Water proclaimed to be the purest on earth is to be offered to guests at a top Belfast hotel, as long as they are willing to splash out almost £30 for a bottle.
The Merchant Hotel prides itself on its expensive tastes, having previously earned a world record for the most costly cocktail at £750, and its new water menu reinforces that reputation.
The priciest product among 13 bottled waters on offer is sourced from glacial walls in the Canadian Arctic. For a 750ml bottle, diners will need to stump up £26.45.
The lowest cost item on the list is not quite so hard on the wallet, at £4.95.
The Merchant, which has insisted a glass of “Belfast water” from the tap will still be free of charge, has appointed two “water butlers” to help guests choose the product that is apparently right for their palate.
The waters are being supplied by Aqua Amore, a specialist in sourcing premium waters from around the world.
Michael Tanousis, Aqua Amore’s managing director, defended the cost of the top-end products as he attended the menu launch. He highlighted the complex process of extracting the water from the glaciers.
“We live in a sophisticated society which gives people the opportunity to spend their money as they see fit,” he said.
Mr Tanousis said diners at a five-star restaurant wanted to indulge in different experiences to those on offer at other food outlets.
And he stressed the Merchant was not expecting everyone to buy the most expensive water.
“But the fact they do have products that are certainly exclusive or rare demonstrates their intention to offer customers the ability to experience something they wouldn’t commonly find,” he said.
Gavin Carroll, general manager of the Merchant, said: “Just like wine, the location where water is produced will impact on its taste and flavour.
“Whilst experts can differentiate between the mineral content and PH balance of different types of water, discerning consumers are also increasingly demanding a wider choice of waters.
“The ethos behind the new water menu is to allow our guests to have the chance and choice to curate their own bespoke food and beverage experience.
“Of course, we know these luxury waters won’t be to everyone’s taste and new menu will be offered as an additional option to our current water menu that includes local Irish brands and for those that don’t want to splash out on water, we can still offer a glass of ‘Belfast water’, free of charge.”