Hospitality Ireland's ANDREW JENNINGS takes an inside look at the most hotly anticipated Dublin hotel opening for quite some time: The Dean.
When the Dean Hotel opened its doors on Harcourt Street in Dublin last November it created something of a stir. Not least because it was the first new hotel to open in the capital for 18 months, but also because of its immediate confidence, imaginative features and the flair found in its design.
With Dublin’s hospitality sector emerging refreshed from the barren years of the recession – and eager for new and inspiring design concepts – perhaps the Dean Hotel has chosen the perfect moment to take advantage.
Developed by the Press Up Entertainment Group, which also runs U2’s Clarence Hotel, amongst other interests, The Dean, with 52 bedrooms over several floors of Georgian and contemporary architecture, is just the kind of shot in the arm that the Dublin boutique hotel scene has been crying out for.
The Dean is looking to catch a ride on the so-called ‘hipster’ movement currently doing the rounds in Dublin, with its urbane and bold design touches: miniature Smeg fridges, Grafton Barber products, Marshall amps that connect to your gadgets, Netflix on Samsung TVs, classic vinyl for your Rega turntable, old-school sweets, little brown envelopes for room keys and a DJ in the lobby playing classic vinyl records.
The hotel’s highlight is Sophie’s, the standalone rooftop bar and restaurant with great views of the city, good casual dining and a NewYork/London buzzy atmosphere. “I think in terms of style, there’s a lot of references to London, especially the Shoreditch area,” Bryan Davern, general manager at the Dean Hotel, told Hospitality Ireland.
The Dean is hoping to bring a slice of the Ace Hotel in New York, Soho House in Berlin or the Hoxton in Shoreditch to the Southside of the city.
“The chrome tables, the smooth concrete, there was lot of contrasting materials used,” adds Davern.
“There’s a lot of salvaged oak for example. In the penthouse suite the roof is made of salvaged oak. We’ve got very striking colourful carpets, so there’re a lot of contrasting materials and colours.
Davern says the hotel is “quite moody and dark” but is brightened up by the colourful soft furnishings.
“It’s different to anything in Dublin right now which is something that’s very important to us,” he says.
The Dean opened pre-Christmas, having had €5.5 million spent on it by Paddy McKillen’s Press Up Group, which also owns Wagamama, Captain Americas, and the Vintage Cocktail Club.
Other features of the hotel include heavy investment in emerging Irish artists for wall hangings, a rotisserie on its ground floor, a first-floor function room (The Blue Room) and The Dean Bar.
Davern says despite only being open a matter of weeks, The Dean enjoyed great Christmas bookings, something that is continuing into January and beyond.
“The reaction has been fantastic,” he says. “When you open a hotel in late November, obviously you have the Christmas market coming in, so it’s been incredibly busy.”
Davern adds that the hotel will fill a niche not currently catered for in Dublin.
“I suppose you’d say The Dean is a place to be enjoyed by the young at heart,” he says. “The ambience is a bit funky, a bit different. Harcourt Street is famous for its late bars, so we’re trying to bring a new sense of life to the street during the daytime as well – a 24/7 service where you can come in at 7am for a coffee.”
Given its location, sandwiched between late-night hotspots Copper Face Jack’s and Everleigh Garden, Davern admits that noise is the biggest challenge for the hotel, but thus far there’s been no complaint.
“It’s a fun place to stay, I guess if you’re going for a super-quiet weekend stay, it might not be the place for you, but that’s not really our target market,” says Davern, who adds that the hotel currently has over 100 staff onboard.
Ann-Marie O’Neill, of O:Donnell O:Neill Design Associates, the firm who designed the hotel, told Hospitality Ireland recently that The Dean was very much a joy to work on and is a fine example of a much welcomed post-recession change in approach from hotel owners.
“We worked very closely with the client on the design,” says O’Neill.
“They had a very strong sense of the direction they wanted to go with it. We worked with them in developing that and taking it further.
“I suppose it has an urbane feel. Today, hospitality in Ireland is very influenced by what is going on in London and New York, and maybe LA. They’d be the three main influences for us in Ireland in design right now,” she adds.
O’Neill says Press Up had strong ideas on the finer details of the design and talked it through with her firm.
“It was important from a design point of view that everything came together, all the little details needed to work together for it to work,” says O’Neill.
She believes The Dean is one of a new breed of hotel designs in the capital, something the city sorely needs.
“It shows that Dublin can still open hotels, and there is a need for them out there. There’s also a need for new design, inspired by other hotels and other cities. It’s very exciting what’s happen in Dublin the last 18 months or so, there’s a new breed of client and customer, people are refreshed, it’s an exciting time.
“There’s a new type of owner out there too, willing to take the risks and push things a bit further.”