When I told Irish friends I was reviewing The Shelbourne hotel, it was met with raised eyebrows and nods of approvals. I’d probably meet a Hollywood star of some sort, or perhaps a president, I was told. My cousin described it as Dublin’s answer to the Ritz, and regaled me with tales of late nights in the hotel’s bars.
What I’m trying to say is that The Shelbourne has a reputation. It’s the Grand Dame of the Dublin hotel scene, infamous for its discreet hospitality and it’s 200 year heritage. This year in particular, the hotel’s heritage comes into focus as the Constitution of the Irish Free State was written and signed in The Shelbourne 100 years ago. Given the chance to head to my favourite city and check out The Shelbourne I jumped at the chance.
This stay was organised by Marriott, so many thanks to Hannah and the team for accommodating me.
Location and area
The Shelbourne is as central as you can get in Dublin. Facing St Stephen’s Green, a 5-minute walk from Grafton Street and Templebar, the hotel is well located for many popular Dublin sights.
The Shelbourne has a traditional red brick 19th century frontage, with helpful top-hatted doormen and an old-fashioned wood panelled revolving door. There is an accessible lift entrance to the left and a wide door suitable for prams on the right.
The hotel lobby isn’t huge but has an impact none the less, all towering pillars of marble, large floral displays and with a dark wood staircase rising over the entrance the hotel’s flagship restaurant, The Saddle Room. Two bars and a large lounge area flank the lobby.
Reception is not housed in the lobby but further back in the hotel, and was easy to find. The bars and restaurants of the Shelbourne are popular with non-residents, so it does make sense to keep the reception away from these busy social spaces.
The reception area was pretty quiet when we arrived and I was immediately assisted by a helpful member of staff. Check-in was quick and we were shown to a keycard operated lift and told how to find our room.
Bedrooms at The Shelbourne
The bedroom I was given was in a prime position at the front of the hotel overlooking the park. This was a Heritage Park View room, one of the top room categories before suites, and is quite a bit bigger than the standard rooms at the Shelbourne – do look at the sq m figures on the website before you book.
There is a small entrance space as you immediately enter, with a useful triple wardrobe. It had plenty of room for hanging clothes and also housed the minibar, along with useful things like an ironing board and the essential for any trip to Dublin – a large umbrella.
There’s also a chest of drawers with a nespresso machine, small kettle and glasses.
This entrance space actually ended up being very useful as in addition to being a good place to leave the pram, we also set up our daughter’s cot here so she had a nice dark space to sleep in. For non-families, the space would mean plenty of space for luggage storage.
The main room had a rather serene feel to it, with lots of calming blue colours and plenty of space. The style was very much luxe Irish heritage hotel – nothing too contemporary and plenty of nods to the hotel’s rich past.
The bed was a king size, with decent-sized bedside tables and the option of soft lamp lights either side, or reading lights. Mattress and pillows were as plush and comfortable as you would expect from a 5* hotel and a flatscreen TV was wall-mounted opposite the bed.
There wasn’t great access to anywhere to plug your phone directly by the bed, which was slightly annoying, but you could unplug a lamp for this if needed.
There was a very good desk with a decent chair and plenty of room to set up a laptop. This space did have lots of socket points, including standalone USB sockets. There was a large radio/CD player/speaker on the desk however, and I find these surprising to still find in hotels. They take up unnecessary room and there are plenty of smaller, more effective speakers available.
Two armchairs either side of the window made for a lovely spot to enjoy a cup of tea whilst looking out at people coming and going from the park. Despite it being a busy road, there was very little traffic noise.
My only minor issue in our stay was how long we had to wait for housekeeping assistance. We had requested a travel cot which wasn’t there on arrival. This is absolutely fine, but I had to call a few times over several hours before it was delivered. The lovely gentleman who came with the cot was very apologetic and was clearly working very hard. I had been told the hotel was at full capacity and whilst I couldn’t have faulted any other service level, there may be some need for additional staff in the housekeeping department.
I was tempted to name this review ‘A loo with a view’ because the bathroom layout means the toilet is separated and has a delightful view of the park. I personally would prefer a view from the bath, but it was actually a fun little quirk.
The bath itself was short but deep, tucked next to a powerful shower, all encased in streaked black and white marble.
Elemis products were found throughout, with large refillable bottles in the shower and ample extra mini bottles and vanity kits too.
The sink area was the most usable space I’ve experienced in recent hotel stays. Tons of places to store multiple washbags, a separate mirror for close-up use and lots of usable ‘workspace’ too. There was just the one sink and I know some HfP readers prefer double sinks, but the ample space and storage compensated for this in my opinion.
Dining and drinking at The Shelbourne
We decided to get our daughter some dinner in the No.27, The Shelbourne bar, as they offered us a kids’ menu. Despite the fact that it was 5.30pm on a Friday and the No.27 bar is a popular spot for after work drinks, the staff welcomed us in. My husband and I had a drink whilst our daughter had some tasty chicken which was frankly wasted on a toddler who thinks a banana is as good as it gets.
