Keavan’s Port hotel review - the low-price pub and hotel chain sensitively restores several Georgian buildings on Camden Street
I’ll admit that my expectations were low.
The Wetherspoon chain is one of those brands that everyone seems to have an opinion about, and the arrival of any hotel chain in Dublin can raise the hackles. But, within a few minutes of arriving at Keavan’s Port, I have to say, I was impressed.
The UK chain is known for its rock-bottom prices and unpretentious stylings — you’ll often find the pubs in historic buildings, and that’s the case with Keavan’s Port, its second hotel in Ireland (Swords Old Borough being the first). The group has pumped €33m into the refurbishment and renovation of several buildings on Camden Street, and it’s the historical element of the reboot that really blew me away. The restoration of the Georgian façade is remarkable, considering how grotty these unused buildings were before the transformation.
The layout is pretty cool, too — the hotel is made up of eight Georgian townhouses, a courtyard and a chapel, all of which are linked by a modern, light-filled atrium.
The Rating: 7.5/10
With a location smack bang in the middle of Camden Street, the surrounds of the hotel are particularly… lively. I arrived on a Friday night, just a few days after the hotel opened. While the entrance to the pub was already starting to fill up (disconcertingly overlooked by a bouncer), the hotel reception was surprisingly calm.
As you walk to the desk, you pass some of the restored stained glass windows which, until the hotel was refurbished, were boxed off from view entirely. Behind the reception desk, there’s an even more impressive piece — a restored, circular, stained glass window crafted by the building’s former occupants, Earley and Company. Historical features like this simply wouldn’t exist for the public to enjoy were the hotel not here.
All around the reception area, there are neat little rooms decked out in antique furniture — one has a working fireplace, and will be the perfect cosy hideaway come winter. While most people flock to the main dining areas, these little alcoves are a peaceful reprieve. 7/10
The welcome was warm, but brief, and I soon regretted not paying closer attention to the room directions. Trying to find it on my own, I became lost in the Tardis that is the hotel interior. Luckily, the receptionist found me soon after and pointed me in the right direction. There was talk of giving guests a map, which would be a welcome decision, odd as it sounds for an 89-room hotel.
While it can be confusing, the interior atrium is a bit of a masterpiece. The combination of giant steel beams and the restored brickwork gives the whole thing a uniquely stylish, industrial-chic vibe. And the walls are all adorned with pieces by Irish artists, including a giant wire sculpture by Emma Jane Rushworth, inspired by the Seamus Heaney poem St Kevin and the Blackbird.
Upon walking through the main pub entrance, you pass through the courtyard to be met with a full chapel. Formerly home to the Little Sisters of Assumption, and more recently used as a boxing club, the space now serves as a fairly nifty dining area. 8/10
Soon after I arrived, I panicked suddenly that I would be in for a horrendous night’s sleep. The combination of an opening weekend, a Camden Street location and a potentially raucous atmosphere left me cursing the fact I forgot my earplugs. Despite my room overlooking the exterior courtyard, it was remarkably silent.
In terms of décor, I loved the mural behind the bed, a mottled stretch of oily blues and greys. The shower was excellent, though the noise from the bathroom fan and air conditioning unit was a little loud for my taste. I had to turn it off in order to sleep, so things got fairly steamy overnight (and not in a good way). 7.5/10
As the downstairs space is primarily a pub, the area for drinking and eating is enormous. The main dining space was a little busy for my comfort, so I went into the chapel, both for a bit of peace and for the novelty of sitting on a pew as I ate. As you might expect, the food is basic pub grub, but the provenance is better than I expected — all the beef, eggs, milk and sausages are Irish.
But really, it’s the prices that are pulling in the punters. All meals include a drink, and you’d be hard pushed to find a cheaper dinner in Dublin — you can get a sirloin steak with a side and a glass of wine for €15.85, or a burger with chips and a pint for €10.85. My steak was pretty decent — perfectly cooked, flavourful and, most importantly, Irish. The chips may not have been handcut, but they were good and crispy, and the accompanying Jameson whiskey sauce was delish, too. I’ve paid a lot more for a lot worse.
Oh, and a pint? That’ll set you back €3.45 for Beamish, rising to €4.45 for Brewdog. You can also get a Gunpowder G&T for €7.10. It’s easy to be a food snob, but the accessibility of those prices can’t be ignored. 7/10
The Wetherspoon group now has eight pubs and two hotels in Ireland (the first opened in Blackrock in 2014) and, love it or loathe it, what it’s done here is mighty impressive. The restoration of beautiful Georgian architecture and precious stained glass pieces in Dublin in this way is something that can only be celebrated. And the creation of a city centre option that won’t break the bank is no bad thing either.
The family rooms are a bargain, with no extra charge for the sofa to be converted into a bed. There are cute crayons and colouring pages in the restaurant, too.
The Last Bookshop on Camden Street is a fine room filled with higgledy-piggledy stacks of books. Out back, the Cake Café is a great spot for treats.
Doubles from €100 midweek, or €140 at the weekend. 01 405 4790, jdwetherspoon.com. Nicola was a guest of the hotel.
Despite a long, hard year, those in the hospitality industry are exploding with creativity right now. It seems like everywhere you turn, there’s an innovative team launching something imaginative and vibrant.