I lived in Dublin in the early noughties at the height of the “Celtic Tiger”. Real estate prices were through the roof, Sex and the City was a TV revelation and I was wearing the most hideous gold and brown pleather trousers with abandon. And while there were plenty of great restaurants and bars around at the time, many of which I frequented on a regular basis, they don’t compare to what Dublin has to offer nowadays. Yes, thanks to the invention of hipsters, Dublin is awash with artisanal cafes, vegan restaurants, beard grooming parlours and design store pop ups. And I for one am a fan of all of the above.
On a recent trip back to Dublin, I did a bit of research and exploring to come up with my guide for a weekend in Dublin.
For a veritable smorgasbord of brunch options, head to Smithfield. It’s a short walk along the Liffey from the centre of town, and it’s home to many a hipster and pop-up design store.
Proper Order is a cosy but cool cafe and serves perfect coffee and cruffins. Need I say more? For something more substantial (i.e. hangover brunch) Urbanity is the best option. The halloumi is delish, as are all the egg dishes. They don’t take bookings, so you may need to wait a while, but it is worth the wait.
Otherwise for a quality hangover brunch, head to Wuff. Traditional breakfasts done so so well. It’s open for brunch from 10am on weekends and doesn’t take reservations. Get there early if you can drag your old bones out of bed in time.
Outside of Smithfield, there’s The Fumbally which is located south of Dublin’s Christ Church. It’s an unpretentious cafe with great coffee. The menu is made up of a lot of locally sourced and organic ingredients. The owners have a focus on ethical and sustainable sourcing. No bookings taken, so plan accordingly.
For the plant-based among us, there’s always The Vegan’s Butcher, just off Camden Street. I have it on good authority that it’s a viable option, even for carnivores. Weekend brunch from 12pm, and they do take bookings.
Dublin’s dining scene is enough to rival that of London in terms of quality. First up, try the restaurant at Delahunt on Camden Street. Set in a Victorian listed building, the interior is strikingly mid-century with an updated feel to it. The emphasis in Delahunt’s menu is on locally produced ingredients. Book your table well in advance!
My trip to Dublin was too short to try all the places on my list, but I can tell you with confidence (based on reliable local intel) that Clanbrassil House and its sister restaurant, Bastible are excellent options for dining out in Dublin. Bastible in particular has dishes that are “out of this world.”
For me, no visit to Dublin is complete until I’ve had a margarita and tacos at 777. Located in the city centre, 777 is so much more than just a Mexican restaurant. It’s has a unique mix of quirky-cool interior features, low lighting, friendly but incredibly hip staff, candle light and unobtrusive but funky music soundtrack. Bookings are taken for groups of 6 or more, otherwise just rock up and join the waiting list – there are plenty of fine drinking establishments nearby while you wait.
The Stella Cocktail Club is set in an old theatre that was a run down old cinema back in the day. It’s now home to the most glam art deco cocktail bar. We did over indulge a little here, but it’s only due to the quality cocktails served up. Also, the parmesan fries were a hit amongst our group.
Delahunt (mentioned above under “Dining”) also has a very chic but laid back cocktail bar in “the Sitting Room”. Beautiful decor, great cocktails.
The latest addition (at the time of writing) to Dublin’s cocktail scene is the roof top bar, Layla’s, atop the Devlin hotel in the charming inner suburb of Ranelagh. Glass encased, to cater against Dublin’s weather, it has 360 degree views of the city and an impressive cocktail list. Book a table in advance.
Shop and lunch
My pick of local shops are mostly on and around South William Street and Drury Street both of which run parallel to Dublin’s famous Grafton Street:
Costume is great for local and international designer threads. For vintage my two picks are The Harlequin (at 13 Castle Market, just off Drury Street) for eclectic vintage pieces, and Siopaella for secondhand designer handbags, shoes and accessories.
Industry & Co is well worth a visit for locally designed and made blankets, jewellery, ceramics, candles etc. It also has an excellent cafe for your mid-shopping lunch break.
Appassionata on Clarendon Street is a cheerful flower shop with the most gorgeous creations, and sustainable cultivation at its heart. Even just a look around it will make you feel 100% happier. And not too far away is Carousel, which has the cutest vintage inspired dresses. Just around the corner is cheese and wine shop Loose Canon on Drury Street. Opened in 2018 by Kevin Powell and Brian O’Keefe, Loose Canon will fill an artisanal cheese and wine shaped hole in your stomach – perfect for a late afternoon shopping pitstop.
Brown Thomas on Grafton Street is an obvious choice, but it really is a beautiful department store with a world class selection of local and international designers for fashion, beauty and interiors.
Further afield, Avoca on Suffolk Street is also perfect for mementos and gifts of the decidedly sophisticated and thoughtful variety. Its selection of locally designed and made blankets, clothing, books, candles, gifts is as charming as it is eclectic. The cafe on the top floor has been going for years, and still serves up decent lunchtime fare.
Over on Dawson Street is Dublin’s oldest and largest book store, Hodges Figgis, stocking everything from travel to cult classics.
If you do happen to find yourself wandering around Temple Bar, then pop into Folkster for all your Irish-designed evening wear and accessories needs.
So there you have it – a slightly more insider view to Dublin, so that you can avoid the tourist traps of Temple Bar!