One hotel may be higher but they both stand tall in Belfast city

Belfast's Grand Central Hotel is beginning to create a stir in the city as opening day approaches
Belfast's Grand Central Hotel is beginning to create a stir in the city as opening day approaches

Cometh the hour, cometh the man as the old saying goes and this week, with the city visibly relaxing beneath unusually benevolent skies, the business desk set off for one historic Belfast hotel to, quite literally, get a taste of what seems certain to become another.

Standing tall on Great Victoria Street, the Europa earned its reputation throughout the Troubles as a symbol of indefatigability in the face of an ongoing terrorist campaign.

Ties were handed out as a token of a stay in the ‘World’s Most Bombed Hotel’ and it has been claimed that perhaps several glazing apprentices served the entirety of their time replacing the windows there, so often were they blown out.

Yet the hotel became a symbol of a Belfast that wasn’t about to give in and it still serves a vital role for tourism and business in the city.

But it’s about to be eclipsed, in height certainly, by the latest venture from the Hastings Hotel Group.

Due to open in less than a fortnight’s time, The Grand Central Hotel Belfast is by fair the most ambitious project the Hastings family has undertaken.

The £50 million-plus, 300 room hotel represents the family’s determination to create a truly international, but home-grown, hotel capable of going up against any of the international brands as Northern Ireland continues to grow.

At the moment, staff can barely get into the building for the 400 tradespeople fitting metres of carpet, thousands of lights, miles of cabling and everything that needs to the be in place and working perfectly before the first guests arrive in a little over a week.

They represent some of the most important players in the travel business and what they make of the Grand Central and the province as a whole is a vital part of the ongoing growth of the tourism industry.

In the meantime, general manager Stephen Meldrum is concentrating on welcoming all the staff required for front of house, service and housekeeping duties while executive head chef Damian Tumilty, whose delicious food we enjoyed on Wednesday is looking forward to completing his brigade and unpacking the pots and pans.

They’re firing up the main kitchen for the first time today, so spare them a thought as you settle into your weekend.