How to do Dublin
Recently I got a message from an American couple who were coming to Dublin and wanted some advice on what places to visit to experience the city in little bites. Personally, I think this is the perfect way to see a city – you really appreciate how food connects everything we do in life, and it’s such a good way to get the feel of a new place and people. As I set to work writing my reply, it occurred to me I should post it on the blog, so it can be a resource for any foodie out there looking for an inside track to Dublin’s best bits. Also, my message to Misty (that’s the lady’s name) turned out to be the War & Peace of messages, so making a blog post out of it almost counts as work – so I don’t feel so bad about spending all that time on it instead of writing reviews!
So here’s my message to Misty:
Sure that’s no problem- that’s exactly how I like to do it!
The city centre is divided by the river into north and south side and has districts at its four corners: Smithfield (north-west) and IFSC/North docklands (north-east) and these are connected by tram. Then there’s south docklands/Grand Canal basin (south east) and Kilmainham/James’ Gate (south west). The middle bit includes O’Connell St and surrounding shopping streets (north) and Dame St, Christchurch, St Stephen’s Green and Grafton St (south).
There’s loads to see and do all over so I’ll list good places to look out for in the different areas, and things you might be doing in those places.
|Delish fish cake at Juno’s|
Smithfield has the Jameson Distillery and Chief O’Neill’s tower, where you get a good view of the city. Walking further eastwards along the quays you’ll come to the Parkgate St entrance to the Phoenix Park, where Dublin Zoo is. The Luas (tram) goes to both Smithfield and almost to Parkgate St – I love the zoo and the park so if there’s time I’d visit there – you’ll also find Juno’s Café on Parkgate St which is terrific.
If you walk (or cycle using a city bike) back along the quays towards O’Connell St, you’ll pass Capel St, which has interesting little ethnic food shops and bakeries, and just off it on Little Mary St is a good Chinese restaurant called Jade. The top of Capel St meets Parnell St, the entire length of which is like our Chinatown. There’s loads of restaurants but the best are Sichuan House, Charming Noodles (cheap n’ cheerful) and a Korean/Japanese restaurant called Kimchi at a pub called the Hop House. On Cathedral St, off O’Connell St, is another very good Chinese place called M&L. You’ll also find the decent inexpensive sushi places Musashi (Capel St) and Mitsuba (Parnell St), and a nice new café Brother Hubbard (on Capel St) serving excellent coffee, homemade soft drinks and freshly baked goodies.
Moving further along the quays towards O’Connell St you’ll pass the ‘Italian Quarter’ or Bloom’s Lane, off Ormond Quay. You’ll see some nice Italian cafés and restaurants here, my favourite of which is Enoteca delle Langhe (for nice Italian cheeses and a glass of wine). Close to this on Millennium Walkway you’ll find Koh, which does nice cocktails and Thai food, and also Boojum the Mexican place which does lovely fresh burritos and great house made chilli sauce. New to the area, on Great Strand Street, is Foam Café and Gallery – a quirky place that’s fun to hang out in, with some nice artisanal organic lemonades and baked treats worthy of note.
|Taste of Emilia|
Continuing along the quays, you’ll find Liffey St, which has one of my favourite wine bar/delis, Taste of Emilia – great bruschetta and boards of Italian DOP meats and cheeses, and decent wine. And also on this street is a Japanese restaurant called Ten Thousand (take-away called Kokoro beside it) which has some of the best value sushi in the city. You’ll also find the Epicurean Food Hall between Liffey St and Abbey St, inside which are loads of cool food stalls – my favourite of which is Taco Taco (one of our best for Mexican street food).
If you have the time and/or inclination I do recommend The Winding Stair on Ormond Quay – you have to book and it’s not nibbles (more a serious feed), but it’s Irish food at it’s best and one of my fav restaurants in the country. I wouldn’t miss it, if possible.
|The Luas goes through the IFSC to the Point Village|
If you were to carry on down towards the IFSC (Irish Financial Services Centre) and the docklands, you’ll find loads of places down here, and it’s a district well worth visiting. Ely Bar & Brasserie wine bar at CHQ is good for food or even just a glass of vino, and Enowine (or La Cuvee) and another Bar Italia are in the actual IFSC. The Harbourmaster is a pub right on the water that’s worth a go just for the picturesque setting alone.
The north and south docklands are connected by a couple of bridges, the most spectacular of which is the Samuel Beckett bridge that went up in 2009. If you cross this bridge you can head over to the Grand Canal basin, where the fab Grand Canal theatre has just opened – it’s a really cool new part of the city and you should definitely see it. Also there’s nice little places on Hanover Quay and Ely HQ (the gastropub version of the wine bar in CHQ) has a heated terrace so you can sit outside and watch the swans on the water over a drink and some food – which includes burgers grilled outdoors in summer. Herbstreet beside it is also fab – I’d choose it over Ely just for the chicken wings, and you can still look at the water if you sit by the window. Across the way is a pretty good new Spanish-style café bar that does tapas, called Cafébar H, where you’ll often see live tango dancing on the terrace at weekends.
|Comfy couches at KC Peaches|
Across the main road (Pearse Street) is KC Peaches – owned by a really nice American girl called Katie. It does terrific brunch (especially the Healthy Howth omlette or fried egg sandwich) and also really good muffins and baked goods. Just up the road The Art of Coffee does, just as you’d expect from that name, amazing coffee. And across from that is Il Valentino artisan bakery – just in case you need to buy some snacks for the road!
