Words by Emily Carson & Rosie Gogan-Keogh
Photography by George Voronov & venues own
In the first of our series of city guides around the world, we take a tour of where to sleep, eat, drink and visit in our own hometown.
Dublin has weathered a storm over the past 10 years. We saw many pals leave, taking with them a certain vibrancy to far flung shores but many stayed and worked hard, taking advantage of disused buildings and (once) cheaper rents to help start new things in the depleted town. Life went on and many came back, bringing a new wave of inspiration.
The result of this tumultuous time has been a rebirth, and maybe even a birth in some cases, of food culture, a thriving music industry and a unique art scene. Key ingredients in our opinion for a weekend jaunt or even a longer sojourn. This is by no means a definitive list but a loving look at both some of our personal favourites and lesser mentioned highlights of Dublin town.
Stay – The Dean
The Dean has a level of artistry – with curation by local artist James Earley – that is not often seen in Irish hotels. The rooms are kitted out to feel like you’re staying at a particularly flush friend’s house with covetable toiletries, gadgets, vinyl and snacks to match. The Dean is modern, fun and built with design in mind. Head up to Sophie’s for dinner and enjoy a panoramic view of the capital or the Rooftop Bar for a summer BBQ.
Eat – Kimchi/Hophouse
Fusing a Korean restaurant with a pub that goes by ‘The Shakespeare’, complete with period facade, might seem like a daunting task but Kimchi does it with panache. The restaurant space feels as though it’s bleeding into the pub snugs, with sizzling stone bowls of bibimbap parading past bar stool regulars and people taking turns between slurping on a bowl of noodles and a pint. It’s this casual feel and the insane loyalty scheme of every sixth pint being free which makes Kimchi such a unique proposition. The meals are cheap, flavourful and varied and the staff are in permanent good moods.
Drink – Old Royal Oak
The telly’s on, there’s no music, pints are cheap, choice is limited and the aesthetic lands somewhere between an old-school, no frills pub and someone’s front room. The Old Royal Oak on Kilmainham Lane is trying to impress no one and in preserving its mid 1900s set up has managed to stand out in a sea of faux-speakeasies. Arrive in the early evening and it’s perfectly possible that you’ll end up chatting with the people at the next table – you can all hear each other’s conversations after all – and by the end of the night you’ll probably be sharing rounds and shouting with each other.
11 Kilmainham Ln, Ushers, Dublin, 8
Eat – Forest & Marcy
Forest & Marcy calls itself simply a ‘neighbourhood wine room and kitchen’ but the reality is something far more worthy of hyperbole. Situated in a small, unassuming space on Upper Leeson Street, once you step inside the doors of Forest & Marcy the attention to both you and your experience is looked after to the nth degree. Small plates of seasonal food feature elements like fermented potato bread, pine hollandaise and whey caramel. With both chef’s choice and ‘Farm to Forest’ tasting menus available at sub-€50 prices this is without a doubt the best place to get a fine dining fix without taking out a high-interest loan.
Dance – Hang Dai
Behind an unassuming shop front on Camden Street sits a neon-washed enclave with a state of the art, custom-built sound system and the fittings of an otherworldly subway car. The food is a modern take on Chinese, but once dinner service finishes and the Yuzu and Green Tea cocktails have been flowing for a few hours the tunes crank up and it’s not long before the everyone’s hanging out of the subway poles. Come for the duck, stay for a dance.
Dance – Tengu
Trust a building that’s not even a club to put on some of the most interesting and forward-thinking bookings in the capital. Yamamori Tengu is located at the back of the esteemed Japanese restaurant on Dublin’s north quays, regularly throwing a vast array of gigs that range from heavy weekenders by bookers Out To Lunch (who have brought the likes of Traxx, Lena Willikens, DJ Sprinkles amongst others to Dublin) to soul festivals and documentary screenings. Expect top notch cocktails and a range of Japanese beers paired with thronged makeshift dancefloors.
Listen – DDR
A new online radio station filled with unusual voices, musical oddities and no topic off limits. Set up in late 2016, DDR has recruited a veritable smorgasbord of contributors that cover everything from interviews with local creatives, new releases from Irish independent bands, and mixes of jazz, hip hop, synth pop, house music and everything in between. When DDR aren’t broadcasting live they’re hosting parties in venues across the city with radio residents and local DJs that always bring together an eclectic and fun crowd. Get your earbuds in and give them a listen to get the alternative sound of the city. (Check out Move Slow 4pm-6pm the last Sunday of every month hosted by our very own Greg and Russell.)
Visit – IMMA
Set in the expansive surrounds of a former military hospital in Kilmainham, the Irish Museum of Modern Art can make you feel as though you’ve left the city entirely. Featuring work from leading contemporary artists alongside greats like Lucian Freud, the long, sparse corridors of the former hospital building lend themselves well to large scale, provocative works. 2017’s programme includes exhibitions on the Calais refugee camps, modern mysticism and anthropological studies of rural Ireland. Make the pilgrimage on the Luas red line and enjoy both the exhibitions and the ornate gardens that surround them.
Drink – Grogans
Every Dubliner has their quintessential pub of choice: whether it’s huddled in the back snug of O’Connell’s in Portobello, a scotch egg and beer at L. Mulligan Grocer or a blast of trad at The Cobblestone. Us? We’re rather partial to a pint and toastie at Grogans, a melting pot of Dublin life right in the centre of town. It’s prime people watching territory so sit outside and let the city come to you. Inside, every square inch of wall space is covered with a motley crew of art; the clientele aren’t far off either so grab a seat if you can and prepare to make some new pals.
Shop – Industry
This is the kind of shop you could kit your whole house from if you happened upon a rather large pile of cash. Their stuff is gorgeous, each piece chosen with impeccable taste. There was a period when a certain member of the TGP crew’s friends and family were all getting gifted with their impossibly soft lambswool rugs. If you haven’t satiated your shopping by the time you’re heading home, another pick of ours is Makers & Brothers. They deliver a heartbreaking mix of curated Irish and international gifts and homewares from their online shop. If you’re in town they might invite you to pop by their Harold’s Cross studio too.
Do – Swim
One of Dublin’s best, worst kept secrets is its proximity to the sea. The whole city curves around a rather magnificent horseshoe bay – you can’t escape the thing. There’s a load of swimming spots that heave with people as soon as the first glimmer of summer comes and are fairly popular year round too. Hop on a Dart to Dalkey and head out to the Vico, once a popular men-only bathing spot. Now all are allowed but we can’t promise all will be clothed. The way the sand coloured rocks jut out into the deep blue sea, you’d almost think you were in Croatia, if it wasn’t for the cold of course. But it’s as warm as tea once you’re in, we promise.