“ Address: 35-39 Waring St / Belfast / BT1 2DY / Northern Ireland „
We stayed in the newly completed part of the hotel in September and as I have frequented the hotel a number of times before I was looking forward to seeing what the new extension had to offer. Unfortunately what I experienced has meant I would be very reluctant to stay here again.
Check in went smoothly and we were shown to our room which was decorated in an impressive art deco style. Overall the room was nicely decorated though I feel the room service menu in terms of price and the quality of the food we ate let it down slightly.
The major problem came when we used the valet parking service (£15 a night). Unfortunately very shortly after my car was returned I noticed some visible scratches on the back bumper of my car. I spoke to someone at the hotel to raise the matter and was informed someone more senior would be in touch. Later that day I received a voicemail from a member of staff and was advised to send photos of the damage. I took some photos of the damage and emailed them to the hotel. I spoke to someone at the hotel at that point who assured me there would be a full investigation into how the damage had occurred which would involve speaking to the staff who dealt with the car and checking CCTV.
I heard nothing more from the hotel until about a week and a half after the incident when I received an email stating that all reception and concierge staff who were on duty on the weekend of my stay had been spoken to and the hotel was confident that the damage to my vehicle was not as a result of any fault on the part of any of their employees and that the hotel was therefore unable to accept liability. I was obviously disappointed with the response and the fact that no one had contacted me by phone to let me know. I was also very surprised that there was no mention of the CCTV I had previously been told about so responded asking to view the footage only to be told that there was none. Again I was surprised and asked that someone ring me to discuss this.
I received a phone call from another member of staff about the matter. I was told there was "miscommunication" about the CCTV and that only CCTV from outside the hotel existed and not in the car park. I was told this CCTV had been checked but was on a rolling loop. Staff had been asked about the matter and no one admitted to causing any damage. I was assured that the staff drive a Rolls Royce (?) and so are very careful. According to this member of staff only one other car had been damaged in their care before and the staff member who caused the damage had admitted it at the time. It was made clear that the hotel fully trust in their staff's integrity.
Unfortunately I don't.
I feel the way the matter was handled was disappointing overall. I find it very odd that any business can offer such a service and not have a better system in place for this sort of issue. To use this service, it seems you must place all your trust in the driver(s) and rely on them alerting you to any damage they cause and if you have a problem it is literally your word against theirs. And from what I have seen, the customer certainly is not always right.
All in all I feel very let down by somewhere I had previously regarded quite highly and had regularly recommended to friends and colleagues. I will certainly never use their valet parking again and would recommend anyone who does so really does it entirely at their own risk.
The Merchant Hotel Belfast is a luxurious 5 star hotel, situated on Waring Street in the historical and now very much up and coming, rejuvenated Cathedral Quarter of Belfast's city centre. The Hotel opened for business if I remember correctly towards the end of 2005. I actually worked in the building next to it for a few years with the window of my office facing into it so I was able to watch it transform bit by bit from being the derelict, former Ulster Bank building into the exclusive and popular hotel it is today.
As I said above the hotel was purpose built as the Headquarters of the Ulster Bank building and was built about 150 years ago making it a listed property. When the Ulster Bank moved out of it it lay empty for several years but has since been sensitively restored to its original splendour and is now regarded as one of the top hotels in Northern Ireland.
The building is a kind of Italian style. Its stunning, classically styled interiors reflect the remarkable heritage of the building. Sculptures around the huge dome inside symbolise Science, Poetry, Sculpture and Music. It is below this dome that diners enjoy the exceptional Great Room Restaurant for daytime and evening à la carte dining, and traditional afternoon teas.
Waring Street in which it is located derives its name from a successful local merchant William Waring. Apparently the area is where a lot of Merchants lived and the building next to the hotel in which I worked is also a listed building which was once the house of a Merchant - rumour has it his daughter killed herself in her bedroom which was my office but there was no sign of any ghosts!
Anyway, back to the hotel! The exterior of the building is also Italian in style, and has sculptures along the top of it which depict Commerce, Justice and Britannia. There are also four Corinthian columns which feature plump cherubs depicting science, painting, scripture and music.
The Merchant Hotel is conveniently located in the city centre just 4.5 miles from Belfast City Airport. VIP transfers can be pre-arranged using The Merchant Chauffeur Services, while valet parking is available for residents. It is extremely handy to all of Belfast City Centre's shops, bars and restaurants and tourist activities making it suitable for tourists and those on business.
The Cathedral Quarter in which the hotel is located is an area which was historically very vibrant and cultural but then during the past several decaded - probably throughout all of the troubles and even before then it became a very run down and delapidated area with derelict buildings, no offices, hotels, bars, restaurants or anyone really living in the area. It is only over the past 5 or 6 years that the area is beginning to rapidly transform and is now becoming one of the trendiest parts of Belfast with the aim of becoming a bit like Dublin's Temple Bar area. Opposite the Merchant Hotel is a tapas restaurant called Taps 2 which has a great atmosphere in the summer with seats out on the main square. Beside this is the Pothouse grill bar & nightclub which is a 3 story building with glass dancefloors so you can see everyone on the dance floor above/below. It gets it's name the Pothouse as when it was being built it was discovered that it was on the site of an ancient pottery factory. Further still, on the corner of Waring Street and Donegall Street you will find another historically significant site - The four corners, this being the point that all milestones out of Belfast were originally measured. Another new hotel has recently opened in this area two and there are also some other great bars and restaurants near by such as the Spaniard, Nick's Warehouse and The Duke of York bar.
