Travel: Why Twelve Hotel in Galway is number one
Thomas Molloy was blown away by the food, facilities and atmosphere of this smart and classy boutique hotel
Beautiful, buzzing Galway is always worth a visit, and the Twelve in Barna is a great place to stay. Barna, effectively a suburb of the city along the road to Spiddal, is a good spot for anybody who wants to play in the bars at night while also venturing towards the dramatic countryside. The Twelve – known as the Twelve Pins until a revamp in 2007 – has won awards as a boutique hotel and for its food. So anybody who enjoys eating and drinking is in for a great time.
The Twelve is kitted out in a no-expense-spared manner. It is a relatively small hotel, but everything screams luxury and the good old days when hoteliers had money to burn. Best of all, the service and the atmosphere were exceptional.
The suite was dark and mysterious. Walnut floors, lots of wood, a huge bed, a good sofa and a bar counter. The curtains did the job and kept out noise and light. The bathroom was clean and functional and came with mood lighting, allowing you to relax in the bath as the light gently moves from reds and yellows to greens and magentas. A nice touch.
THE LITTLE EXTRAS
Great too was the glass of some sort of warm apple juice everyone gets when checking in. Those checking out were given a voucher for a free coffee and roll from the hotel's small bakery, which also sells delicious breads to the public.
The clue's in the name: The Petite Spa. Like the hotel itself, it is not big by most standards, but it is perfectly formed. The lovely Lorraine is a font of wisdom and provides treatments from facials and seaweed baths to massages. Highly recommended.
It is impossible to overstate how good the grub was, and there was none of the stiff service you see in Ireland –everybody in the Twelve seemed enthusiastic about what was on offer.
The bar has 10 types of cider and more than 30 whiskies. Breakfast was delicious and went far beyond the traditional Irish to include treats such as French toast and eggs Benedict.
The hotel's West restaurant is a foodie paradise named Galway's top restaurant by Georgina Campbell. It also won the Wine Spectator award six years in a row.
Awards are often a sign of sky-high prices and stuffy service, but West was friendly and quite reasonable. The staff were relaxed and everything came on time and cooked to order.
Despite all the temptations, I went for a very standard meal of Hereford steak – it might just have been the best I have had. The unexpected amuse bouches were just what the doctor ordered, while the cheese board was a tribute to local producers and a reminder that Galway is one of the best food places in Ireland.
Wines recommended by friendly Siobhain and the attentive and knowledgeable French maître d'hôtel Mattieu were perfect. A fantastic meal.
In a world where service is increasingly bland, the Twelve stood out. Every member of staff was friendly and authentic in different ways. There was nothing forced or artificial in their conversation or manner.
The Twelve has cunningly managed ~to position itself to cater for locals as well as visitors from further afield. Those from outside Galway seemed to be a mix from Dublin, Britain and Germany. There were no achingly trendy people on display, just happy couples and a few families determined to enjoy themselves.
DESCRIBE THE HOTEL IN FOUR WORDS
Exceptional staff and food.
It was impossible to avoid consuming too many calories.
WOULD YOU GO BACK?
In the blink of an eye. This is a great hotel for a weekend of relaxation or for using as a base for exploring Galway and Connemara.