All in the name of research, you’ll understand. No really. We – the Delphic Oracle of hospitality – have been asked to nominate candidates for the World Boutique Hotel Awards. The next ceremony is less than eight months away: so little time, so many boutique hotels. Back in the day, or decade (the Nineties), The Morrison in all its monochromatic glory was where it was: It Boys, It Girls*, just it. The lobby cum lounge cum bar cum posing gallery was practically pitch dark and forever echoed to the clamour of clinking glasses and laughter. Dublin liked to party, and there was nowhere better to perch than on the John Rocha cow skins draped across black leather banquettes. A vague utopia of younger dreams. Boom.
Bang. Bust. Boom again. GoogleGoogletown. The Celtic Boomerang Economy. The hangover’s over; Dublin’s back to partying. If you can’t beat them… sparkling afternoon tea for two please. Sparkling company, sparkling conversation and a glass of fizz. In the intervening years, The Morrison has become a DoubleTree by Hilton. Its interior is lighter now and even has – shock, horror! – accents of colour. A splash of fuchsia on the carpet runner; a streak of lavender across the reception desk. Still got it, though.
That familiar flow from savoury to sweet via homemade scones and fresh cream, as calming as the River Liffeyframed by great windows open to the south, starts with smoked salmon and lemon butter sandwiches followed by cucumber with cream cheese and chives sandwiches. A trouser stretching diet busting calorie mounting range of miniature puddings completes the pleasure. Blueberry Bakewell tarts | mango and passion fruit panna cotta | lemon drizzle cake | best of all banoffee pie. A table filled with the talk of youth. Innocence and beauty.
*Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, the greatest It Girl since Clara Bow, was beloved by all. Scott’s in Mayfair was one of her favourite haunts. The restaurant famously has only one combined entrance | exit. Tara dined at Scott’s just after she got her nose job. The paparazzi eagerly gathered on Mount Street outside. “Do you think they’re here to photograph my legs?” she laughed, pointing to her rather fine pins.
Everyone’s here at the preview party, the upper aristocracy and upper meritocracy of globalisation chic to chic. Royalty with their heirs and airs, gentry with their seats and furniture, oligarchs with their bodyguards’ bodyguards, Anglo Irish with their Lords and Lourdes, nouveau riche with their Youghal to Youghal carpet, celebrities with their baggage and baggage, Londoners with their Capital and capital. And a very bubbly Eamonn Holmes. Stop people watching. Stare at the felicitous ambiguity of Geer van Velde. Wonder at the dense opaque impasto of Freud. Gaze at the transparent golden glaze of Monet. Study the descriptive precision of Zoffany. Blog about the parallel lines of Bridget Riley. Instagram a selfie beside The Socialite, Andy Warhol’s portrait of New York realtor Olga Berde Mahl shyly making her first ever public showing courtesy of Long-Sharp Gallery. Better late than never.
“If you think about it the clue is in the name,” muses artist Anne Davey Orr. “Masterpiece – a creation that is considered the greatest work of a career, or any work of outstanding creativity and skill. And Masterpiece is certainly the best in its field. From the faux façades to the faux colonnades, and the exotic festoons by Nikki Tibbles of Wild at Heart, Masterpiece exudes a professionalism which avoids the tackiness that sometimes attaches to other art fairs. The accompanying directory of 300 high end galleries alone, contents apart, sets it in a league of its own.”