In Belfast, a hotel inspired by a Steve McQueen movie

March 01, 2018
  • By Lynn Freehill Maye
  • The New York Times

Check In: The Bullitt Hotel, Belfast, Northern Irelan 

The Bullitt Hotel  

40a Church Lane, Belfast, Northern Ireland; bullitthotel.com  

Rates  

From $139  

Basics  

Northern Ireland’s — and perhaps the world’s — sole Steve McQueen-themed hotel was opened by the Beannchor Group (which also owns Belfast’s opulent Merchant Hotel) in October 2016 with 43 rooms. Last October, it opened a rooftop garden terrace and bar, and in December 2017 added 31 additional rooms. Named for the star’s car-chasing 1968 detective thriller, the hotel calls itself no-frills, but the design is fun and stylish. Visitors liked the theme so much that soon after its opening, two women tried to swipe a 6-foot canvas of McQueen smoking a cigarette behind aviator shades. The near-heist generated publicity for the hotel as the Not-So-Great Escape, but the desk clerks swore it had been a true crime.  

Location  

As Belfast has settled into two decades of post-conflict peace, the Cathedral Quarter where the Bullitt is situated has emerged as one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods, with restaurants, hotels, shops and edgy street art. The hotel is also a doable stroll from the riverfront and the blockbuster Titanic Museum.

The Room  

Rooms are named in three sizes: “Dinky,” “Comfy” and “Roomy.” Slate-gray paint and a full-wall mural of McQueen and Jacqueline Bisset dominated our midsize and indeed comfortable room. Playful touches include the warning “Faceplant!” printed on the windows (which didn’t keep my friend from bonking her head trying to see the art installation outside). Replacing a closet was a wire rack with a few hooks and hangers, along with a simple luggage rack, desk and TV. No iron was provided, but a basic model was delivered within two minutes.  

The Bathroom  

White square tile on the walls and gray square tile on the floor, the bathroom was all business. Toiletries created for the hotel were provided in a tart Irish nettle scent. An oversize rainfall shower head was mounted high; and while the water temperature could have gone hotter, the warming towel rack was nice on a cool day.  

Amenities  

The Bullitt offers a calendar that includes events such as knitting classes, literary readings and running-club jaunts. When we walked into the attractive courtyard, an artist’s lecture was happening as part of the Belfast Photo Festival. There was no in-room minibar, but supplies for hot beverages were fairly well stocked: Dragonfly teas, Lyons instant coffee, fair-trade hot cocoa and mugs with “Hello Brewtiful” on the bottom, plus fresh milk in the tiny fridge. Loaner umbrellas proved handy.  

Dining  

The hotel has two happening lobby bars, one for coffee and the other for cocktails, along with a ski-themed bar, Baltic, that was closed during our visit, and the rooftop bar called Babel. Its restaurant, Taylor & Clay, serves meat-and-potatoes fare such as a wagyu sirloin that arrived tougher than expected; the side of creamy root veggies and peas swiped the show. Breakfast is served at Taylor & Clay, and the hotel also plays up its free Grub to Go bags, which include fruit, yogurt and granola. Preferring a hot meal, I called room service, which arrived 18 minutes later. My server said delivery was “definitely not” often ordered, and since the sourdough toast and poached eggs (about $3 each) cost less than the delivery charge (around $9), I could appreciate why.  

The Bottom Line  

The Bullitt has a good time with its king-of-'60s-cool muse, and as Belfast re-emerges, guests are set up to play, too.