Weekend Away: Gresham Hotel Dublin
Once upon a time, the Gresham and Shelbourne hotels were twin towers of top-end hospitality in Dublin; grand dames that epitomised elegance and glamour for generations of citydwellers.
The four-star Gresham dates from 1817 (though it was rebuilt in the 1920s), and, for me, its Portland stone façade still conjures up images of afternoon tea beneath Waterford Crystal chandeliers.
Times have changed, however. Does the old girl still have class?
Checking in, my first impression is of a relic of auld decency on the edgier end of O’Connell Street. The interconnecting lobby spaces, complete with half-moon marble bar and classic furniture, retain the ‘wow’ factor (despite dozens of placards warning guests to be careful of their belongings).
We stayed in a deluxe room in the Lavery wing. It was large (33sqm), plainly decorated (with a couple of John Lavery reproductions) and kitted out with a dated mix of contemporary furniture.
The guest-service directory was an interactive menu on the TV, which took a few minutes to get the hang of, and the hairdryer was bolted into a drawer — not exactly welcoming in a four-star hotel.
The 288-bed Gresham underwent a renovation in 2006, and our room featured a marble-tiled bathroom with a separate bath and shower, as well as free Wi-Fi (never a given). A room overlooking the city’s busiest thoroughfare can be booked for an extra charge of €30, but I had a sound night’s sleep in the rear of the hotel. Overall, however, we found it pretty indifferent.
Running late for a date in Dublin, we decided to take a punt on room service. The staff member who took our order was impressive — he handled my wife’s enquiries about celiac options well, and the tray was delivered within 20 minutes.
The food, however, fell a bit flat. My burger was tough and the bottom bun was too soggy to hold, though the bill for two mains wasn’t bad at €29.
There are slightly more glamorous eating options at the Gresham, of course — notably Toddy’s Bar & Brasserie, a North Dublin institution in its own right.
It was recently renovated, and dishes ranging from fancy sambos to fish ’n’ chips can be enjoyed amid its red, cream and chocolate tones.
Afternoon tea of sandwiches, pastries, scones and Madeira cake is served in the Writers’ Bar from 2pm to 6pm — it costs €18pp and, if you can swing it, should be taken in front of the enormous windows overlooking O’Connell Street.
The pamper factor
Don’t go to the Gresham expecting resort facilities. There’s no pool or spa but there is a fitness studio available.
What to do
While several Dublin four-stars top the experience of a stay at the Gresham (the Gibson is more exciting, Clontarf Castle has more oomph, the rooms in Brooks Hotel are classier), few can trump its super location. Nearby, you’ll find the Hugh Lane Gallery and Gate Theatre, the legendary Chapter One restaurant and shopping on Henry Street and the Jervis Street Centre.
I found the Gresham’s car park a bit forbidding. Located to the rear of the hotel along the tight Thomas Lane, men were drinking in a doorway as I drove past and, after I parked, it took several swipes of my key card to operate the underground lift. I had the same problem opening our room.
When I mentioned my key issues to the receptionist, she wondered had I kept the card next to any credit cards, suggesting that their magnetic strips could interfere with information stored on it (it had, in my wallet).
I’ve stayed at a great many hotels without encountering this problem, but I’m told it’s not unusual. Given the car park set-up, perhaps guests should be informed about it on checkin? Parking for guests is pricey at €2.80 an hour and €14 for 24 hours.
Overall, I’m disappointed that our room and the upstairs corridors failed to meet expectations set by the Gresham’s opulent façade and lobby. To my mind, this is an historic hotel trading too much on former glories. Beyond the showpiece spaces, the grand dame’s finesse starts to fade.
The Gresham currently has two nights’ B&B and one dinner in Toddy’s from ¤155pps midweek, and €220pps at weekends.
The Gresham Hotel, 23 Upper O’Connell Street, Dublin. Tel: 01-874 6881; gresham-hotels.com