Further details have been revealed regarding the four-star Titanic Hotel Belfast ahead of its opening this weekend in an exclusive interview with the hotel's general manager, Adrian McNally.
Speaking exclusively to The Caterer ahead of the hotel's opening on 10 September, McNally revealed the 119-bedroom hotel, owned and operated by Dublin-based Harcourt Developments, will be a "luxury experience with a Northern Ireland personality".
McNally became general manager of Titanic Hotel Belfast in June, situated in the former Harland & Wolff headquarters and historic drawing offices, prior to which he was general manager at the Culloden Estate and Spa in Hollywood, Belfast. The hotel is soft launching 83 of its bedrooms, with the full bedroom inventory coming online by the end of the month.
The offices where the Titanic was designed in the early 1900s have seen a £28m investment, including a £5m investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund, after having lain vacant for more than 25 years.
The most challenging aspect of the restoration, according to McNally, has been the restoration of the drawing offices, which were in a "dire state of disrepair". The original ceiling plaster moulding, crafted by the same men who built the Titanic and intended to showcase the craftsmanship of the Belfast ship makers by replicating the inside of cruise liners, had to be painstakingly redone by hand by artisan tradesmen. "It was fundamental for the integrity of the Titanic hotel to be able to restore those to their absolute glory," said McNally.
The first drawing office is set to be the hotel's ballroom, while the second is the bar, which also features the same blue and cream Villeroy & Boch tiles used for the Titanic's swimming pool, which were salvaged from the bathroom floors in the Harland & Wolff office to line the side of the bar.
Bedroom wardrobes are replicas of what would have been in a first class ship cabin, and steel ceilings in the hallways are reminiscent of a ship's interior.
The 160-cover restaurant, overseen by executive chef Nigel Mannion, will offer "refined dining" for breakfast and dinner, serving local produce and dishes such as ‘duck, orange, blackberry, vanilla and kale' and ‘hake, broccoli, almond and buttermilk'. Half in the historic building, half in the new extension, the restaurant has a grey and teal colour scheme with an Art Deco feel, banquette seating, and floor to ceiling windows.
Recruiting 90 members of staff was a fairly easy job in comparison with the restoration, said McNally, who has drawn on his experience as a member of the opening teams of the Ritz-Carlton Moscow in Russia and Shanghai Pudong.
"In a very tough market, not only was I excited about coming on board, so was everyone in Belfast. It has been a delight to do the recruitment for this particular property," he said.
"Everyone that applied for the job has an interest in Titanic, and the Titanic Quarter is going through a massive regeneration. It is really the place to be in Belfast, and passionate hoteliers and service providers want to be a part of that."
He is also confident about Belfast's hospitality sector as a whole. Belfast's hotels hit a record occupancy level of 77.9% last year and the city is expecting a 29% increase in hotel rooms by 2018.
McNally said: "Belfast is booming. All across the skyline of Belfast is cranes; cranes mean construction, which means the economy is strong and booming, and tourism is a massive part of that in Belfast. It is an amazing time for anyone to be in Belfast, but in particular in the hospitality industry. We've just had the extension of the Waterfront, which is the convention centre for Belfast, so for it to succeed, Belfast needs a huge increase in bedroom stock, and we're a part of that."
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