The River Lee, Cork: hotel and restaurant review
Experience the best of Ireland's larder in this luxury riverside hotel
Looking for Cork hotels? Want to know where to eat in the West Irish city? Read our review of this foodie hotel or check out more places to eat in Cork here.
The River Lee Hotel in a nutshell
A luxury riverside hotel in one of Ireland’s most food-centred cities that’s fresh from a glamorous makeover.
Doubles from £120, check availability at booking.com
Part of the swanky Doyle Collection, despite the slick modern exterior of this urban hotel, inside it’s a warm and friendly space, flooded with light from windows that frame the entire building. Even the lifts are glass-clad, giving the journey between the hotel’s five floors a Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator vibe. The marble-lined lobby leads into a comfy lounge and library area. Also on the ground floor, and with its own entrance, is the hotel’s new River Club, with a bar, the River Grill restaurant and a riverside terrace that’s everyone’s favourite spot in the warmer months. There’s also a 22-metre swimming pool and complimentary yoga, pilates and fitness classes.
Which room should I book at The River Lee Hotel?
The river-facing rooms are particularly pretty with views extending up past the Victorian buildings opposite to the rolling hills beyond. Bathrooms are fitted with both baths and walk-in showers and, fresh from a refurb, the cream and beige bedrooms come with large beds, crisp sheets, duck-down duvets and the odd pop of colour (in ours dark red velvet bucket chairs formed perfect perches for admiring the views; floor-to-ceiling windows give plenty of light and have twinkly views at night). Mini fridges are provided if you want to stock up on booze or edible goodies from the city’s English Market.
The food and drink
The Grill Room at the River Lee is a lovely grown-up space with curved leather banquettes, teal walls and cosy lighting. The menu is classic and hearty with Irish fish and meat taking centre stage. For starters, try the local mussels gently cooked in a Stonewall cider cream with spicy hits of Gubeen chorizo and harissa-grilled prawns (sweet and meaty with the harissa giving just a little background heat rather than great flames). Among the main courses we particularly loved a perfectly pink rack of lamb which came on a herby bed of fregola and peas and was a lovely balance of richness and light. A word of warning though - try to hold off eating all the delicious bread served with the starters if you don’t have a huge appetite; portions are very generous here. The bar is an equally swish space with peacock blue leather sofas and a huge mirrored bar with art deco styling. Cocktails are well-crafted and pack a punch with some very inventive ingredients. A twist on a white Negroni even had a shot of poitin – not the infamous moonshine variety but a sought-after small batch spirit made by Two Trees distillery in West Cork.
Breakfast at the River Lee is lavish. Among a huge buffet selection - alongside the customary juices, pastries and cereals - are homemade soda breads, Guinness breads and banana breads as well as platters of Irish meats and cheese (including Gubeen salami and Tipperary brie). Pride of place among a pretty display of local jams and honeys (the rhubarb and ginger jam is particularly good) is a whole fresh honeycomb, ready to be scooped onto hot porridge or toast. Guests are also offered a hot breakfast menu, cooked to order: try the indulgent Eggs Royale - toasted muffins piled with smoked Ballycotton salmon, Riverview eggs and a rich hollandaise or, if you want something a little lighter, the Wellness Breakfast Bowl of quinoa, avocado broccoli, poached egg and herby dressing.
What else can foodies do?
Cork is one of Ireland’s best foodie hot spots. Just across the bridge from the hotel is one of the country’s most famous restaurants, Café Paradiso. Walk 10 minutes into the city and you’ll find the famous English Market, a covered warren of brilliant Irish food and drink producers. For more great places to eat and drink in the city, and in the wider region, check out our guide to the best of Cork food and drink here.
Is it family-friendly?
It is. The River Lee offers bespoke Family Packages with passes to local attractions such as the Fota Wildlfe Park and Rumley Open Farm. Cots are available on request and family bedrooms mean that under-12s can share their parents’ room. The hotel also serves a children’s food menu, and kid’s activity packs are given to younger guests.
Grab a window-seat in the bar at sunset and watch the city turn twinkly with an expertly-made cocktail – the Espress O’ Martini, a smooth mix of Kalak Irish Vodka, Black Twist Coffee Liquer and espresso makes a perfect after-dinner drink.
Words by Janine Ratcliffe