Stay the night: The Merchant Hotel, Belfast

The former financial institution oozes luxury, but it needs better soundproofing, says Fiona Sturges

At first glance, the Merchant Hotel seems to tick all the boxes of the luxury city base.

Liveried doormen: check. Gleaming marble lobby: check. Enormous, decadently furnished rooms: all present and correct. But what this five-star hotel can't promise all guests is that most basic requirement: a good night's sleep.

The Merchant opened in 2006 and occupies the site of the former Ulster Bank headquarters, an imposing Victorian building in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter. What was once the main banking hall, where tellers sat behind windows, is now the Great Room, one of the city's grandest restaurants complete with crimson banquettes, chandeliers and a glorious Neoclassical ceiling. The subterranean vault, where the cash was once stashed, now houses a private dining room and a wine cellar.

Last month, a new £16.5m extension was unveiled with 38 extra rooms and a spa and gym. But what the owners have apparently neglected to invest in is extra soundproofing in the original part of the building, an oversight that led me to lay awake until 2am with pillows clamped over my ears due to the music pumping from Ollie's, the newly renovated nightclub in the basement. When I blearily raised the issue with the manager the next morning, she arranged for me to switch rooms and conceded that there was a problem with noise which the hotel was "looking to address". Until then, guests would be advised to request a room on the other side of the building. Or, at the very least, pack some earplugs.

The rooms

The new bedrooms have a sleek Art Deco theme with mirrored headboards, ebony furniture and some startling prints of 1920s ladies in their underwear. The bathrooms are spacious and elegant and come with oversized showers, roll-top baths and pretty turquoise tiling. Meanwhile, the hotel's original rooms retain the aesthetic of a plush Victorian boudoir with damask silk-panelled walls, rich wool carpets, antique mirrors and dark marble bathrooms. All rooms have flat-screen TVs.

The food and drink

Guests needn't set foot outside the hotel to eat some of the best food Belfast has to offer. The seriously upmarket Great Room offers the full fine-dining experience, with two-course set menus starting at a reasonable £16.50 for the early sitting. Preferring something more informal, I went for dinner at Bert's, the hotel's bustling new bistro that hosts jazz bands after 9pm and where I had a terrific fillet of hake with lobster bisque. The Merchant is particularly proud of its cocktail bar, where awards line the shelves and the master barman, Sean Muldoon, offers a dizzyingly extravagant menu, including a classic Mai Tai cocktail made with a rare rum – a snip at £750.

The extras

If you're after VIP treatment, the Merchant provides airport pick-ups in a shiny black Bentley. The new spa in the basement offers a variety of relaxation and beauty treatments; there's a steam room in the gym and the nail bar provides a complimentary glass of champagne with your manicure. Rooms have tea and coffee-making facilities as well empty fridges where you can store your own drinks and snacks.

The access

The hotel has full wheelchair access. Pets are not allowed. Children are welcome and under-fives stay free.

The bill

Deluxe double rooms start at £150 per night, with prices rising to £455 for suites. Fiona Sturges travelled to Belfast as a guest of easyJet (0905 821 0905; easyjet.co.uk), which offers flights from Gatwick, Stansted and Luton from £18.99 one way.

The address

The Merchant Hotel, 16 Skipper Street, Belfast BT1 2DZ (028-9023 4888; the merchanthotel.com).

Suggested Topics
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?