This review of the Dylan hotel in Dublin is taken from our latest guidebook, Mr & Mrs Smith: Hotel Collection – UK/Ireland Volume 2.
Dublin loves a tourist. I’ve never been to another city in the world where it’s so easy to partake of the local culture – by which I mean beer. A typical Dublin corner consists of several buildings, one of which is a pub. Next to this there will usually be another pub, which is adjacent to several more pubs. Once in a while, there is a building that sells food, but it’s not compulsory. ‘Now this,’ says Mrs Smith on our arrival, ‘is my kind of city.’
We were there to visit the Dylan, the latest addition to the city’s burgeoning boutique hotel canon. Heading to the hotel down the pretty Georgian streets of Dublin 4, we are struck by the urbane tranquillity of this upmarket enclave. (If you need a reference point, imagine a swanky North London district such as St John’s Wood, but with better bars and cooler locals, and you’ve got yourself a flavour of Dylan’s setting.) Although the hotel is just 10 minutes from the club-filled party zone that is Temple Bar in the city centre, the genteel Dublin neighbourhood that Dylan resides in is a perfect spot for a stealth-wealth boutique hotel.
In a country where millionaires are multiplying by the day and the rise in house prices makes other capitals’ property booms seem like small potatoes, there’s a growing demand for high-end getaways. When Ireland’s beautiful people need a place to spend their many Euros, Dylan is the town’s hottest spot. Further proof, if it were needed, that this hideaway is utterly power-player-friendly comes from frequent media reports that its watering hole is a magnet for visiting dignitaries looking for a discreet drink or two. (And there’s nothing like a Dylan – the
bar’s delicious signature cocktail – to accompany some circumspect people-watching when perched on one of those oh-so-plush bar stools. So delicious, it distracts us entirely from scoping the joint for famous folk.)
It’s clear that the staff, nattily turned out in chic black uniforms by trendy Dublin designer Leigh Tucker, take pride in this newly converted building, because as soon as we get there they offer us a personal tour of the ground floor. From the recently re-styled elderberry, amethyst and metallic hued restaurant and patriotically elegant library to the bar, with its myriad candles, super-slick brushed-metal fireplace, handmade pewter counter and huge, comfy chairs, this 19th-century townhouse is a symphony of grand design. Even us poor ostracised smokers are mollycoddled by the provision of an impressive outdoor terrace on which we’re free to indulge our filthy habit: always packed with locals, its shiny mushroom-shaped heaters and huge parasols keep us warm and dry – very civilised.
Our bedroom is no less impressive, with a low-slung, leather-lined bed, clad in Frette linen and surrounded by fabulously ostentatious lights; and above, as pointed out by a grinning Mrs Smith, a cheekily placed mirror on the ceiling. Which our porter catches her clocking with a wink. Great – now he thinks she’s a nymphomaniac. Only moments after the blushing lad has left us to our own devices, steam is billowing from the bathroom: Mrs Smith has gone straight to work filling up the tub. On adding the Etro toiletries, a gorgeously sweet-smelling lather forms that’s the perfect complement to some luxuriant double dipping. This hip city sanctuary is clearly pure aphrodisiac.
Dinner at the Dylan Restaurant proves historic. Frankly, with food this good and a telephone book-sized wine list to choose from, any sense of fiscal responsibility goes right out of the window. They say it’s the best wine list in Ireland and, as we look around at the appreciative patrons poring over the choices like Talmudic scholars, it is clear that we are in Dublin’s high temple of gastronomy. To relate a blow-by-blow account of our eating would bore, but highlights include some stuffed pigs’ trotters with boudin noir (posh black pudding, for the uninitiated); a zingingly fresh piece of halibut with a lobster sauce; and an exquisite chocolate fondant that makes Mrs Smith angry. ‘What seems to be the problem?’ I enquire sweetly. ‘I just know I’ll never eat dessert this good again,’ she says. Women are complicated creatures, right enough.
We venture out briefly to Café en Seine on Dawson Street, a decadent three-floor art deco bar, full of punters frugging wildly to cheesy pop classics. We also stick our heads into the cooler Octagon Bar, part of U2’s Clarence Hotel on the quayside. But our hotel is calling to us like one of Homer’s sirens. Let’s face it. If you’ve got a fantastic room overlooking a quiet green, and the whole place is suffused with playful, mood-enhancing lighting; and if the iPod is playing soft, sweet music in the background, there’s an ‘adult games’ pack in the minibar, a customised memory-foam bed, and a bottle of Chablis chilling away in an ice bucket – the smart choice is to make the most of things. And, as for that telephone ringing the next day to let you know you’re an hour late for check-out… Surely the understanding staff at this fine hotel knows that dilly-dallying at Dylan is definitely de rigueur?