Mellow Elegance meets Contemporary
Ballsbridge is situated in Dublin 4, one of the city’s most prestigious addresses; otherwise known as the Embassy belt. It is only 10 minutes from city centre and Grafton Street and its upmarket shops and lively buskers. Ballsbridge epitomises the ideal leafy suburb and is adjacent to one of the city’s outstanding parks – Herbert Park with its 48 acres of green bliss. Being my old stomping ground growing up I know every inch of it from the tennis courts, duck pond, children’s playgrounds, bowling green, croquet lawn, sports pitches to the bandstand, which is visible from the nearby Herbert Park Hotel.
I was itching to stay in the Herbert Park Hotel for some time and just hadn’t had the chance as I live not too far away from it. However, this Christmas my house was full to overflowing so an ideal opportunity to leg it out for a bit of peace and respite. There are 153 bedrooms in this modern contemporary hotel, which opened in 1999. Its modern architecture, designed by O’Mahony Pike, is standing the test of time extremely well. The pointed triangular northern end affords a subtle edge to the building with its facade finish of lightweight prefabricated GRC. Its identity and presence with the nearby serpentine apartment block, promenade along the River Dodder and nearby Royal Dublin Society complex gives it a central position in its locale. Around the corner is the Aviva Stadium, a modern glazed architectural gem. A side entrance via a small bridge over the adjacent River Dodder is the main entrance for those arriving by car. The interior layout offers many of the bedrooms a view of Herbert Park with function rooms facing towards the street side. The open plan linear style reception and lobby area lead guests directly into a relaxing lounge and bar with extensive glazing. The main dining room almost nestles into the nearby Herbert Park.
Arriving via the underground car park brought us directly into the hotel lobby. Being full of Christmas decorations it was a capitivating vision; particularly those Nutcracker figures carefully placed and adding a real touch of glamour to what is really a tinsel time of the year. Iona, the Receptionist, was super efficient at check in and we were allocated Room 311; a room overlooking the park.
The Bedroom: The room was deliciously large with proper European style parquet flooring and a big rug. Yoga lovers would love this space. The decor was neutral and relaxing. Housekeeping was first class and there wasn’t a thing out of place. I noted that the phone had been cleaned (so often overlooked and yet so important for hygiene). I was impressed by the wooden hangers engraved with the name of the hotel – a good idea as people won’t take them and yet we all love a decent hanger that you don’t have to fiddle around with inserting into the little metal attachment! The bed was dressed with a white duvet and matching bed linen. The bathroom had very interesting wallpaper; its pattern resembling a geological design. My only quibble was the an old fashioned shower curtain surrounding the bath and shower. I loved the chairs in the room, which were a cross between art deco /contemporary/traditional with narrow wooden arms and tweed upholstery. The room also had a good ceiling height so no feeling of claustrophobia.
The Dining Room: There were few diners that evening so only tables along the side area of the lounge bar were open. This was a real conservatory feel to this space with its glazed roof dressed with a canopy. I opted for the Shrimp and Prawn Cocktail for starters, which was served with a pineapple salsa, quail egg and spicy Marie Rose sauce. For my main course I chose the Silver Hill Duck Leg Confit which was accompanied by streaky bacon and a white bean cassoulet. Both courses were cooked to my satisfaction. I am a believer that chefs deliver better food when less courses have to be prepared. The Herbert Park Hotel offers seven main course options, plenty of choice for even the fussiest of people. I also loved the little sign on the Menu indicating no speakers on mobiles. What a relief not to have to listen to other loud conversations. I wish more restaurants would take up this challenge.
As we meandered back to our room I was aware of how generous the hotel corridors were. I personally hate tight mean hotel corridors. I know it is a cost thing but the wear and tear with people bumping their cases off the walls will cost more in maintenance in the end; never mind the aesthetics and feeling of spaciousness that we all crave.
For breakfast the following morning we dined in the main dining room; the surrounding sides to this room having the canopy covering its partly glazed ceiling. I loved the wooden window blinds which gave diners a sense of privacy whilst still offering exquisite views of the Park. The breakfast buffet was excellent and well maintained. The tables for two were a good size with plenty of room for all the crockery without having to turn oneself into a waiter piling up used dishes to one side!
What stands out as special in The Herbert Park Hotel is the strong feeling of ownership that permeates through the building. It is owned by two Irish families and it is clear that they are hands on as regards the decor and support for their staff. They have shown great insight in bringing staff with them on their journey. Ewan Plenderleith, the hugely efficient General Manager, has been with them for over 17 years. He too has given room for personal growth with staff and the enthusiastic Egle Tamosauskaite, second in command, has been there over 14 years. This is what I yearn for in a hotel; continuity of excellence and service and the Herbert Park Hotel radiates this in abundance.