Belfast Telegraph

In Pictures: Stars out for Merchant Hotel's New Chapter

The glitterati of Northern Ireland were out in force last night for a ‘New Chapter’ in the story of Belfast’s most luxurious hotel.

Jimmy Nesbitt, Darren Clarke and his girlfriend, the former Miss Northern Ireland Alison Campbell, along with Eamonn Holmes and wife Ruth Langsford, were among the famous faces to grace the red carpet and enjoy the new art deco style of the £16m extension.

Kylie Minogue, Meryl Streep, The Killers and Shirley MacLaine have already enjoyed the Victorian splendour of the original Merchant hotel.

The new addition has been created in a contrasting ultra-modern style and boasts £30,000 bespoke copper doors, £5,000 wallpaper, a room papered completely in real suede, an £1,800 a year gym with panoramic views of Belfast and a rooftop terrace.

Opulence was much in evidence last night as the stars filed in to enjoy the grandeur at the new Skipper Street entrance.

Sky News Sunrise anchor Eamonn Holmes described the extension as a “real classy establishment” and said Belfast deserved it.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: “I am really fascinated to see how this has developed, because the Merchant is such a fantastic hotel.

“Actually, this happened underneath my nose, I didn’t even know this was going on. I think that is incredible.

“I’m old enough to remember all the pubs in this street. When I started out this was the place to go, but it is changed beyond all recognition.

“For somebody like Ruth, who doesn’t know the strides that have come on here since all the bombs, it’s nice to have a real classy establishment that you can be proud of.”

Ruth said she couldn’t wait to enjoy the spa.

“We had a wonderful New Year’s Eve here a couple of years ago, so I am really looking forward to seeing the new-build,” she added.

The extension doubles the size of the hotel, adding 37 more bedrooms.

Merchant owner Bill Wolsey said he was aiming to make the hotel one of the best in the world and he wasn’t perturbed by the economic downturn.

He said: “When we started we wanted to produce one of the best hotels in Ireland — that was the goal.

“I think we have done that. What we have added on, gives a much more rounded product. Our aim now is to make this one of the best hotels in the world.

“When we decided to do this renovation, I didn’t know the economy was going to go into free fall, but we have confidence in the product.

“We have been well supported by the people of this island and the people of this city.”

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