While it may not have the pull of London, Paris or New York, Dublin is a whole world of cool away from the Guinness-filled, high-heeled hens (and stags for that matter), that cram the cobbled streets of its Temple Bar. It’s no secret I’m a Londoner, the proper kind that still has a South London accent and an “I heart London” t-shirt I wear to bed, but after five years in this fair city, I’m happy to call myself a Dubliner too. I’ve seen it evolve so much over the last couple of years it’s almost unrecognisable. You can still expect the warmth of the Irish, their friendly greetings as they pass you in the street and endearing ability to talk about nothing for what seems like an eternity. And of course the Guinness is incomparable and the Craic is mighty, but beyond, far beyond that stuff is an intelligent, creative, cultured city I adore. With its pop-up culture thriving and in the midst of a burgeoning coffee revolution, Dublin, recently voted in the top 26 countries in the world for its street art, has a shiny new appeal you will love, you just have to know where to find it.
You’ll find me on the Northside. I love its gritty exterior and hidden beauty you find in the Botanic Gardens and Phoenix Park. Dotted around the main shopping district are delicious, unassuming cafes and restaurants. Visit Brother Hubbard for cosy coffee, fresh, homemade brunch and lunch, the salads are a delight and super healthy. Musashi serve the best sushi in town, great value, the sashimi and pork gyoza are my favourites. The Winding Stair is a cute hideaway above a bookshop overlooking the Ha’penny Bridge. Perfect for a romantic meal, the food is hearty and wine list extensive with some Irish red and white to sample too.
L Mulligan Grocer is Stoneybatter’s finest purveyor of craft beer, whiskey and artisan food. Pairing everything from beer and food to beer and whiskey to whiskey and coffee, go early to nab a seat. Slice are the newest kids on the block serving simple breakfasts, lunches and dinners as well as their new ‘breakfast in bed’ service, sounds good to me.
2. Temple Bar and Southside
Let’s be honest, if you’re visiting Dublin for the first time, a night out in Temple Bar is a given. You could happily stumble from one bar to another within a 100 meter radius and have the time of your life, but, I much prefer it during the day.
With menus being shoved under your nose it’s easy to go wrong here. Here’s what I’d do first. Grab a coffee in the cool space that is Roasted Brown, pick up a copy of Totally Dublin and one of the delectable treats they serve by Wildflour Bakery and map out your next stop.
Staple Foods, soon relocating to a nearby larger premises, are one of the few places to get healthy, free-from alternatives with delicious salad combinations and fresh juices on offer. Just a short stroll across Dame Street and you reach the real Southside. Here you are totally spoilt for choice. Impossible to list everything, here are a few I wouldn’t miss. For tea and coffee Clement and Pekoe, Kaph, Wall and Keogh, for lunch Cornucopia, The Fumbally, The Pepper Pot and for dinner Forest Avenue, Super Miss Sue and 777. If you eat anywhere when you’re in Dublin make sure it’s 777, it’s Mexican food like you’ve never seen it, the service is incredible and the margaritas are the best you’ll ever taste, I promise I’m not exagerating.
3. Grand Canal
One of the newest additions to the city, Grand Canal has become a hub of eateries and entertainment from theatre to water sports. Herbstreet is not to be missed. Get there early for breakfast or brunch, the pancakes are by far the best in the city and if you’re lucky enough to have a bit of sun you can sit outside with a blanket over your knees and enjoy the view.
At the forefront of this coffee revolution I mentioned, Colin and the guys at 3fe can be found just outside the Canal. With their own roastery in the city, their coffee is one of the best you’ll taste in Dublin. Pizza E Porchetta and The Marker Hotel serve amazing food if you are around the Canal for dinner. Pop up to the hotels roof bar and terrace for some cocktails and another great view. Or if you fancy dinner and a drink on the water, check out The Boat.
4. Clontarf and Howth
There aren’t many cities in the world that boast sandy beaches and stunning sea views just 15 minutes away in either direction. For your fix of sea air and Dublin beach life head North to Howth with a stop off in Clontarf and North Bull Island. You’ll need to fuel up for the day, I recommend stopping at Bay restaurant. The food here is healthy, wholesome and delicious, catering for all kinds food allergies, which, is still somewhat of a novelty in Dublin. The savoury buckwheat pancakes with halloumi and wild mushrooms and the pan fried mackerel on toast with beetroot and orange salsa are my favourites.
A short walk across the road to North Bull Island and you can stroll for miles along the waterfront taking in the views across Dublin Bay and over to Howth.
Howth is a must, just another 10 minutes or so up the road and you’ll reach this beautiful fishing village. With its very own Prawn Festival and weekly food market there is so much to eat, see and do here. After your beach walk on Bull Island you’ll be ready for another bite before heading up Howth Head for some 360 views. It’s likely you’ll have to queue, but Beshoff Bros hits the spot if it’s traditional fish and chips you fancy. For something a little different you can try Findlaters or The House, both serving traditional Irish food with a modern twist. The harbour is a picture but the views get even better when you head uphill on one of the many cliff walks where you can see over to Ireland’s Eye and into the city, trust me, it’s well worth it.
If you are going beyond Dublin and heading West during your stay in Ireland try to catch Living Dinners over the summer for a truly unique dining experience. Having been to one of Katie’s pop-ups already I know first hand how good her food is and I can’t wait to find out more about her next project Dillisk. The Blind Pig host 1920’s style cocktail masterclasses across the city, follow them on Twitter for latest updates. With a different food theme each month Salt Lick host a pop-up, BYOB restaurant on a Friday and Saturday night, this month is tea and toast month and bookings are via Twitter only. If Taco month is anything to go by you’re in for a treat.