoing in 2009 into one of its greatest assets.
Checking in on Saturday evening, we made our way from the extensively refurbished lobby to our room, where both a plate of chocolates and a stunning view of the river awaited.
It was then time for dinner.
The Springboard Bistro — the name a nod in recognition of the public baths that previously occupied the hotel’s site — was reassuringly full as we went for our Saturday night meal.
Even more heartening was the familiar conversational lilt emanating from the groups we passed on our way to the table — diners clearly come here for the food, and the crowd is comprised of more than hotel guests simply opting for the Springboard by default.
Evidently, the Kingsley’s dining is availed of by locals and overnight guests alike, and more than a few Cork families appeared to be celebrating a special occasion there.
I had a rich vegetable soup followed by a delicious rump steak beef, while my wife had a salad starter that was as large as a main.
Free-range chicken breast followed for her, while we both indulged in a sweet medley for dessert.
Afterwards it was onto Fisher’s Bar, which has enough nooks, crannies, and snugs to afford large and small groups and couples a place to stake a claim for an intimate evening.
A generous selection of beers and whiskeys capped off the evening nicely — and left us perfectly predisposed to a revitalising spa experience the next morning.
Before then, however, was breakfast — the highlight, bar the ample servings, being the pancake machine which provides a winning combination of novelty and freshly-made grub.
The Kingsley’s spa is an idyllic spot to unwind, an inner sanctum of calm in the middle of the hotel.
My wife, a spa veteran compared to this novice, went for the Kerstin Florian facial.
The hour-long session, at €80 per person, involved a threefold treatment of an exfoliating peel, a deep cleansing massage, and a masque to finish.
No stranger to such treatments, my plus one was won over by the friendly and attentive therapist and was very happy with the results.
The Indian-head-style massage, in particular, was a big winner.
A darkened relaxation room followed the treatment, complete with healthy juice drink and snack.
Upon reconvening, she raved about her experience while I revealed my ignorance by attempting to guide her around the various features of the spacious thermal suite I had enjoyed while she was away.
There was the warm room (the Lanconium), the hotter room (Hamam), and then places whose names I understood, such as the aromatherapy steam baths, the roasting Finnish sauna, the indoor Jacuzzi pool, and tropical rain shower.
Each feature complements the next well, the heat drawing out the sweat of the previous day’s indulgences, while the cooler aspects of the suite cleanse and refresh.
Beyond the swimming pool lies the outdoor Jacuzzi, an absolute must-visit regardless of the temperatures outside.
The heat from the pool more than compensates should the Cork air be found wanting for warmth.
The outdoor hot tub experience is soundtracked only by the gentle rush of the River Lee, and from our raised vantage point the top of a head occasionally passes by — either a sweaty crown of hair or a plastic dome, as runners bob and cyclists glide past us on their Sunday morning constitutional along the river’s bank.
The view from the outdoor tub is impressive, with the vista dominated by striking Victorian buildings — across the river, the imposing St Anne’s Asylum towers over the former Cork Waterworks, both significant structures that lend themselves to lazy inspection from afar.
It is the star of the show, but there are plenty of perks to navigate from the spa entrance to the outdoors.
Inside, comfortable heated loungers were on hand as were ice showers — an unappealing thought upon entry but a welcome and refreshing blast at the end of what was a revitalising start to a lazy Sunday.
The Kingsley offers a Pampering Package from €192.50 per person, which includes a full day at The Spa at The Kingsley where guests can avail of a foot soak, a hot stone back, neck and shoulder massage, and a Kerstin Florian customised deep cleansing facial.
The package includes lunch in The Springboard restaurant and overnight stay in a classic room at the Kingsley.
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