AFTER a rather bumpy flight thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo, we arrived in the city centre, a short bus journey from George Best Belfast City Airport.
The Fitzwilliam Hotel is just round the corner from the bus station, and with iconic neighbours like the Grand Opera House and the Crown Liquor Saloon, it’s very easy to find. The double height lobby is an inviting space with a contemporary yet cosy fire and an array of sumptuous armchairs. It’s an ideal setting for their afternoon tea and a welcoming introduction to the hotel’s designer style.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
The Fitzwilliam has 130 guest rooms in four different styles, plus a penthouse if you are feeling particularly flush. It’s a stunning five-star city centre hotel, but with the privacy and relaxed environment you would find at home.
Once we had negotiated the rather dimly lit corridor we had the pleasure of staying in an Executive room on the 8th floor. It was light and spacious with windows running the full length to make the most of the city view. A black and green colour palette flowed throughout the open plan space and lights suspended from the ceiling at all corners of the bed made that an impressive centrepiece.
The bathroom area featured elaborate black and white mosaic tiling with dual sinks and an elegant freestanding bath. The White Company Noir toiletries and a generous supply of white towels continued the monochrome theme. The wet room, complete with not one, but two sunflower showers was bigger than our kitchen at home. All the usual hotel room facilities were to hand, along with coffee table books on Belfast’s history for our perusal.
WINING AND DINING
In the restaurant on the first floor you can enjoy a hearty full Irish breakfast, but in the evening it is the ideal spot for a cosy dinner for two, with private booths and trendy red leather seating. My spicy pumpkin soup was perfect on a cold autumnal evening, whilst my other half’s crispy fried goats’ cheese with beetroot and an apple and hazelnut dressing was demolished in seconds. For our main course, I happily tucked in to a very tender duck leg with indulgently creamy mashed potato, and Mr T was delighted with his choice of gnocchi in a garlic and rosemary cream.
Now, when it comes to dessert, Mr T and I like to think of ourselves as pudding connoisseurs, but we weren’t disappointed with his sticky toffee pudding and banana ice cream. The best we’ve ever tasted, and we’ve tried many. My Baileys cheesecake was surprisingly light, but the accompanying chocolate sauce wasn’t quite to my taste – I began to wish I’d had a sticky toffee pudding of my own. We followed our meal with a drink in the bar, which, like the restaurant had a warm, contemporary feel and the prices were reasonable.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
The Fitzwilliam is just a few minutes’ walk from where the hop-on, hop-off bus tours start their route. It’s the perfect way to explore the sights of Belfast, especially if you are only there for a short trip. It is worth getting off at the Titanic Belfast, an award-winning museum telling the story of the fateful vessel and the shipbuilding industry of the city. The city centre is a fantastic place for shopping, with all the major high street names in and around Victoria Square.
We also enjoyed ambling around St George’s market, 250 stalls selling food, craft and antiques from Friday to Sunday, all just ten minutes from the hotel.
Our top-hatted concierge, Phillip, escorted us to our room and was very informative, full of ideas for things to do and places to see during our visit. The concierge team can take care of any tickets for shows or tours you may wish to enjoy. As a welcome treat there was a trio of delicious desserts waiting in our room and the tea light candles and matches near the bath and bedside were a nice touch.
A stylish and intimate place to unwind in a prime location. The staff are attentive without being overbearing and the restaurant is superb.
• Room prices vary; the Fully Flexible Rate with breakfast starts from £135 per night