'We're country hoteliers in the city," says Declan Curtis, welcoming me to Ireland's first Hyatt hotel.
Debate is heated on hotel development in Dublin, and you'd be forgiven for thinking this 234-bed is just the latest global brand to slot itself into the streetscape. As its Managing Director's comment suggests, however, there's a little more to this Liberties layover than meets the eye.
First, the country bit. The Hyatt Centric is managed under franchise by Athlone's Hodson Bay Group. From warm welcomes to Irish art, it's clear they're striving to soften the corporate shtick. Second, The Hyatt Corporation has over 800 properties and 14 brands worldwide. Its choice for Ireland says something: Hyatt Centric is a brand targeting "Savvy Explorers" who "want to feel like they're in the middle of the action". The approach has been to reach out to the neighbourhood - from having Imelda May perform at the opening party to small, daily deliveries from Mannings Bakery - rather than ram itself into it.
Can it work? A global brand like this might fit seamlessly into Times Square or Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour, but what about the brilliant, bawdy, eclectic and delicious indefinablility of Dublin 8? I checked in to find out.
The Rating: 7.5/10
If Hyatt had doubts about the layers of history in The Liberties, they'll have been dispelled at first strike of the shovel. The €50m build took over three years and involved meticulous architectural sieving, as you'll see from a gallery sketching a '900-year-old story' in photos of uncovered objects like 12th-century sandals and a medieval well (above, scan a QR code, and you'll find further info in online videos).
The hotel sits near St Patrick's Cathedral at the storied 'Four Corners of Hell' junction (named for the pubs that once sat on each corner), and The Liberties' mix of grit and grace is right in your face - from the kebab shop across the road to the antique stores of Francis Street. Checking in, a friendly receptionist gives two solid local bar recommendations - Fallon's (literally a stumble away) and Lucky's. Behind him, paintings show St Pat's, Marsh's Library and the onion tower. A strong start. 7/10
At first glance, the lobby could be anywhere. Furniture is coloured like autumn leaves, from studded burgundy couches to jade-green chairs and funky light fittings in subtly partitioned spaces that blur the boundaries of work, rest and play. But look closer. Dublin's MOLA architecture has brought Dublin 8 indoors in creative ways - mirrored dividers evoke a church organ, for example, while golden triangle motifs celebrate the old whiskey district.
A series of installations by artist Vivienne Roche ('What Once Was Here') plays on artefacts unearthed in the excavations, including a Viking needle sculpture recalling her work at St Patrick's Cathedral. As you transition from lobby towards bedroom wings and meeting spaces, however, lights glare and the tone shifts. It could use a little softening of mood and journey at this point. 8/10
Standard rooms are generously sized at 25msq. There's a sense of generic, business styling, but that's not a bad thing - it includes Hyatt Rest Beds, decent desks, streaming from both Apple and Android devices on TVs, and creature comforts like rain showers, chaise lounges and large, circular light switches that feel strangely satisfying to flick.
Hyatt has pledged to remove single-use plastics by 2021, but I'd love to see things like mini-toiletries, plastic-wrapped soap and UHT milk containers replaced before that. Trade up to one of nine suites for a treat - city views from corner rooms 502 or 517, or a direct eye on the cathedral spire from 447 and 539 (the 'Cathedral Suite'). 7/10
I ate at the Liberties Gate Bar, a 'distillery-inspired' space built around a bar beckoning with backlit bottles, an arcing copper counter and tiles that could have come from a cathedral (Five Lamps is among the beers on tap, and you'll have no shortage of local whiskeys to try).
It's a quiet night midweek, but a mix of locals, business travellers, couples and holdovers from meeting spaces are chatting warmly. Bar manager Partap Singh is friendly without being intrusive and knows the menus well.
A rib-eye steak (€24.95) with Teeling's whiskey peppercorn sauce is grilled gorgeously... it barely needs chewing. The 'treat of the day' from Mannings Bakery is a lovely apple and toffee pie (€6.50). My only critiques are a very salty side of sweet potato fries (€4.50) and the use of thin paper napkins... a little linen would better suit the tone. 7.5/10
Bringing a neighbourhood into a hotel is not new (Dublin's Hyatt Centric is indebted to the Hoxton, for example), but that doesn't devalue it. I hope its relationship with The Liberties only grows richer - other hotels really could learn from it. Not a bad start for country hoteliers in the city.
Ask for a room on the 4th or 5th floor, in the back block of the hotel for views stretching all the way to the Dublin Mountains (courtyard-facing rooms are the quietest). You can park overnight, but there's a charge of €30.
Guide and historian Liz Gillis (read our Top 10 things to do in the Liberties here) can be booked for a tour and did some great YouTube videos for the hotel. Fallon's pub is a 10-second walk away, while Two Pups Coffee is just over the road on Francis Street - it does an excellent breakfast.
Rooms start from €128, with suites from €168 per night (breakfast is €14). Pól was a guest of Hyatt Centric. 01 708-1900; hyattcentric.ie.