Breaks: Morgan hotel an oasis in the heart of Dublin's lively Temple Bar district
Paul McConville sampled a city break in the heart of Dublin's Temple Bar district where, thanks to the swankily refurbished Morgan hotel, it wasn't all hustle and bustle
THE patience of saint is something to have in abundance if you are one of those tourists either naive or committed enough to want to take your companion’s photograph outside The Temple Bar pub right slap bang in the middle of the Dublin area of the same name.
The eponymous watering hole is something of a magnet for visitors from all over the world, but if you are perched on one side of the cobbled street hoping to snap a picture of your friend in front of it, you will have to contend with the stream of humanity flowing between you in both directions before grabbing your chance when there’s a rare lull.
Temple Bar still attracts visitors by the bucket load, but its reputation seems to have matured beyond a mere melting pot for stags and hens and those seeking the picture postcard image of the Oirish capital.
The stream was steady up and down Fleet Street when we checked in to The Morgan Hotel on a Tuesday afternoon. The Morgan has been the subject of a significant refurbishment for the best part of the past year and the result is a hotel which locks into the trend for luring the discerning city breaker.
Sophisticated and modern décor, attentive and professional staff; your stay may be brief but you are made feel immediately at home once you slip through the doors, away from the frantic bustle of Temple Bar. A welcome oasis of calm at the heart of one of Dublin’s liveliest thoroughfares, if you have a self-imposed mandate to up the chill levels, then The Morgan can oblige.
The rooms are brightly decorated with calm and soothing colours and are spacious, stylish and comfortable. Kicking back and relaxing is the only option available.
Of course, being in the heart of Dublin, boredom is one option forever unavailable to you and we spent the afternoon on a tour of the nearby Teeling Whiskey distillery. Situated in the Liberties area, once the epicentre of Ireland’s whiskey production, Teeling skilfully marries the traditional with the modern.
It’s relatively young in distilling terms, the current site only opening four or five years ago, but the tour is illuminating and fascinating, taking visitors on a journey through the distilling history of the city before focusing in on the vision and work of the Teeling family and their desire to bring the craft back to where it all began.
The imposing kettles and pots give you a glimpse of how the magic happens, but the key ingredient in whiskey is patience and even the time spent listening to the ultra-informative guide, as he admirably imparted the Teeling story to visitors from America, Spain, Brazil and Germany, was well spent as it gave us all a deeper appreciation of the little drams we ruminated on during the post-tour tasting session.
If neat whiskey isn’t your thing, the bar also conjures up some delicious whiskey cocktails too, which are dangerously drinkable.
Back at base and the twin selling points of the newly revamped Morgan are the cocktail bar and the restaurant.
A pre-dinner drink from the bar is a must, if only to witness the captivating theatrics of your refreshment being created. The Abbey, the Gaiety, the Gate and many more – there's no doubt that Dublin can put on a show and our barman on this particular evening was perfectly in tune with the city’s dramatic reputation.
The request of a gin and tonic from my wife was taken as something of blank canvas for him. He carefully crafted a drink which they could have cleared a space for in the National Gallery of Ireland just down the road.
I ordered off the bar’s menu of specials, opting for Fairytale of New York, which emerged from beneath a bell jar, surrounded in smoke as is if it were appearing on Stars In Their Eyes. “Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be an Old Fashioned but with bells on.”
The drinks were sipped as we awaited dinner, perusing a menu stuffed with a stunning array of seafood as well as other inviting dishes, made with locally sourced ingredients and presented with similar artistic flair to that effortlessly pulled off by our friend behind the bar.
I started with a melt-in-your mouth lobster and king prawn wonton while my indecision saw me plump for slow roast pork cheek and king scallops for a main. My attempt at getting the best of both worlds paid off as the pork and scallops both went down a treat.
My wife was expertly catered for by the restaurant’s vegan menu as well, enjoying a starter of stuffed baby peppers and a tasty main of caramelised celeriac and grilled fennel.
While a city break is often a chance to tune out and kick back, an unintended consequence can often be that you blow through your daily step target. Pounding the pavements is unavoidable in such an urban playground, but it’s refreshing to know that the Morgan can provide the kind of sophisticated relaxation your body and mind crave.