Rising majestically over the Belfast skyline, the eye-catching seahorse logos at the top of the new Grand Central Hotel certainly make a statement with a capital “S”.
So, when the opportunity arose to visit the Grand Central as a guest, it was one I certainly didn’t want to miss, even if it was only to find out what the seahorses were all about.
Stepping into the luxurious lobby on a busy Saturday afternoon, it would be easy to believe we were in Manhattan rather than Bedford Street. There’s a real cosmopolitan feel to this light and airy space, with a distinctly upscale but relaxed ambience.
After a swift check-in thanks to the efficient and friendly reception team, my husband and I were free to find out what the new Grand Central has to offer. It was, after all, promoted as “more than a hotel. It’s an ode to a city”.
It wasn’t long before we started to realise what incredible vision had gone in to the hotel’s creation.
This is the city’s second Grand Central Hotel, the original being an ornate five-storey establishment with a tall copper dome on Royal Avenue from 1893 to the 1970s, and which was demolished in 1985.
While the architecture and interior design of the new hotel is in a different league to its predecessor, there is more than a nod to the rich heritage of the past.
For example, a display of china from the original Grand Central has a fine pride of place on a wall in the new hotel’s first floor.
And little touches throughout the hotel pay tribute to Belfast’s history - from artwork in the Seahorse Restaurant to quotations on the walls of the escalators - all giving a real feel of pride in the city - past and present.
Our room - on the 19th floor - was quickly reached by one of the speedy elevators and within minutes we were gazing out over the expansive Belfast skyline.
There are 300 luxurious bedrooms and suites in the Grand Central and our accommodation was certainly a total oasis of calm way above the bustle of the city centre.
Beautifully decorated in soft shades of cream, grey and teal, our room was the perfect retreat from the busy streets below.
The room was fitted out with the very latest in entertainment home comforts, with a useful touch being an easily-available HDMI socket.
A huge and incredibly comfortable bed, with super soft high quality linen and throw, made sure that a great night’s sleep was ensured.
The elegant but practical bathroom, provided luxurious Espa toiletries and a nice touch was that the trademark Hastings duck had been swapped for a Grand Central seahorse.
Our room typified my impression of the entire hotel - it has been furnished to the highest of standards with top quality materials throughout and with a fine eye to design detail.
To be stunned even further make sure to take in a trip to The Observatory on the 23rd floor.
This certainly is a cocktail lounge with a difference - namely the jaw-droppingly spectacular and unique views over Belfast and beyond. A visit to The Observatory - the highest bar in all of Ireland - is well worth the experience and a real mix of stunning views and decadent decor. Seek out an Observatory host or ask at reception for details on how to access this unique venue.
For dinner we were booked in to the beautiful Seahorse Restaurant, just one of the dining choices in the Grand Central Hotel.
With its high ceilings and beautiful colour scheme, the Seahorse Restaurant is both perfect for intimate evening dining and morning breakfast.
At either time of day, a window seat is a great place to enjoy an unusual view of the streets below and make the dining experience all the more special.
Hastings Hotels’ chefs are renowned for their passion for carefully-selected and seasonal quality foods.
Our a la carte menu produced under the supervision of Grand Central’s Executive Head Chef Damian Tumilty proved to be both exceptional in quality and flavour.
I chose a Fig and Burrata Salad with truffle honey, candied walnuts and Serrano ham to start while my husband opted for Heritage Beetroot Salad, with goat’s cheese and walnut gralona.
We both chose salt aged sirloin steaks with Bearnaise sauce for our main course - expertly cooked to perfection.
My dessert of Lemon and Elderflower Posset was simply divine. My husband declared his Amarena Cherry and Almond Bakewell Tart one of his all-time favourites - and that’s saying something!
As Belfast’s newest luxury hotel, the Grand Central certainly shows not only confidence in Belfast’s future but also is proud to share the city’s past.
For more details on the Grand Central Hotel, or to book, go to www.grandcentralhotelbelfast.com or call 028 9023 1066.