Review on The Merchant Hotel, The Great Room Restaurant
One of the crowning glories of Belfast's Cathedral Quarter, this sumptuous Italianate building was the HQ of the Ulster Bank before re-appearing as a bright new star among the city's hotels. The awesome Victorian sandstone façade remains, and there is plenty to admire once you get inside.
Pride of place goes to the stunning Great Room restaurant (formerly the main banking hall), which is resplendent with a mighty enamelled glass cupola suspended from 'Ireland's largest chandelier'; all around are plasterwork friezes, Corinthian columns and sculptures depicting Science, Poetry, Sculpture and Music.
The kitchen works to a luxurious contemporary menu peppered with foie gras and caviar, although it keeps its feet on 'terra firma' for summer tarte paysanne, roast halibut with a rösti, braised cabbage and lemon butter sauce, and caramelised belly pork with scallops, cauliflower purée and haricot beans. Desserts don't stray far from the familiar world of gooseberry fool, tarte Tatin and chocolate fondant.
For more casual home comforts, try the all-day Cloth Ear brasserie or the refined simplicity of the Bar – which boasts some remarkable cocktails as well as straightforward food.
John Paul Leake
Restaurant Opening Times
Breakfast: 7.00 – 10.30am
Lunch: 12.00 – 2.30pm Sun-Fri
Dinner: 6.00 – 10.00pm
Accepted credit cards
Visa, Master Card, American Express