I admit my expectations were low.
he Wetherspoon chain is one of those brands that everyone seems to have an opinion on, and the arrival of any hotel chain in Dublin can raise your head. But, a few minutes after arriving at the port of Keavan, I must say that I was impressed.
The UK chain is known for its rock-bottom prices and unpretentious style – you’ll often find pubs in historic buildings, and this is the case with Keavan’s Port, its second hotel in Ireland (Swords Old Borough being the first) . The band put 33 million euros into refurbishing and renovating several buildings on Camden Street, and it’s the historic element of the reboot that really blew me away. The restoration of the Georgian facade is remarkable, given the poverty of these unused buildings before the transformation.
The layout is also pretty cool – the hotel is made up of eight Georgian townhouses, a courtyard, and a chapel, all connected by a modern, bright atrium.
Arrival & location
With its location right in the middle of Camden Street, the area surrounding the hotel is particularly… alive. I arrived on a Friday evening, just a few days after the hotel opened. While the entrance to the pub was already starting to fill up (concertante neglected by a bouncer), the reception of the hotel was surprisingly calm.
On your way to the office, you pass some of the restored stained glass windows which, until the hotel was renovated, were completely hidden. Behind the reception is an even more impressive room – a restored circular stained glass window designed by the building’s former occupants, Earley and Company. Historical elements like this simply wouldn’t exist to the public if the hotel wasn’t there.
All around the reception there are neat little rooms adorned with antique furniture – one has a working fireplace and will be the perfect cozy retreat in winter. While most people flock to the main dining rooms, these little alcoves are a peaceful respite. 7/10
Service & style
The welcome was warm, but brief, and I quickly regretted not having paid more attention to the indications of the room. While trying to find it on my own, I got lost in the Tardis which is the interior of the hotel. Luckily the receptionist found me soon after and pointed me in the right direction. There was talk of giving guests a card, which would be a welcome move, odd as it might sound for an 89-room hotel.
While it can be confusing, the interior atrium is a bit of a masterpiece. The combination of giant steel beams and restored masonry gives the whole a unique and elegant and industrial-chic vibe. And the walls are all adorned with pieces by Irish artists, including a giant wire sculpture of Emma Jane Rushworth, inspired by Seamus Heaney’s poem St Kevin and the Blackbird.
As you walk through the main entrance to the pub, you cross the courtyard to meet a full chapel. Former residence of the Little Sisters of the Assumption, and more recently used as a boxing club, the space now serves as a pretty neat dining room. 8/10
Shortly after arriving, I suddenly panicked at the thought of getting a terrible night’s sleep. The combination of an opening weekend, location on Camden Street, and a potentially loud atmosphere left me cursing the fact that I forgot my earplugs. Despite my room facing the outside courtyard, it was remarkably quiet.
On the decor side, I loved the fresco behind the bed, a marbled expanse of blues and bold grays. The shower was excellent, although the noise from the bathroom fan and air conditioning was a bit loud for my taste. I had to turn it off to sleep, so things got pretty scorching overnight (and not in a good way). 7.5 / 10
As the space downstairs is mainly a pub, the space for eating and drinking is enormous. The main dining room was a bit busy for my comfort, so I went into the chapel, both for a bit of peace and for the novelty of sitting on a bench while I ate. As you would expect the food is basic pub food, but the provenance is better than I expected – all the beef, eggs, milk and sausage is Irish.
But really, it’s the prices that attract punters. All meals include a drink, and you’d be hard pressed to find a cheaper dinner in Dublin – you can get a sirloin steak with a side and a glass of wine for € 15.85, or a burger with fries and a pint. for € 10.85. My steak was pretty decent – perfectly done, tasty, and most importantly, Irish. The chips might not have been cut by hand, but they were tasty and crispy, and the Jameson whiskey sauce that came with it was a delight as well. I paid a lot more for a lot worse.
Oh, and a pint? This will set you back € 3.45 for Beamish, rising to € 4.45 for Brewdog. You can also get a G&T Gunpowder for € 7.10. It’s easy to be a food snob, but the affordability of these prices can’t be ignored. 7/10
The bottom line
The Wetherspoon Group now has eight pubs and two hotels in Ireland (the first one opened in Blackrock in 2014) and love it or hate what is being done here is very impressive. Restoring the beautiful Georgian architecture and precious stained glass windows in Dublin in this way is something that can only be celebrated. And creating a downtown option without breaking the bank isn’t a bad thing either.
Family rooms are a godsend, at no extra charge to convert the sofa into a bed. There are also cute pencils and coloring pages in the restaurant.
Camden Street’s Last Bookstore is a beautiful room filled with piles of books jumbled together. At the back, the Cake Café is a great spot for goodies.
Doubles from € 100 midweek, or € 140 at weekends. 01 405 4790, jdwetherspoon.com. Nicola was a guest of the hotel.