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).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
life
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
News
news
Environment
Fungi pose the biggest threat globally and in the UK, where they threaten the country’s wheat and potato harvests
environmentCrop pests are 'grave threat to global food security'
News
i100
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
News
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
people
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Sport
footballAnd Liverpool are happy despite drawing European champions
News
i100
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone