It Just Blu Me Away
A GIRLS' weekend away was on the cards for months. Time for me (and a willing buddy) to ditch the husbands and the childers, hit the motorway, fork out for the tolls and head to the big smoke. Our check list: shoe shopping, a concert in the O2, plenty of pubs and lots of lie ins. Dublin, here we come.FIRST IMPRESSIONS We couldn't find it. How provincial are we We had to ring the hotel to ask for directions. Once we got there, thanks to a very patient Adam on the other end of the line, it was all good. The Radisson Blu Royal Hotel is an excellent example of how sleek lines and muted colours can merge with luxury to ensure a memorable night's stay.Located in the heart of Dublin city centre, at the crossroads of Golden Lane and Chancery Lane, near St Stephen's Green, the Temple Bar and St Patrick's Cathedral, it is within walking distance of Merrion Square, Dame Street, and Dublin City Hall. After getting a wee bit misplaced, we parked at the hotel's secure car park with indoor parking spots. On arrival at reception we were greeted by smiling, friendly staff, it makes such a nice first impression. Efficient check-in, and we requested a deferred check-out which was approved (score). The lobby of this contemporary property on the south side of the River Liffey is impressive - the dÃ©cor is cool and modern and with floor to ceiling windows, we felt it was a suitably dramatic backdrop for our girlie break.THE ROOM Our room had the usual offers what you'd expect from a four star - complimentary internet access, 24 hour room service, mini bar, Pay TV, iron/ironing board, trouser press and express laundry service. If you're lucky enough to get a junior suite (smiley face moi) expect a flat screen TV, muted tones, lit up wardrobe, king size bed, well-lit bathroom with mammoth mirrors and a rainforest walk-in shower. You can wind down in the large bath while watching the built-in bathroom TV. Child-free, this is total decadence. But the Nespresso coffee machine was my favourite touch. THE FOOD Verres En Vers, a traditional-style French Brasserie, lived up to its name with fresh food using local ingredients with a French twist. The Vintage Room nestles under a marble staircase where we chilled out a bit, an impressive drinks menu offered vintage whiskeys, French wines, Champagnes, aperitifs and digestives. But we were feeling a Carrie Bradshaw vibe so tucked into two Cosmos. A zesty must for any young(ish) go-getters out on the town. One was enough though. From the dÃ©cor, to the food, it's the type of place you'd seek out any night of the week. There wasn't much of a buzz there, atmosphere-wise, but I put that down to our early booking than anything else. I opted for Tempura of Sole as my starter, which was a delectable pepper and chilli jam with crispy vegetables, and my main - Occitan-style prawn hot pot - reminding me of Betty from Coronation Street's famous hot pot - was exceptional with red rice and pickled walnuts. The crusty bread with a roasted head of garlic was wonderfully simple. Verres En Vers head chef, Maria Czerwinska, deserves her Radisson Blu Chef of the Year crown.If we ever get more of a gang to come up, The O Bar would be ideal for a private party and reminded me of the inside of a whiskey cask with a black mosaic floor and bee hive lighting, adding a secretive glow to this intimate hideaway. Breakfast was great, freshly cooked to order with a relaxing ambience and served until 11:30am. Which helped with the lie-in part of our check list. WHAT TO DO Taxis are usually out the front, if not, reception staff are more than happy to call one for you, (Thank you, Adam). The O2 is less than a tenner fare away in a cab and we walked back easy enough, high heels and all. Additional points of interest include Dublin Tourism Centre (www.visitdublin.com) and The Convention Centre, Dublin (www.theccd.ie). If you're more of a culture vulture, you can reach Trinity College (www.tcd.ie) and Dublin Castle (www.dublincastle.ie) on foot from the Radisson Blu. We were in need of retail therapy and where else would we be going only Grafton Street. Everything you'd want but if you fancy even more of a blast of labels, head to the Powerscourt Centre.The hotel is surrounded by a wide range of attractions, including Guinness Storehouse (www.guinness-storehouse.com), Temple Bar and Christchurch Cathedral (www.christchurchdublin.ie). Lunch at Brasserie Sixty6, on South Great Georges Street is recommended (www.brasseriesixty6.com). We ambled in there for Sunday brunch, there was jazz in the corner and Designist next door for browsing after. The food was fabulous. THE BOTTOM LINE The Radisson Blu offers a standard room from â¬140 and a junior suite from â¬220 B&B. Starter and main course in the restaurant are â¬20 - well worth it. www.radissonblu.ie or 01-898 2900 for more info. ANYTHING TO ADD We had a nose around and, as well as a large ballroom, the landscaped roof top terrace with features modestly resembling The Burren is an ideal setting for a BBQ.One can dream. There's also an executive meeting room and bar with wrap around balconies on the 7th floor boasting panoramic views of Dublin city. Gym fanatics be warned - there's nowhere to work up a sweat here, but guests do have free access to a local gym a short walk away.