There are 26 rooms in total including 5 suites. It is an expensive hotel but it is 5 Star and has the best of everything in it. All the guest rooms are have air conditioning, black out curtains, high speed wireless internet access, flat screen televisions and spacious en-suites. Typical cost is arounf £220 for a Deluxe Room or a Suite from £450 - all rates are per room. It may be best checking though to see when you are booking if there are any special rates or offers on and there does tend to be from time to time. I've also heard that the hotel as plans to expand with extra accommodation as the building behind it has recently been demolished and I believe the Merchant Hotel has bought it over to extend.
The hotel also has private meeting and dining rooms which can cater for up to 40 guests and can be customised as required. I used the meeting room once in a work capacity and it was very spacious and had all the necessary equipment etc.
The hotel provides a chauffeur service which isn't too common an offering in Belfast hotels! At a cost you can be chauffeur driven luxury in the Merchant Hotel's Bentley Arnage which is available for all types of occasions - VIP transfers, a days touring with a picnic - where you can actually choose your picnic through the hotel or it can be used as transport to a wedding or simply to come and pick you up and take you to The Merchant for a meal/drinks!
The prices for airport transfers with the service are £80 to Belfast International Airport or £45 to Belfast City airport. Personally i'd just take a taxi but maybe with a few more dooyoo reviews under my belt i'll be able to afford it one day!!
The Merchant Hotel restaurant is called The Great Room and is very exclusive and worth a visit for the decor and surroundings alone. The food is meant to be first class (and expensive) but unfortunately I haven't yet eaten in it myself but the reports I have heard to date have all been very good.
Within the main Merchant Hotel there are two bars - one is a cocktail bar which if off to the right hand side as you walk in through the entrance to the hotel. At night time the concierge on the front door will escort you to a seat in the cocktail bar but it is very much a seated bar so if it is busy, with no seats left you wont be permitted. The cocktails are excellent and cost on average about £8 each. The bar is also in the Guinness Book of records for having the most expensive cocktail. I can't remember off the top of my head how much it actually is but it's around about £500 and is that price because of the type of rum in it. Needless to say I don't think i'll ever be buying any but I think they have sold a few!
The second bar is off to the left hand side as you enter the hotel and is the private members/celebs/residents bar which is quieter than the cocktail bar, comfortable and also serves great cocktails. This is where a lot of celebs would do press conferences if they are staying in the hotel. My office looked into this bar so the girls in the office were loving it when it first opened and Fat Boy Slim was giving a press conference in the room to promote his concert and he made some reference to them waving out to him in his news conference. I've managed to wangle my way in to this bar a couple of times at night time. Sometimes if the main cocktail bar is full and you're a couple or in a small, mixed group then rather than turn you away they will let you into the private bar for drinks as long as it's only the Z List celebs about! Last time I was in it they offered to phone us a taxi at the end of the night and as there were none available they asked the barman to give us a lift home, which was quite random but handy!
The Hotel also has another bar/restaurant attached to it which is part of the hotel but the more relaxed, informal area called the Cloth Ear. This is quite a spacious bar though it can fill up surprisingly quickly at night time. I've eaten in here a couple of times and the food is general bar type food of burgers, chicken, pasta dishes etc and is kind of standard price for Belfast. This is quite a good bar to go to on a Friday/Saturday night with an average age group of about 25 onwards. It is very mixed with older and younger people. You would need to get there before about 10pm though if you don't want to queue to get in. Dress code can be strict enough too! They play some background music at night time but it's not too loud at all because the guest rooms are up above so they can't have much noise.
The Hotel also has a night club called Ollies which is based in what was once the Ulster Bank's vault. This is what's supposed to be one of Belfast's most exclusive night clubs. On a Saturday night it costs £10 to get in (which doesn't seem to be putting off the crowds in these credit crunch times) and you would probably need to get there before about 10.30am if you don't want to queue for too long. Sometimes I think they make a queue form for the hell of it - though it does tend to get packed! Friday night can get busy too and the entrance fee is about £7 though there is less of a queue to get in on a Friday night as it tends to fill up a bit later on. Ollies is pretty dark inside and quite easy to lose people in as it has many alcoves and different seating areas and corridors which can be disorientating the first couple of times that you go there...especially with a few drinks in you! The music is mainly all current chart type/dancey type so the dancefloor gets pretty packed. It can sometimes take a while getting served at the main bar but what many non regulars often don't realise is that there's a smaller bar hidden off to the left as you head towards the back of the night club near the toilets which is also busy but sometimes quicker for getting served at!
This hotel is definitely worth it's five star status. The service is good, the decor and surroundings very nice and the location is excellent. I would certainly recommend this hotel to someone wanting to stay somewhere for a special occasion or someone coming to visit Belfast for a weekend who has enough money to enjoy it and make the most of it! Even if you don't stay in the hotel it would be worthwhile checking out the bars/nightclub or restaurant in it.
Situated in the historical Cathedral Quarter of Belfast's city centre.