The Morgan Hotel: chic hotel is the perfect base to explore Dublin
Margaret Canning finds the perfect base to explore Dublin - and savours the NI produce offered in the hotel restaurant
Dublin is a frequent destination for me for shopping and entertainment, combined with the top priority of seeing a very close friend who lives in the city.
Because of that familiarity, it was a novelty to stay in the tourist heart of the city in the elegant Morgan Hotel on Fleet Street in Temple Bar and to experience the Dublin as a European capital full of tourist potential.
The Morgan, built in 2001 and owned by the MHL group, is a pretty, elegant spot that feels like a bright, chic international hotel, which is exactly what it is.
It was refurbished to a high standard in a €15m project. The downstairs lobby area feels like an upmarket cocktail bar with its low round tables and chairs and decorations of orchids in little glass bowls.
To get there, we saunter through Temple Bar on a sunny Saturday afternoon after parking at a multi-storey just across the street. It's mid-June, so the place is bustling with tourists and alive with a singsong of 4 Non Blondes' What's Up? from the Oliver St John Gogarty bar.
Checking us in, the staff at the Morgan make us feel extremely welcome. Our cosy room, which has an en suite and an alcove with a desk and tablet, is at the end of the corridor on the fifth floor, which was added as part of the refurbishment last year.
The refurbishment added 39 rooms, bringing the total to 168.
We love the room and the view. It looks out onto the Liffey and the iconic Ha'penny Bridge. We can see the brightly coloured terraces of Ormond Quay on the other side, while in the distance are landmarks such as the Four Courts, Guinness Storehouse and the spire of St Michan's Church.
It's a great vantage point from which to soak up Dublin's history, albeit in a very passive way.
I'm also delighted to spot an espresso capsule machine in the room. After checking in, I head off for a personal shopping experience in Arnotts, just an eight-minute trot away on Henry Street.
It's offered as part of our overnight stay package and is a great way of taking advantage of everything Arnotts' ladieswear department has to offer.
I'm brought examples of brands I've never even heard of and given plenty of sound fashion advice by stylist Sinead.
I leave equipped with some items I'm certain that I'll be wearing for the next 10 years or so.
The quick hop to Henry Street makes clear just how centrally located the Morgan is.
We're just round the corner from O'Connell Bridge and a short walk from Grafton Street and St Stephen's Green.
A walk on Grafton Street is obligatory - with fewer shop stops than normal as I'm sated after Arnotts, to my husband's relief.
We pay homage to the memory of my much-missed mum by listening to some of the buskers along the way, something she always loved to do on her visits to Dublin.
We've booked a table for dinner in the elegant 10 Fleet Street Restaurant on the hotel's ground floor. It shares the sleek, modern feel of the rest of the lobby and was also added as part of the refurbishment last year.
If you sometimes feel like you're compromising by dining in a hotel restaurant instead of venturing out, then you won't feel that way in 10 Fleet Street.
The seafood-focused menu is a wonder and the passion brought to the hotel's menu by head chef Brian Meehan is palatable.
Our waiter Alberto is attentive and friendly and we're keen to hear his experiences of visiting Northern Ireland.
Reverting to the habits of my day job, I'm pleased to see they're championing Northern Ireland suppliers like Abernethy Butter, from Co Down, and Clearer Water, from Larne.
We relish an amuse-bouche featuring watermelon and duck pate followed by a gin and juniper-cured salmon starter with cucumber ribbons, pepper drops and fennel sour cream for me.
My husband has a starter of soy-infused chicken and sticks, the poultry theme continuing with his main of corn-fed chicken breast with tomato risotto and confit artichoke hearts.
But I think I've chosen better on the mains front with my beautifully presented succulent monkfish, served with caramelised celeriac, smoked onion thyme puree, tenderstem broccoli and chardonnay foam.
We have accompaniments of sweet potato fries and uncalled for, but delicious, parmesan truffle fries.
We're in the middle of a reform programme to master our sweet tooth (the savoury tooth we'll get round to tackling one day), so we share a dessert, a chocolate and orange torte.
All in all, a perfect meal.
Afterwards, we step out into the night and explore Temple Bar and its pubs. There's also an obligatory picture next to Ha'penny Bridge.
The 4 Non Blondes singalong is over, thankfully.
A night at the Morgan costs from €249 per room, including breakfast