If you head up Pearse St back towards the centre, you’ll see Trinity College (definitely go in for a look) and you’ll come to the Dame St, Grafton St, Stephen’s Green end of things. There’s loads to do around here, especially shopping, but a visit to this area won’t be complete unless you go to Fallon & Byrne on Exchequer St. It’s foodie Mecca in Dublin – with a fab wine bar in the cellar where you can order cheese and paté etc, a nice deli on the ground floor where you can get food and bring it to the wine bar below, and a restaurant on the first floor. Personally, the ground floor and basement are my favourite places, I never bother with the restaurant.
Also nice to visit around this area are: Dunne & Crescenzi on Sth Fredrick St (Italian café/wine bar); the Port House on Sth William St for decent tapas (stick to the more authentic dishes). Havana on George’s St also does tapas, but its great atmosphere is its real selling point; in the Powerscourt Shopping Centre there’s a gorgeous little café called the Pepper Pot, which has lovely food and a yummy citrus ice tea; 777 on George’s St is doing superb cocktails and interesting cosmopolitan Mexican food; and Govinda’s on Aungier St (also Merrion Row and Middle Abbey St) does some of the tastiest vegetarian food you’ll find in Dublin, and very cheap too. KC Peaches has a second café on Nassau St with a wine bar in the basement – this does an especially good ‘Cal-Ital’ style tapas menu in the evening and live jazz on Saturday nights (booking required). Finally, if you go to Dublin Castle and the Chester Beatty Library, the Silk Road café in the library is lovely. And Queen of Tarts across the road on Dame St is a venerable institution for breakfast, lunch or snacks – pastries, of course, are order of the day. And on Castle St nearby a little place called Toffoli does fantastic pizza, bruschetta and other Italian foods, with exceptionally good Italian ingredients, particularly the meats.
If you’re visiting ‘Georgian Dublin’ i.e. around Merrion Square, Fitzwilliam Square, Pembroke Street
|Beautiful food at Pearl|
etc, look out for: Dax on Pembroke St (a French restaurant and café-bar), the restaurant’s pricey but the café-bar does good nibbles and wines, and has live jazz on Thursday and Friday evenings; Ely wine bar on Ely Place (lovely wine bar with good atmosphere); Pearl Brasserie on Merrion Row (not so much for casual nibbles but it’s a great restaurant); and Diep le Shaker on Pembroke Lane (fab Thai restaurant, also a bit fancy). If you’re near Baggot St on a week-day and fancy lunch on the run, try Pablo Picante burrito bar (take-away only but great burritos)- they’ve recently opened a sit-down/take-away place on Clarendon Market close to Grafton Street (see my post ‘Burrito Bonanza’ for more details about these!) Also Mantraa is a great Indian restaurant on this street and does really good value lunch deals.
If you go for walk out near the new rugby stadium (The Aviva stadium), find Juniors café and pizza places, and the Chop House gastropub nearby on Bath Avenue does exceptionally good food.Two good places on the South Side for beer and food are the Bull & Castle beer hall at Christchurch (a must for beer fans) and Against the Grain on Wexford St, and both have on-street seating that’s great for people watching. This second location is also a night spot – although Anseo is my favourite pub down here. Then I also love the Exchequer Bar on Exchequer St, beside Fallon & Byrne, for cocktails and night life, and it also does great gastropub food. While I’m on the subject of gastropubs, I must also mention L Mulligan Grocer over in Stoneybatter – this is one of the oldest original pubs in Dublin and also happens to be one of the finest. With over 200 whiskeys and over 150 craft beers (with regularly changing draught), and some damn good grub, it’s latest owners have managed to create something very special indeed for modern tastes while hanging on to all the old world charm.
Finally, the Museum of Modern Art is in Kilmainham and the Guinness brewery is in James’ Gate – a visit to the Store House at the brewery is worth a look, especially for the view over the city.
This is just a synopsis, I’m sure you’ll have great fun discovering the rest! Hope you have a brilliant time!
PS. My current fav restaurant is Michie Sushi. It’s the best sushi in Dublin – the other’s aren’t at the races at all by comparison. It’s outside the centre in a lovely village called Ranelagh – only a few stops on the Luas from St Stephen’s Green, and down a tiny street called Chelmsford Lane. It’s only a little nook but it’s soooo worth the effort if you like good sushi, and it has that feel of a secret place. Ranelagh’s also nice to see, and there’s a lovely wine bar just under the Luas station called Pinocchio.