The Merrion is Dublin's most exclusive luxury hotel, and has a convenient location across from the Government buildings in four 18th-century townhouses. It has fewer rooms than the nearby Shelbourne and feels more intimate and private, though its list of features is still extensive: The hotel has a full-service spa, lovely Roman-style indoor pool, and well-equipped fitness center. The impressive restaurant offering includes Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, the only restaurant in Ireland to receive two Michelin stars, as well as the casual and atmospheric Cellar Bar, housed in the original 18th century wine vaults. It's true that some rooms have unremarkable views of other buildings, the gym is a bit small, and not all rooms have iPod docks, but most will find little fault with this five-pearl gem.
An exclusive luxury hotel with first-rate service and a hushed atmosphere
Upon first glance, one might not guess that this unassuming row of four Georgian townhouses houses Dublin's most luxurious hotel. And because the block The Merrion sits on is dominated by the Edwardian Government Buildings, where Ireland's prime minister has his office, it's even more understandable that the hotel might get overlooked. But this only enhances The Merrion's appeal: The hotel is quietly exclusive and utterly discreet.
The nearby Shelbourne, by contrast, makes its icon status known. It has a grand entrance right on bustling St. Stephen's Green, a couple of hot spot bars, and a movie reel of the hotel's many famous guests playing on a wall in the lobby. The Merrion certainly sees its fair share of famous names, but the staff here won't name-drop (though it is public knowledge that Barack and Michelle Obama made The Merrion their home base when they visited Dublin in 2011). So while The Shelbourne may be a place to see and bee seen, The Merrion is a haven for public figures who value their privacy -- the Dublin media didn't even know the Obamas had been to the hotel until after they departed.
Several separate entrances contribute to the hotel's exclusive feel. Mornington House, the townhouse where the Penthouse Suite is located, has its own exit (which public figures such as Obama can make use of to avoid attention). The popular Cellar Bar and Cellar Restaurant draw plenty of loyal locals, but they are accessed through a separate door, which prevents overcrowding in the lobby.
One may expect a certain level of pretension from a hotel of this caliber, but at The Merrion, there's not a whiff of it. The service is truly first-class, and every guest -- whether notable or not -- is treated like a VIP. The fact that there are 275 staff members for a hotel with 142 rooms is telling of the level of personal attention guests should expect to receive.
The hotel's gracious Georgian interiors have classic details such as chandeliers, picture molding, elegant fireplaces, and gilded mirrors. The hotel's private collection of works by famous Irish artists is museum quality.
Convenient location near St. Stephen's Green and Trinity College
The Merrion Hotel is located across the street from the grand, Edwardian Government Buildings, where Ireland's Taoiseach (prime minister) has his office. This street gets far less foot traffic than the nearby St. Stephen's Green or Grafton Street, which makes it attractive for those who want to be within walking distance of tourist sights but removed from the crowds.
1-minute walk to the National Museum of Natural History
3-minute walk to St. Stephen's Green
6-minute walk to the National Museum of Archaeology
6-minute walk to the National Gallery of Ireland
10-minute walk to Trinity College and the Book of Kells
11-minute walk to Grafton Street, a popular shopping destination
20-minute walk or 7-minute drive to St. Patrick's Cathedral
21-minute walk or 5-minute drive to Christ Church Cathedral
8-minute drive to The Old Jameson Distillery
9-minute drive to Guinness Storehouse
13-minute drive to the Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison that's now a museum
Sophisticated, understated decor in keeping with the building's historic character
Rooms at The Merrion have classy decor that reflects the 18th-century Georgian history of the townhouses. Decor varies by room type, but most rooms have charming features such as crown molding, picture frame molding, delicate white wood furniture, and handsome cushioned armchairs. Italian marble bathrooms have bidets as well as separate showers and tubs.
Rooms are split between the contemporary garden wing and the main house, and most are decorated in soothing colors such as cream, gray, and slate blue. Rooms in the main house incorporate Irish fabrics (such as plaids or toiles), and some have original details such as marble fireplaces (now decorative) or Rococo plasterwork.
Italian marble bathrooms with separate showers and tubs
Excellent gourmet cuisine at the Michelin-starred Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Cellar Restaurant, and Cellar Bar
The Merrion's most famous restaurant offering is unquestionably Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, the only restaurant in Ireland to receive two Michelin stars. Prices are predictably high, and menu items change daily; sample dishes include pea tortellini with crispy chicken and roast duck breast with foie gras. An ornate private dining room (where many distinguished guests have dined over the years) is available.
The Cellar Restaurant, as the name suggests, is below ground, and has white tablecloths as well as a vaulted roof and thick arches. At dinnertime, low lighting and candles create a romantic ambiance. The breakfast (included in some rates) is also served here, and features fruit, cereals, yogurt, meats, cheeses, breads, an extensive selection of pastries; hot items can also be ordered. Two- and three-course prix fixe options are offered at lunch.
Cellar Bar is the most casual of the three options and has phenomenal ambiance, with stone and brick walls and brick vaulted ceilings. Tables are spread out between an assortment of different rooms (including tiny private nooks) which makes for an intimate feel. Though fish and chips are a staple, the food is a far cry from standard pub fare; the menu focuses on rustic dishes and the gourmet options may include chicken liver and foie gras parfait or garganelli pasta with braised rabbit. The Italian prosciutto plate is not to be missed.
The Executive Chef for Cellar Restaurant and Cellar Bar, Ed Cooney, goes to great lengths to include authentic ingredients on the menus. He studied salami making in Italy, and some of the salamis served are house-made; the hotel even offers a signature chocolate that he helped craft after studying with chocolatiers in France. Popular pantry items created in the Merrion kitchen -- such as jellies, chutneys, and of course, the chocolate -- are for sale through the hotel (and make great souvenirs).
The Garden Terrace, open in warm weather, serves a special salad menu. Afternoon tea can be served on the Terrace, in either of the drawing rooms, or in guest rooms.
The Merrion has two bars: the popular cellar bar, which has a loyal following of locals, and the clubby No. 23.
Cellar Bar is housed below ground in the original 18th century wine vaults, and has stone and brick walls, vaulted brick ceilings, candlelight, and tables set in multiple rooms and private nooks. The wine list is extensive, and the hotel even has its very own wine.
No. 23 has a gentleman's club atmosphere, with green walls, crown molding, gilded picture frames, and cream leather chairs. An extensive selection of whiskeys is offered at the wooden bar.