I recently paid a short visit to Dublin to check out the ever-changing food scene. Dublin is such a wonderful city to visit; either for a weekend mini-break or for a longer stay. It is a city that offers something for everyone, young or old, whether you’re interested in culture, history, or just a fun time.
The Irish food scene has been growing exponentially over the last decade, with a reputation for superb quality produce and a growing desire to celebrate the best of Irish cooking, translating it for a modern, International audience.
Always in search of interesting and exceptionally good places to stay and eat when away from home, and keen to get away from big chains, I set about visiting the most exciting independent establishments in Dublin right now.
Where to stay
My base for this trip was Number 31, situated south of St Stephen’s Green, which is one of the most frequented areas of the city centre. Describing itself as a boutique guesthouse, Number 31 offers all the luxury and service you’d expect in a top hotel, but with the peace, quiet and hospitality you’d expect in the very best bed and breakfast establishment. It is a member of Hidden Ireland – a collection of exceptional independent historic houses.
Two gorgeous buildings are cleverly fused together to form this elegant city centre retreat; a Georgian townhouse and a most interesting Modernist mews designed by notable Irish architect, Sam Stephenson. Connected by a lovely, private garden and a most stylish central space featuring a sunken lounge and mezzanine breakfast room, it is certainly a characterful retreat.
The welcome could not have been warmer, and gave me time to relax with an excellent cup of coffee and some homemade biscuits after a long journey. Once shown to my room, I was given a key as guests are free to come and go as they please, adding to the relaxed atmosphere. Rooms are spacious and decorated in the same super-stylish décor as the rest of the property. Beds are wonderfully comfortable, the sheets are top quality and the bathrooms are deeply luxurious making it the private and relaxing space I needed for my trip.
Breakfast is taken in the mezzanine area in the main building. The choice is superb, including homemade muesli, fresh natural yoghurt, and a gorgeous rhubarb and strawberry compote. Everything here is homemade and done really, really well. There is a wide and tempting choice of cooked breakfasts, excellent coffee and of course, delicious homemade soda bread and cake. It really is a veritable feast to start the day off well.
It is worth mentioning just how delightful all the staff who were I met whilst staying. From the owners, to the young man who helped me with my cases, to the girl who served me at breakfast. They were all brilliant. It’s no wonder Number 31 is a secret Dublin bolt hole to so many famous faces. A stay here was a faultless experience and I’m looking forward to returning already.
Where to eat
The most exciting opening of late, in my opinion, in Dublin is The Fumbally. Its creation is the culmination of four years of cooking and experimentation before launching, and the food is just brilliant. Open for breakfast and lunch every day, offering an enticing blend of Middle Eastern spices, Mediterranean and Irish ingredients, I found it is one of those rare and wonderful places to eat where just everything is excellent. Go, as soon as you can.
If you are looking for a lovely place to buy lunch or coffee in central Dublin, I highly recommend Emer’s Kitchen. It hasn’t been opened long, and Emer herself is in there every day serving here loyal customers. It’s a cool new café and deli, again situated just off the Southeastern corner of St. Stephen’s Green. The coffee is excellent, the lunch menu is fresh, imaginative and prepared using well-sourced ingredients and the cake is divine. If I worked nearby, I’d be calling in everyday for my lunch. A takeaway lunch from here would make the perfect picnic to enjoy in a sunny spot in the square.
Ananda Indian restaurant in Dundrum is another exciting discovery. It is the leading Indian restaurant in Dublin and takes curry to another level. Every dish is beautifully presented, and executed with real skill by Executive Chef Sunil Ghal, and his team, who devised Ananda’s menu in partnership with Michelin-starred Indian chef Atul Kochhar.
Number 31, The Fumbally, Emer’s Kitchen and Ananda all offer a number of interesting options for dietary requirements.
What to do
Visitors to Dublin are spoilt for choice for things to see and do. Fortunately, the City Centre is quite compact, so it is very easy to cover ground on foot.
Culturally, there is much to do, from visiting Trinity College, the Irish Government buildings, the Castle and a huge variety of museums.
Those in search of fun will enjoy a visit to the Guinness Storehouse, and a drink and some music in the Temple Bar area, situated very near Trinity College.
For shopping, I think the best shop in Ireland, by far, is the Brown Thomas department store. Staggeringly elegant and jam-packed with carefully picked lines from clothing, to kitchen kit, wines and cookery books, it is the epitome of style from top to bottom. The Kilkenny shop is a very interesting place to explore Irish crafts and sells a lovely range of pottery and glassware.
Thank you to Number 31 for inviting me to stay.