Hotel deal of the week: The Imperial Hotel, Cork
It is a sad fact that since the demise of the Celtic Tiger a weekend at your average hotel has a solitary feel to it. Gone is the business bluster, the golfing guests and the wedding weekenders. In their place are staff stalking corridors of once busy establishments looking for someone to be polite to. The recession has been great if you demand one on one service, but a disaster if you like your hotels to be a bit more fun. In that sense Cork's Imperial was a real find.
I arrived, for a weekend package, to find a full lobby and a welcome change from eerie silences and empty corridors. The hotel itself is sort of a hotch potch. A modern restaurant here, a retro fit bar there and a grand entrance all polished tiles, chandeliers and art deco plasterwork. The Imperial is the oldest hotel in Cork although the place has a fair bit of history, the here and now are the first things that strike you.
Check-in was reassuringly friendly and after a brief welcome I was left to get on with it and was told, in no uncertain terms to get out and about, to enjoy myself, to grab the weather, and I did. The Peace Gardens became the pub, the pub became live music on the Lee and the river became a bit of shopping.
By the time I had returned from the offerings of the English Market the mood was still busy if not more so. I ate dinner in the the main restaurant which was bright and modern. In quieter moments the restaurant looks like a club lounge, dark floors, glass walls, statement lights and chunky leather chairs. The food looked good, the service better and the conversation loud.
Quiet hotels have their charms, but not today, with people chatting everywhere at the Imperial. As most hotels have become places where other guests are spotted from afar, seeing people have fun felt like being on safari and an evening of live music felt all the more welcome knowing that it wouldn't be spent in a deserted lounge with polite applause with two other couples. The drinks flowed, the place became louder by degrees and by the time it was time for my room things were a bit woozy.
If you read between the lines a little, when morning did come, you may have worked out that breakfast was a little more sedate than the previous evening. My fellow guests seemed to be managing better than I at being bright eyed for breakfast, but I did what I could and headed off to the Spa. After two wonderful hours including a sublime massage I found my spirits revived and my thoughts my own.
It was at this point I discovered something of a hidden gem in the form of the brasserie at the Imperial. Even if you never check in, the Lafayette's is worth going to by itself. Afternoon teas, morning pastries, soups and sambos are all well and good but but the room itself a treasure. Floor to ceiling with wonderful powder green art nouveau tiles and copper topped tables, the best items aren't on the menu, but from the people who still go to chatter. Spas, lounges and champagne on ice are easy to get but gossip is a commodity no hotel can provide too easily.
There is something about this hotel that is Cork itself. You go to do things, you get around, and you enjoy yourself. It isn't all about you or some empty sanctuary for the purposes of being pampered. It doesn't lack the odd bit of luxury or some fine details but the impression you are left with when you leave is that Cork is as comfortable with the Imperial as the Imperial is with Cork, the two fit together quite nicely.
Room: 4 / 5
Food: 3 / 5
Service: 4 / 5
Atmosphere: 5 / 5
Value for Money: 4 / 5
What's the deal :
I sampled the two night B&B package which includes two nights accommodation, breakfast on both mornings and a three-course evening meal for two in the Pembroke restaurant. Priced at €129 per person sharing the offer is available from the Imperial Hotel website.