Dublin's newest townhouse hotel is a smartly designed blend of business and pleasure, says our Travel Editor
I can't remember the last time I was rocked by red brick.
There I was, pulling my wheelie case off Adelaide Road and onto the gravel forecourt of the Wilder Townhouse when... whoompf. A sunset-red wall of beautifully restored Victorian brickwork stopped me in my tracks.
On first impression, this squirrelled-away townhouse is drop-dead delicious. There are glowing lanterns outside the door, tables spilling out onto a trim terrace, a sharply-angled arch beckoning you into a glossy, marble hallway with a tiny reception desk at which a single receptionist sits a svelte, midnight blue dress.
"Unserious sophistication" is the phrase that stands out on its website (no, seriously). At once stashed away from the urban bustle and just a stone's throw from it, this rebooted Victorian building feels like a case study in city chic.
Dublin feels short on excellent townhouse-style hotels - something that puzzles me, given the low-lying cityscape, urban villages like Ranelagh and Stoneybatter, and the rich fabric of buildings and Georgian squares (the Cliff Townhouse is a standout).
The Wilder Townhouse dates from 1839, has served as a home for retired governesses, and takes on a new life following a €9.5 million reboot by Frankie Whelehan (owner of sister property, the Montenotte Hotel in Cork).
To me, the 42-bed hotel has flavours of the larger Iveagh Garden Hotel and No.31, a benchmark Dublin townhouse around the corner on Leeson Close, combining a design-led development with business traveller practicality.
The Wilder was rundown when hoteliers got their hands on it, with "barely enough electricity to fire a light bulb," as manager Deirdre Sands tells me.
Now, overseen by architect Gráinne Webber, it channels that Victorian heritage through Art Deco and contemporary, city club influences. In the Gin and Tea Rooms, you'll find mustard yellow chairs with touch-me-please velvet playing off a smoked parquet floor and botanical wallpapers, for example. It has the whiff of a new hotel, but feels like it could always have been here... a secret to stumble upon.
The Dean has its 'ModPods' and 'Superooms'. The Wilder starts with 'Shoebox' rooms tightly (though not claustrophobically) built around a double bed, rising through 'Small' and 'Popular' options to Suites with more space in which to sprawl.
My 'Popular Plus' room was a smart, luxe mix of design and creature comforts – wingback chairs, the use of shoemakers' lasts as bookstops or a tailor's dummy for jackets and coats, for example, and a smartly retained fireplace.
It can't have been easy stitching modern essentials like en-suites and air-con through the building's Victorian fabric, but they've pulled it off.
At times, I was tickled to be reminded of Wes Anderson, and the Accidentally Wes Anderson Instagram page - by gilded butterflies in a big bell jar, for example, or the stairwell wallpapers lovingly stacked with miniature Georgian buildings. Other touches, like the hotel's penchant for corny platitudes – ‘life is too short to be taken seriously’ was one in my room - jarred rather than chimed, however.
The best room looks like a corner suite, with standalone tubs and lovely leafy views over the surrounding neighbourhood. But most bathrooms have a kick-ass rainforest shower and Replica by Maison Margiela Paris products.
The Gin and Tea Rooms is the place to nab your cocktail, while the neighbouring Garden Room is the hub for dinner and breakfast.
I found both too brightly lit for evening atmosphere, though I liked the latter's mix of white marble tables, earthy green banquettes, leafy wallpapers and conservatory-style doors opening onto the patio. Both rooms are residents-only, which keeps a lid on the energy, but is the hotel missing a trick? The bar was strangely quiet on my midweek visit, and I think it would make a peachy little staging post before venturing further into town - Harcourt Street and Leeson Street are both a short walk away.
Evening eats are limited to a fairly thin food menu – ‘light bites’ in the shape of an Irish farmhouse cheeseboard (€12), smoked Connemara salmon on Guinness brown (€9.90) and a charcuterie plate (€12.50).
All reasonably priced, and tipping the hat to Irish produce - good signs.
Guests can buy breakfast from €14.50 for either an à la carte cooked option or a continental breakfast, or €19.50 for both. For this, the Garden Room is a lovely set-up, intimate and classy - the kind of space that makes you sit up a bit straighter without feeling like the pinkies need to rise.
An oval, antique table is loaded with fresh pastries, ready-made fruit bowls, decent granola, yoghurts and fresh juices, and I had no complaints with a smashed avo' and eggs scattered with fresh red chilli flakes (above) from the cooked menu.
Around me were a mix of couples, tourists and business folk getting the jump on the day. Waiters in white, railway-style jackets were quick and friendly, though the bar area seemed a bit lost in the morning... breaking the spell by working as a service area.
The Wilder is an elegant and smartly designed townhouse hotel, but it's also a functional one. Don't expect a pool, gym, spa or lounge spaces in which to relax. Space is at a premium.... and on-property parking is limited to just eight spaces (on-street parking is also available, however).
Moving through the hotel, I wished there were a few more signs orienting me - room number directions as you exit the lift, in particular. For a hotel so clearly targeting business travellers midweek, I also felt my 'Popular Plus' room could use a proper desk – instead, I ended up moving the laptop between a small coffee table and a thin counter with a Nespresso machine taking up most of the space.
Also, as I write, the hotel has no food or drinks menus on its website.
Pól was a guest of The Wilder Townhouse. Lead-in rates range from €180 per night for Shoebox rooms to €410 for the Lady Jane Suite.
22 Adelaide Road, Dublin 2; 01 969-6598; thewilder.ie.