Thursday 20 October 2016

Five-star style and substance at The Shelbourne

Shelbourne Hotel
Shelbourne Hotel

No two days are ever the same for staff at The Shelbourne, who will do everything in their power to ensure their guests’ every whim is catered for, writes Arlene Harris

It’s one of the most famous landmarks in Dublin. Established in 1824 by Tipperary man, Martin Burke, The Shelbourne Hotel has been an integral part of the city for generations, playing host to a plethora of rich and famous guests, while also being a pivotal venue for many historical moments over the years.

But while countless people have wined and dined, danced and dreamed, or even started and ended relationships behind its elegant façade, the engine has been kept smoothly oiled by a professional team of staff who have perfected the art of providing top-notch service for all who cross the threshold.

Starting on Thursday (November 5), the new series of The Shelbourne on RTE One will give viewers an insight into what it takes to keep the famous five-star hotel running, and how no request is deemed too much trouble for its staff.

Denis O’Brien is the head concierge at The Shelbourne. Having worked there for 30 years, he has seen more than his fair share of guests and says his role involves catering to their every whim.

“I am like a one-stop shop for visitors,” he jokes. “They come to me for anything and everything which will help make their stay more enjoyable. My working day can involve anything from dinner reservations, car hire, organising a dog walker, buying flowers, helping to locate lost luggage and even arranging surprise gifts for guests.

“I’ve even had to rent a space in a hairdressing salon for a visitor who wanted to have her hair done but insisted on having her own personal hairdresser do the job — and this is why l love working here so much, because every day is different and it’s fair to say that there is never a dull moment around here.”

The genial Dubliner says the reason the hotel is still going strong after nearly two centuries is because every effort is made to ensure the atmosphere is as relaxed and friendly as possible.

The Shelbourne introduces Marietta Doran as their Style Butler
The Shelbourne introduces Marietta Doran as their Style Butler

“Without a doubt, the history and tradition of The Shelbourne has a huge appeal to visitors, many who have been coming here for years,” he says. “And while the building is undeniably very impressive, it’s the people who make it special.

“All of us who work here take pride in the fact that we are there to make things as nice as possible for the guest. When you walk into a hotel, you can feel the atmosphere straight away and some places are just too stuffy and make guests feel uncomfortable — but we make a point of ensuring that guests feel relaxed and at ease from the minute they walk through the doors.”

Marietta Doran is another staff member who does her utmost to ensure visitors feel comfortable, but she also goes out of her way to help them feel stylish, well-dressed and happy with their appearance.

The only ‘style porter’ in the country, Marietta’s job involves helping guests to find the right look for a certain event or bail them out in a wardrobe emergency.

“My main business is as a personal shopper, but within The Shelbourne, I am a style consultant,” she says. “This role has many facets and could involve helping someone to put together an outfit for a wedding, taking them shopping down Grafton Street to find the perfect pair of shoes to go with a particular dress, or even just popping into their room to advise on whether one item of clothing works with another.

“Sometimes people can’t see the wood for the trees and need a fresh eye, and in that sense, I am very practical and honest.

“So, if they are having doubts about an outfit and I come in and feel that it works beautifully, I will tell them. Often, there is no need to buy anything new, but just to perhaps wear something a little differently or even just get a confidence boost from someone else’s approval.”

Having worked in the hotel for the past five years, Marietta is also the main style expert when it comes to judging any ‘best dressed’ competitions. She loves this aspect to her job and says there is a great sense of fashion in Dublin.

“After Ladies Day at the RDS, we have a Most Stylish Lady competition and I have been judging that for a good few years now,” she says. “It is a really lovely event and all of the women are very well turned out — in fact, it can be quite difficult to choose sometimes as there is always some wonderful fashion on display.

“And while it is a great night out for everyone, it’s also lovely that this is an old tradition which has been taking place for years in this hotel — so as with many aspects of The

Shelbourne, it’s nice to see tradition being upheld.”

The hotel is popular with visitors from all over the world and the style porter says she feels very privileged to be able to showcase some great Irish shops and designers.

“There are so many great shops in and around Dublin and I love taking guests on a shopping spree and being able to recommend Irish fashion to them,” says Marietta. “There is no set budget or size and I have found outfits for women of every age and dress size.

“I’m around fashion all the time, so I know what is available to buy, what will look good on people, and also, I will give them a gentle nudge in the direction of something which they may never have considered before — all my ladies look lovely to start with, but I like to think that I can help them to find that extra edge.”

Despite their vastly different jobs, both Denis and Marietta both agree that working for one of Ireland’s most famous hotels is the best role in the world.

“I have such a great job,” says Marietta. “The crew here at the hotel are fantastic and there is always a great atmosphere. I consider myself very lucky to be part of the team.”

Stalwart Denis agrees: “I could never imagine myself doing a regular office job,” he says. “No two days are the same here and there is always something going on — it’s a great place to work and there is no place I would rather be.”

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