One unexpected surprise was that at 18.24pm every Friday, the hotel’s sommelier sabres open a bottle of champagne in the No.27 bar to mark the start of the weekend. This is done with a lot of fanfare and excitement and it really set the tone for the evening and the weekend ahead.
Once we’d packed our daughter off to bed (with a babysitter) my husband and I went for dinner at The Saddle Room.
The Saddle Room is classic fine dining, with lots of classics like Supreme of Chicken and beef fillet on the menu. However, expectations are high when chefs tackle such menus and thankfully the food matched the expectations.
I loved the starter I had of burrata with tomatoes, a classic pairing but it came with a delicious nigella seed encrusted cracker which gave the dish a really interesting twist. I followed up with a wild mushroom risotto, which was also very good.
Here’s the salmon tartare starter my husband enjoyed.
My dessert was a pistachio and chocolate mousse gateaux.
Of course, I felt it my duty to try a cocktail so I sampled the hotel’s ‘Grand Dame’ – a fruity champagne concoction and my husband had ‘Shelbourne Bramble’. There was also an extensive wine list.
The one thing I found slightly odd about The Saddle Room is that a lot of it is windowless. There is a nice section at the back of the restaurant with windows, but the entrance and main restaurant is essentially in the centre of the hotel. It doesn’t really matter, and in the evening, this contributes to an intimacy about the restaurant, with lots of nooks and quiet corners. It’s definitely a restaurant ideal for confidential business deals and romantic trysts.
The Saddle Room is also where breakfast is hosted and if I was travelling sans child, I’d have opted for the bright windowed room at the back of the restaurant. However, the interior booth where we were seated was ideal for a small family as we had minimal impact on the other guests and there was no one to judge when our child ate a ramekin of butter without us realising.
Breakfast was a very good buffet, well laid out around the open kitchen. There was an array of the usual hot foods – bacon, eggs (scrambled and poached), sausages, black pudding and white pudding. A menu of made-to-order breakfast options such as eggs benedict was also available.
There was a good selection of fruit, cereals and pastries. I liked that there were bagels with fresh smoked salmon you could assemble yourself.
In addition to the No. 27 Bar and The Saddle Room, there is the Lord Mayor’s Lounge and two late night bars – The 1824 bar and The Horseshoe Bar.
The Lord Mayor’s Lounge hosts afternoon tea, seemingly popular with well-heeled ladies of a certain age and elegant birthday and baby shower celebrations, but is also open to hotel residents in the mornings, with papers, self-serve coffee and tea and plush armchairs.
Pool and gym
The hotel has a private members health club which is available for residents to use, meaning the gym and pool are very well-equipped and immaculately maintained. Despite it being a Saturday when I visited, the pool and gym were virtually empty.
The pool is a decent size for a city-centre hotel and there’s a pleasant sauna and steam room too.
I liked how the gym was laid out in a sort of horseshoe overlooking the pool and it had plenty of machines and weights.
There’s also a spa, which looked very good but I didn’t try any treatments.
Whilst you are more likely to meet American tourists than a film star, The Shelbourne did live up to its reputation. The warm and welcoming service, the quality of the food, and the atmosphere in the bars means that it deserves its status.
Visiting a hotel when it is at max capacity is a good test of the service standard, reviewer or not, and cracks would show if the hotel were anything but a well-oiled machine. I found everything to run very smoothly, with the exception of the missing cot.
The hotel is available to book here through the Marriott website. A standard room for a Saturday night in Spring starts around €350 although a larger rooms like ours will be nearer €500.
Redemptions are around 64,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when the cash rate is €350 which is close to our ‘fair value’ of 0.5p per Bonvoy point but arguably a bit weak. It seems that both ‘Guest Rooms’ and ‘Smaller Guest Rooms’ can be booked on points for the same price – try to avoid the latter as they are very small indeed. This is not one of the Bonvoy hotels that lets you book premium rooms on points for a cash co-pay.
Thank you again to everyone at The Shelbourne for our stay and to Marriott for the invitation to visit.
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards (January 2023)
There are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.
The official Marriott Bonvoy American Express card comes with 20,000 points for signing up, 2 points for every £1 you spend and 15 elite night credits per year.
You can apply here.
You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points by converting American Express Membership Rewards points at the rate of 2:3.
Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for as long as they hold the card? It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Premium and MeliaRewards Gold status. We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.
You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points indirectly:
- American Express Gold (20,000 bonus Amex points)
- American Express Rewards Credit Card (10,000 bonus Amex points)
and for small business owners:
- American Express Business Gold (20,000 bonus Amex points)
- American Express Business Platinum (40,000 bonus Amex points)
The conversion rate from American Express to Marriott Bonvoy points is 2:3.
(Want to earn more hotel points? Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)