Hotel review: You can shop in luxury at The Merchant of Belfast

Banks can be stressful places. Explanations of your overdraft, and the little black dress you simply have to buy, are not always agreed upon by the manager.

o, it was with the most wry smile when I arrived at the former headquarters of Ulster Bank to spend the night in what is now a five-star hotel. The Merchant Hotel has been in operation since 2006, housed in this ‘A’-listed historic building with an impressive façade overlooking Waring Street in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.

The the irony of coming to Belfast to pamper myself in the old home of the very banking institution that had me worrying about my finances in the 1990s only made this little passion all the sweeter.

Arrival & location

Arriving in Church Quarter, the hotel was easy to find and check-in at the front desk, located on Skipper Street, was quick and courteous.

The wait staff got me and my wheelie bag into my second-floor room within minutes, pointing out features, including spa and gym areas, along the way.

If you’re traveling from Dublin, the Enterprise train from Connolly Station will bring you to Lanyon Place, which is about 2km or 10 minutes by taxi (my fare was £5.60/€6.76) from the hotel. For an extra €10 each way you can treat yourself first class (be sure to book tickets online – I paid 59€ back, but it will cost €99 at the station). I arrived and found no first-class carriages on the 9:30 a.m. train, but the return journey went smoothly – although there was no catering on the train. 8/10

Service & Style

The historic building was upgraded with a £16.5 million / €19.9 million expansion in 2010, and visitors will find themselves squabbling between the two. For example, a night at The Great Room or The Cocktail Bar, with its quaint Baccarat chandeliers, could be followed by Bert’s Jazz Bar, which has a 1930s New York vibe, French bistro menu and live jazz seven nights a week etc. Sunday afternoons (there’s a £10/€12pp charge) on Friday and Saturday nights). There’s also a spa with Elemis and Voya treatments, a spa pool, a gym, and a rooftop hot tub with city views. 8/10


Art Deco bedroom at The Merchant Hotel


The bedrooms are Victorian style at the front of the house and Art Deco style at the extension. I found myself in one of the following – bright and spacious, the two white leather and steel armchairs are an homage to Bibendum by legendary Wexford-born interior designer Eileen Grey. While I suspect she might have groaned at the sight of the double-layered, metal-leather fronted dresser, it had ample hanging space, a robe, a good steam iron, an iron, dressing table with mirror and safe.

The walls are adorned with black-and-white fashion photographs and, while there’s a super-sized bed with an array of plump pillows, the bathroom itself really steals the show in Room 222. I asked for a room with a bathtub instead of just a shower. Yes, I’m one of those people who enjoys soaking in the tub during off-and-on good days, because The Merchant has a thing about bathtubs, too. A glass door leads to a turquoise marble bathroom with Art Deco chrome faucets, mirrors, fittings, and a generous sized freestanding tub. Over the next 20 hours, I showered no less than three times, and also used the marble walk-in shower, complete with seating. I went home shiny! 8/10

Food and drink

Dining alone can be difficult but, to be honest, I was looking forward to this experience because I had you-room. The Great Room is one of the most ornate, high-ceilinged dining rooms on the island, and the former bank lobby features four Corinthian columns framing Victorian interiors with fruit and frills, glass cabinets and giant chandeliers giant. I put on a Dries Van Noten yellow jacket that fits well. The diners around me were mostly couples and the noise from a group of people I couldn’t see but could certainly hear, didn’t last too long.

Conor, the assistant restaurant manager, guided me through the a la carte menu and I ordered a starter of local scallops, followed by an Irish Rossini beef fillet. Both are delicious, and I pair the beef with a glass of Côtes du Rhône Réserve Des Armoiries – one of the suggested pairings on the restaurant’s six-course tasting menu (€84pp plus €42pp for five wine pairings).

After a pause to digest (and admire a little more of the round, cherry-like shape in the ceiling), I ordered a selection of Irish and French cheeses with the right spices.

Breakfast the next morning was an opportunity to survey the Great Room in broad daylight and peruse the newspapers and magazines available via the QR code on the menu. Of course, I had the Ulster fried, complete with potato bread and soda Farl – but I did, I’ll confess, momentarily flirting with the idea of ​​that morning’s special order for an omelet with Parma ham and goat cheese. I don’t drive, so didn’t wait a second to order porridge served with Irish whiskey cream and honey. Totally yum. 8/10

Key point

This is a destination hotel and I’m sure there are guests who barely go out during their stay with all that is on offer. That said, I must say, Belfast is highly portable on foot. The shopping area around Victoria Square is a short stroll away and, if you’re considering retail therapy, check out the Anthropologie on Arthur Street, and for designer fashion, the Envoy of Belfast is a gem and located on Wellington Street near City Hall.

Insider tips

There are plant-based, dinner and lunch tasting menus as well as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and nut-free afternoon teas.

Local 101

Belfast is very walkable. Turn left from reception for a short walk to City Hall and shopping at Victoria Square.


The Spring Awakening deal features a B&B, a bottle of Prosecco and use of hydrotherapy areas from €125pp midweek or €192 on weekends. Bairbre is a hotel guest. Hotel review: You can shop in luxury at The Merchant of Belfast

Fry Electronics Team

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