Enjoy Traditional Irish Hospitality Just Steps Away From Times Square.
The Irish are legendary for their hospitality. Ireland’s age-old tradition of welcoming strangers begins around the country’s kitchen tables and extends outwar d like a warm blanket to its pubs, restaurants, hotels and inns. Anyone who’s been to Ireland has probably witnessed someone rushing to pay for a round of drinks before their friends can reach for the bill. Most likely there’s a sign hanging someplace in your favorite Irish pub that reads “cead mile failte,” which in Irish Gaelic means “one-hundred-thousand welcomes.”
Not exactly known for its coziness, Midtown Manhattan is an exciting place. Its traffic-heavy streets are crammed with tourists, business travelers and hardworking locals almost 24-hours a day. People from across the globe visit year-round to experience famous big-budget musicals at Broadway’s renowned theaters, to catch the Rockettes at Rockefeller Center’s legendary Radio City Music Hall, and to shop their cares away at Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship store. And Times Square, with an electric glow emanating from its dozens of building-size screens day and night, 365 days a year, is one of Manhattan’s most popular visitor destinations.
Located on West 45th Street, about a five-minute walk from Times Square, is Merrion Row Hotel and Public House, a charming 28-room boutique hotel where the business philosophy and service is based on the concept of Irish hospitality. Only open since December, Merrion Row, with long-established Irish pubs positioned to the left of the front entrance, appears as if it has always been part of the neighborhood.
When my husband, Rob, and I arrived at Merrion Row on a Sunday afternoon in January, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the doorman who greeted us was actually from Ireland. Almost immediately, I was stuck by the way the hotel’s unfussy public spaces, elegant in their simplicity, made me feel almost as comfortable as I’d have been at home — a rare occurrence in the world of upscale hotels, where, more often than not, a decor’s stylishness seems to prevail over its comfort.
Our room, with its king-size bed and spacious bathroom, also provided a desk that was big enough to actually work at, and a sitting area that featured a full-size sofa and coffee table. Large by New York standards, the room had the same unassuming but sophisticated design as the rest of the building’s spaces, making it feel almost homey. We spent our first night camped out on the couch, enjoying a few snacks from the deli a few doors down while watching one of our favorite Sunday night shows.
Most impressive, perhaps, was that our room was always quiet. Considering our proximity to Times Square’s eternal hustle, this silence was an unexpected bonus, especially on the second day of our stay, when I had a ton of work to do.
According to Jonathan Knudsen, Merrion Row’s managing director, the hotel takes its name, concept and cultural direction from Merrion Square and Merrion Row in Dublin. Built in the 18th century, Merrion Square is known for its stately Georgian townhouses and was once home to writer Oscar Wilde and poet William Butler Yeats. Merrion Row, a street that sits a few blocks south of Merrion Square and runs along the northern edge of St. Stephen’s Green, is popular for its refined and lively social scene.
“Merrion Square was influential for us because of its beautiful historic architecture,” Knudsen says. “Merrion Row is full of great pubs and restaurants. It’s a place where people go to have fun.”
The “Public House” part of the Merrion Row Hotel consists of a sleek, well-lit bar flanked by high-top tables on one side and a charming adjacent dining room. A more upmarket version of a traditional Irish pub, Merrion Row’s restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, bar snacks and dinner. Its menu changes with the seasons and features traditional Irish dishes that have been modernized and reimagined — such as shepherd’s pie empanadas and bangers in blankets — along with a selection of locally sourced meat and seafood dishes.
If you’re interested in trying an adult beverage from Ireland other than whisky, the bar offers a number of creative cocktails made from Dingle gin and vodka, which is produced in Dingle, County Kerry. The selection of locally brewed craft beers is good, as well. On our first night there, I enjoyed a pint of Gunn Hill IPA from the nearby borough of the Bronx.
On our second night at the hotel, my father and stepmother came into Manhattan from their home in Brooklyn Heights and joined Rob and me for dinner. We had a great time. The service was attentive but not overdone. I was impressed by the small but very good wine selection, and my pasta with clams rivaled the best I’ve had anywhere. The fish and chips my father and Rob ordered were delicious, arriving in smaller, more manageable portions than what we are used to in most pubs. My stepmother tried the crabcakes, and was very happy with her choice.
According to my father, who is used to eating in New York City restaurants, the menu prices at Merrion Row are quite reasonable, especially considering its proximity to Times Square.
One of the best things about dinner: As with our guest room, the dining room was amazingly and blessedly quiet. Unlike so many restaurants these days, we could actually have a conversation without shouting.
This would be a great place for a quiet romantic dinner or a low-key night out with friends, even if you’re not staying at the hotel. Reservations can be made on the hotel website or by calling.
Another benefit of staying at Merrion Row is its location. Less than one block east of Times Square, it’s also only a few blocks from Broadway’s theaters, just a five- block walk to Rockefeller Center and three blocks from leafy Bryant Park. If you hop onto the subway, call Uber or hail a cab, you can be in Central Park, at one of New York’s world-class museums or riding the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building in no time.
Rob and I took a side trip to SoHo to have lunch and visit Gudrun Sjoden, a Swedish clothing boutique that is one of my favorite stores. We also stopped into Amazon 4-star, which opened this past September. Amazon’s latest attempt at brick-and-mortar retail, the shop sells an eclectic collection of items, all of which have earned at least four-star customer review ratings on its website.
We took a walk through Times Square one night, and enjoyed cappuccinos at a cafe near Rockefeller Center. The next day, we walked to Bryant Park, at Sixth Avenue and 41st Street, where we watched people ice skating on the park’s temporary wintertime rink and sipped hot chocolate on a bench outside.
In the past, we have usually come to the city to visit family or traveled with our daughter, Madelaine, so it was nice to be able to wander around as a couple and do whatever we wanted.
And when it was finally time to pack up and catch the bus home, we were happy to discover that the Port Authority Bus Terminal was also just a short ride from Merrion Row.
Merrion Row Hotel and Public House
New York, N.Y.