Looking for places to stay in Belfast? Want a luxury city centre hotel? Read our review of The Grand Central and book here.
The Grand Central in a nutshell
A large, luxury hotel in the heart of Belfast’s Linen Quarter. Expect panoramic views and Northern Ireland’s highest rooftop bar.
There’s a definite dose of NYC swank about The Grand Central, from the uniformed top-hatted doormen to the huge, high-ceilinged glass and marble lobby. Despite the grandeur, however, there’s plenty of cosy Irish charm.
Which room should I book at The Grand Central?
Pick a high floor for sweeping views of Belfast’s skyline (the bedrooms overlooking the City Hall are particularly impressive). Rooms are spacious, calm and luxuriously furnished with king-size King Koil Cloud beds, smart white linen, and thick, noise-cancelling carpets. The bathrooms are particularly swish with double sinks, freestanding baths, walk-in rainfall showers and toiletries by ESPA.
The food and drink
The Seahorse restaurant on the first floor is an airy space, with floor-to-ceiling glass flooding it with light by day, and the twinkle of city lights by night. The dinner menu is a celebration of Irish and European classics, with modern touches and delicate portions. Starters include sweet, caramelised scallops in a silky Jerusalem artichoke velouté, and a punchy black olive oil and whipped Fivemiletown goat’s cheese with earthy salt-baked beets, walnuts and pear. A main course of juicy roast chicken supreme is made special with buttery spring onion champ, tender braised leek and super-chickeny reduced roasting juices. Other highlights include dense black treacle bread with whipped butter, and a dessert of rich dark chocolate delice with salted caramel and honeycomb ice cream.
The 23rd floor rooftop Observatory Bar is a must-visit, before or after dinner. With its own private lift, it’s become something of a destination for trendy Belfasters. But don’t mistake that for exclusivity; the welcome as you reach the top floor is still very warm. Each cocktail refers to a local landmark – try Napoleon’s Nose (a heady mix of mezcal, Benedictine, fig and orange bitters), or the more floral Botanical Garden, made from gin, rhubarb, aperol, pomegranate, pink peppercorn and citrus.
Breakfast is a huge spread served buffet-style, in both The Seahorse and The Grand Café. The hotel is proud of the provenance of its ingredients, and even provides a little booklet to tell you the story behind each item. Try Gracehill black and white puddings, creamy Clandeboye Estate Yoghurt and baked scuffins (a cross between a scone and a muffin). There’s even a bottle of Bushmills whiskey by the porridge station, if you fancy a drizzle to perk you up in the morning.
What else can foodies do?
The hotel is a short walk from St George’s Market, an indoor treasure trove of arts and crafts, as well as produce stalls selling everything from specialist Irish cheeses to freshly-landed oysters and rare breed meat and game. There’s also a huge variety of food stalls for lunch – try the Cuban Sandwich Factory’s Pollo Barbacoa, a hot grilled sandwich stuffed with marinated chicken, salsa, cheese and chilli sauce. On weekends there’s live music in the communal table area to listen to as you eat.
Is it family friendly?
Large family rooms come furnished with extra beds (cots are also available on request) and the Seahorse Restaurant has a dedicated kid’s menu, which is also available on room service.
Sleep in as late as possible then construct a three-course brunch from the huge breakfast buffet. That way you can skip lunch and spend the rest of the day exploring vibrant Belfast.
Words by Janine Ratcliffe
Photographs by Jack Hardy and Kelvin Boyes