We’re going to start this review off a little differently, never in our lifetime has having good air conditioning been so important as the past few weeks, with record temperatures hitting the thirties.
As we pulled up to the very handy valet parking just outside Belfast’s chic, five star Fitzwilliam Hotel and exited our car into the almost sub Saharan, balminess that hung over the city that weekend and entered the slick and most importantly cool lobby we felt more like we had landed in Ibiza than central Belfast city.
Situated next door to the iconic Great Opera House on Great Victoria Street, the Fitzwilliam is an ideal base for weary travellers who enjoy boutique luxury in the heart of the city. We have stayed here many times in the past and the location and lack of stuffiness are two things that keep us coming back.
However on this occasion the hotel had been going though some updating and extending although it has to be said we were fairly oblivious to any renovations being carried out. According to GM Cian Landers, who we spoke to on our departure, most of the hotel rooms have under gone subtle restyling, keeping the fresh, contemporary vibe they have become well known for.
In addition to this, Landers informed us that by the end of the summer, Belfast will have one of the most enviable two bedroom penthouses this city has ever seen. 180 degree views of the city and a baby grand piano will make it ideal for after parties or exclusive private events. All going to plan this should be available to book by the end of August, bagsie the baby grand!
But first things first, heatwaves mean cocktails so we checked out the hotel bar and sipped on a decent Cosmo until our room was ready, the Fitzwilliam has long been known as an excellent spot for a pre theatre tipple and with good reason.
Rooms are ultra contemporary with fully loaded mini bars, Bose speaker systems and a quirky little welcome pack including a “wee” deck of cards should the mood take you. Ours was a junior suite with fantastic views of the Bell Tower opposite, the suites are spacious and well laid out with the option of unfolding bathroom doors for the romantics in us who would rather bathe with panoramic views and some cute little tea lights (also supplied).
Unsurprisingly the Fitzwilliam is popular with corporate guests but on the Friday we stayed the lobby was awash with leisure travellers and it is easy to see why, it is merely a stone’s throw from the city’s best shopping, bars and indeed restaurants.
Our package included dinner in the restaurant, a modern Scandi inspired dining space and news of a new head chef had our hopes high for a memorable experience. A popular space for the pre theatre crowd, it can be a busy little spot but on this occasion we had our choice of tables.
We kicked off our evening with a bottle of organic Fouassier Sancerre, although a small list for five star it had to be said there is a good spread of varietals and they should be commended for their modest pricing (take note five stars down South).
Starters consisted of Cold Gazpacho of Crab Bisque, Compressed Watermelon, Kilkeel Crab and Caviar, a very decent opening act and we were pleased to see some provenance noted on the menus.
Our second starter however was probably the dish of the night, Pan Seared Sea Trout Fillet, Beetroot 3 Ways, Blackened Gooseberry – perfectly in season and a nice change from the boring salmon dishes we so often see listed in hotel dining rooms.
Mains were bountiful to say the least, first up a cracking (forgive the pun) Slow Cooked Balinlough Pork Belly, Hannan’s Sugar Pit Ham Hock Gratin, Cider Gel and Pickled Granny Smith and Charred Radicchio. A beautifully executed dish, any plate with Peter Hannan’s produce on it always has us singing its praises, as most chefs in these parts will tell you there not much effort required when working with meats of this calibre.
Across the table was a less exciting but none the less tasty Supreme of Free Range Irish Chicken, Confit Thigh Bon Bon, Pomme Anna Potato, with some tiny droplets of lovage emulsion. Chicken is never going to set the culinary world on fire but it did make an excellent pairing for our Sancerre.
We settled on sharing one dessert, a Strawberry and Raspberry Crème Patisserie Mille Feuille, before exploring all the nearby hotspots of the lively Cathedral Quarter – The Spaniard and Babel being two of our favourites.
“A night well spent brings a week of content” or so they say and a night in the Fitzwilliam’s king size beds certainly lend itself to one of the dreamiest nights sleep we’ve had in quite some time.
Breakfast consisted of a glutinous stack of pancakes smothered in syrup and a full Ulster fry up complete with the traditional Belfast potato farl to send us on our way.
The Fitzwiliam may have had some changes to its sophisticated decor but it still retains the warmth, hospitality and local charm that set it apart from every other venue in town.
Overnight B&B, with dinner for two starts from £237.00
The Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast
Great Victoria Street
T: +44 28 9044 2080|