COLOURFUL PUBS MIGHT BE DUBLIN’S BIG SELLER BUT THE CITY ALSO HAS SOME HIDDEN GEMS BEHIND THE BRIGHT FACADES
1 COFFEE REVOLUTION
For a few years now Dublin has witnessed a revolution: a coffee revolution. On its forefront, Brother Hubbard waves the flag with award winning baristas and an innovative menu. Particularly popular among the Dubliners is the weekend brunch: the menu leans towards Middle-Eastern flavours with an Irish twist. Spend an hour munching away scones with orange blossom butter and listen to the cheery Irish chatter around. Located in the northern part, that is, the “rough side”, of Dublin, Brother Hubbard offers a relaxed space to kick-off your day’s exploration around the city.
Tip: Capel Street is a bustling straight lane just of the river Liffey: if you look towards the south from Brother Hubbard, you see the vista ending to a majestic white building with classic columns and green dome. Walk towards it, and you’ll cross the Liffey using Grattan Bridge, go past Temple Bar and Porterhouse Pub and an Oxfam Bookshop, finally reaching one of Dublin’s main thoroughfares, Dame Street.
2 A RESTAURANT YOU CANNOT REFUSE
Tucked away in busy Bachelor’s Walk, along the Liffey, in a little underground restaurant, Terra Madre offers Dublin’s tastiest Italian food. Sourcing the best ingredients and keeping the menu simple, Terra Madre produces portions for pure enjoyment. Try the exquisite Terena Ascolana olive oil and Involtini di Bresaola, but remember to leave room for the chocolate salami and espresso too – this is Dublin’s best shot of the black stuff!
Tip: Bachelor’s Walk can be busy, so after meal, step aside to the calmer Quay of Liffey: if it is a sunny day, sit down on one of the benches, take in the sun and Dublin’s lively atmosphere. Then, pick up a book, start reading, and you blend right in with the locals!
3 CLASSY COCKTAILS IN TEMPLE BAR
In the heart of Dublin, Crown Alley on Temple Bar, is a closed black door with the letters VCC on top of a little peephole. Ring the doorbell and enter Vintage Cocktail Club, an elegant shebeen with an extensive cocktail menu. VCC is a classy contrast to the pints and pubs around: this is a place to impress your date with soft bossa nova at the background and a fire roaring in the fireplace. Try the zazzy ginger based drinks, and pay attention to the vintage glasses!
Tip: If you fancy some shopping before drink o’clock, try Temple Bar’s famous second-hand shops, such as Siopaella, for high street and big fashion name brands. Crow Street’s Siopaella sells high street and vintage items, and on Temple Lane you can find menswear also. I made a few good finds from Siopaella, such as my subtly pinkish, 60s style wedding dress.
4 FASHIONABLE FUMBALLY
Near one of Dublin’s most visited attractions, St Patrick’s Cathedral, is The Fumbally: a rustic yet urban setting for a little break from sight-seeing. Open kitchen provides some of Dublin’s healthiest lunches with big bowls of salads and delicious gluten-free cakes. This is the gathering place for hipster families for Saturday lunch and a glass of wine. When heading back to the centre, pop into Ireland’s oldest public library, Marsh’s Library, next to St Patrick’s Cathedral.
Tip: If you are in the area on the last Sunday of the month, walk around the corner from St Patrick’s Cathedral to Newmarket Co-op, where the biggest Dublin flea market is held: here you can find some bargains from clothing to books, LPs and any sort of nick nack you can imagine.
5 PROMENADE AND PIZZA
For a day-trip from Dublin, head to the coastal Dún Laoghaire on a Sunday and visit the local food market in People’s Park. Here you find rows and rows of ethnic food, bakery goods and books – and Dave’s wood-fired pizza. You will locate Dave’s van easily: just follow the queue. Enjoy your takeaway on a promenade facing the Irish Sea, and pop into the James Joyce Martello Tower fifteen minutes stroll away in Sandycove. This is a Dubliner’s lazy Sunday.
Tip: Along the promenade you can also buy an old-fashioned ice cream cone as a desert!
6 COSY LUNCH IN A FANCY MALL
Fancy keeping away from the bright lights and shiny surfaces of a modern mall but still needing to get some serious souvenir shopping done in Dublin? Try the Georgian Powerscourt Towncentre and its dozens little shops for design and decoration, vintage jewellery, clothes and knitting. On the upper gallery, you also find some local art, and one of Dublin’s cutest coffee shop restaurants, the Pepper Pot Café. Under the crystal chandeliers, Pepper Pot offers traditional and tasty Irish produce, such as Mount Cullen cheddar and The Burren Smoke House Salmon. Soups and sandwiches are a perfect snack for a busy city tourer, and the atmosphere in the centre relaxed and warm.
Tip: I know, Grafton Street around the corner is supposedly the street for shopping in the whole of Ireland, but to me South William Street is more alluring with its corky cake and coffee shops, vintage shops and little restaurants with terraces spreading on the streets. Here you get a feel of real Dubliner’s Dublin, enjoy!