The latest venture from Northern Irish hotel royalty, Hastings Hotels, Grand Central Belfast opened its doors in June 2018. The brand’s portfolio also includes the famous Europa Hotel (at one time the world’s most bombed), Culloden Estate and Spa and the Stormont Hotel, with this new offering the largest and most expensively constructed hotel project ever seen in Northern Ireland.
Where is it?
In the very heart of the city, close to Belfast’s main stations Great Victoria Street (six minutes’ walk) and Belfast Central (13 minutes’ walk). Belfast City airport is around 20 minutes’ drive.
What’s it like?
The sparkling glass-clad 23-storey Grand Central Hotel Belfast building, the tallest in Northern Ireland, has risen phoenix-like from what was a rather nondescript office block. The resulting structure could symbolise the city itself, on the up, newly glamorous and a lure to tourists/business people from around the world.
At the entrance top-hatted doormen cheerily greet guests and help haul bags out of taxis.
Once inside the look is equally as striking as outside. The ground and first floor are partially linked as one double-height space, with veined marble flooring gleaming under dramatic lighting and upholstered furniture in subtle metallic shades.
There are 300 rooms including ten suites, measuring from 25 sqm for an Executive to 77 sqm for the Sir William Hasting suite, named for the founder of the Hastings family business.
My room is on the 21st floor. There are six elevators to get to it, but I did find that it could be a tortuous getting up and down, as lifts serve every floor rather than alternate ones.
I’m in a Deluxe Double (29 sqm). Fabrics and furnishings are of an obvious high quality, with richly woven patterns and plush carpets.
Next to gain my attention is the view from the floor-to-ceiling windows, which sweep across Belfast and beyond to the green mountains that encircle it. Though furniture is dark wood and the fabrics rich, the scale of the windows keep the room bright and airy.
There are a couple of chairs with a small table positioned beside the window, a desk supplied with USB and AC power, a large wardrobe with iron and several drawers, plus a safe, while a kettle and coffee and tea sit in a mirrored alcove.
Beds are dubbed “Cloud Beds” by the hotel and they are undeniably comfortable, with goose feather and down duvets and pillows. Also adding to the comfort levels are towelling gowns and slippers. All rooms also have digital radio with Bluetooth, a 50-inch flatscreen TV, free wifi and air con.
The bathroom is extremely appealing. There’s a large tub, rainfall shower and vanity unit with well-lit mirror. My only complaint is that when my room was serviced the cleaner kept leaving the powerful handheld shower facing outwards so that when I opened the cubicle door and turned it on I was sprayed hard and fast slap in the face. ESPA toiletries made up for this indiscretion.
Food and drink
As I arrived around midday, I stopped for brunch in the elegant ground-floor Grand Café, which serves an all-day menu. As the name suggests, the mood and look are inspired by European Grand Cafés, with booths, banquette and table seating all adequately served with power sources, making it a great place for a spot of work or an informal meeting. Buttermilk waffles with smoked pork belly and maple syrup are absolutely not to be missed, nor is a delicious smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel.
Seahorse on the first floor comprises three stylish distinct spaces – a bar, lounge and the main restaurant – which had a relaxed yet lively atmosphere the night I dined there. The menu focuses on produce of Northern Irish provenance. I had whole roasted sole with jersey royals, capers, raisins and brown shrimp butter. Other options included beef wellington to share and steak with thick chips and bearnaise sauce.
An excellent breakfast is served here, too, featuring self-service fruit, cereal, porridge (with optional whisky), full Northern Irish breakfast (including white pudding), and delicious muffins. Afternoon tea is also available.
Topping things off, literally, is the Observatory on the 23rd floor. This rooftop bar, the highest in the city, is extremely swish with velvet-covered furniture in jewel-like shades. The appealing bar, lined with cut-crystal bottles filled with tinctures of intriguing hues, puts one in mind of alchemy. Skilled bar tenders are fun, whizzes at knocking up inventive yet delicious cocktails, whether from their original list or classics. A piano that once belonged to Sir William Hasting’s wife was being played on the night I visited.
Business needs are well catered for. Two meeting rooms, the Blackstaff and the Farset, seat 45 in theatre set-up. There are also two boardrooms and the Panorama suite – an 80-seat reception room.
There is currently no gym, though one is currently under construction and expected to open in autumn/winter of 2018.
Glamour meets comfort meets a warm welcome at this smart addition to the Belfast hotel scene. The location is great, with the city’s best areas for food, nightlife and culture on its doorstep, while the restaurant and bar options in the hotel are destinations in their own right.
- Best for The friendly, helpful staff definitely deserve a mention
- Don’t miss The Observatory bar on the 23rd floor
- Contact 9-15 Bedford Street, Belfast BT2 7FF; +44 (0)28 9023 1066; grandcentralhotelbelfast.com