Balfe St., City Center
Sometimes hotels become part of a city’s social fabric—and the Westbury is just such a hotel. The upstairs gallery, with its Art Deco touches, open fireplaces, and sink-into sofas, encourages long, lazy afternoons working your way through afternoon tea or, depending on the kind of day you’ve had, moving onto a martini at the bar. The hotel knows how to set the mood— the music is never too loud; walls are clad with art by John Lavery and Louis Le Brocquy—but it’s at Christmas that the design really comes alive. That’s when the communal areas truly shine with the Art Deco glitz, while the guest rooms with their huge soft beds and neutral palette are pleasingly calm. There’s no spa, but the location, steps away from Grafton Street, is unbeatable.
S. Great George's St., City Center
Ireland’s claim to culinary fame certainly does not lie in the arena of Mexican cuisine, but 777 makes an admirable stab at the real thing, helped by the broad selection of top-class mescal served at the bar. The owners have successfully managed the often impossible at 777—they’ve created an atmosphere, a buzz, a place people want to be. The bar is a destination in and of itself, mixing the best margarita in the country. The interior is fun and brave, with sexy murals painted onto the subway-tiled walls, a yellow-and-black checkerboard floor, and a golden glow cast by the yellow-tinged light fixtures—it all feels a bit off-color, a bit explicit. The menu lists only a few dishes and sides, but all are done well. The yellowfin sashimi with pickled cucumber, served on a crisp tostada with habanero and a punchy chipotle mayo, is especially good as are the elotes and chicharrón tacos.
1 William St. S, City Center
Few restaurants manage to keep up as solid an ambiance and loyal a crowd year in year out as Coppinger Row—literally, it never disappoints. Named for the narrow alley it occupies between two of the capital’s busiest and buzziest streets, the space is small, with every ounce of square footage filled with tables, chairs, and people. Dining is not compulsory, and sitting outside the restaurant, sipping one of the excellent cocktails (top choices include the flo and basy and the gunpowder gin and tonic with grapefruit and star anise) wrapped in a blanket with one of Coppinger’s mini hot water bottles in your lap is one of the town’s true pleasures. The food is Mediterranean/Irish: messy garlic and chili prawns à la plancha, black pudding salad (an Irish staple—the pudding, not the salad), crispy pork belly and stewed apple. Sometimes it’s not the meal itself but how it ends that’s most memorable; in this case, the bonbon coffee, a shot of espresso and condensed milk served with a lone almond, is strangely more satisfying than any dessert.
18 Merrion Row, City Center
Etto, a small, informal slip of an independent restaurant on one of Dublin’s better gastronomic strips, is one of the most exciting, envelope-pushing places to eat in a city that is, despite what people say, bursting with good food. The simple, completely informal white-walled, wood-floored room serves up Michelin-rated, Italian-inspired food flecked with Irish influence. The result is totally unexpected: You won’t find regular pizza or pasta here. The menu changes daily, and a sampling might include duck-heart toast with pickled turnips, deer carpaccio paired with artichoke and pickled pear, sea bream crudo and blood orange, mussels and salty samphire, a creamy panna cotta with poached clementines to finish. Wine-wise, the list is heavy on old-world labels, with many available by the carafe. Despite the unceasing accolades, Etto is not expensive, and the beloved staff will always do their best to find you a seat.
109A Baggot St. Lower, City Center
Partners in the kitchen and in life, Derry and Sallyanne Clarke have operated one of Dublin’s most successful fine-dining establishments for nearly thirty years. Walk through the cobbled courtyard into the old Georgian coach house—often to be welcomed by Sallyanne herself. Chef Clarke showcases the very best of Irish cuisine inflected with a French sensibility; every dish and detail is thoughtful, right down to the bread basket (which in itself is a solid introduction to Irish gastronomy—the malty, dark Guinness bread, the umami-strong sourdough, the traditional soda loaf). Diners will notice a fish- and game-heavy menu paired with the unexpected flavors that keep this establishment in the Michelin guide: Wicklow sika deer with salsify and juniper, duck with black garlic. The atmosphere is never stuffy or precious, instead, laughter fills the high-ceilinged space that’s always full of that heady Dublin mix of politicians, creatives, bankers, and the occasional out-of-towner that gives L’Ecrivain its personable, familiar character.
Molesworth Ct., School House Ln. E, City Center
Like many of Dublin’s fine-dining establishments, One Pico has withstood the test of time, surviving the rise and fall of the Celtic tiger and subsequent recession—a true feat. Fueling celebratory dinners and long lunches since 1997, longtime chef Eamonn O’Reilly does what some would call modern Irish cuisine really well, with a nod to the French flavors Ireland has developed a taste for. Beef tartare with charcoal mayo and pickled carrot, turbot with cockles and roasted scallops, and an array of inventive deserts (we’re partial to the honey parfait, honeycomb, bee pollen, and milk ice cream in particular), served out of a discreetly elegant dining room in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mews house down a quiet laneway in the city center.
43 Camden St., City Center
Chef Sunil Ghai is no stranger to the Dublin food scene having done stints in the Ananda and Jaipur kitchens over the last few years. Pickle, however, is his first solo venture. Ghai has chosen to highlight the street snacks and home cooking of Northern India, creating punchy, assertive dishes packed with flavor and perfect for sharing. Don’t play it safe; try something new like the lamb-and-bone-marrow curry cooked for close to twenty-four hours or spice-crusted scallops. Venison, something eaten a lot in Ireland, is wholly reimagined with bright pickled cauliflower, wild berry chutney, and a smoky chili yogurt. The décor is as exciting as the food—patterned tiles, green-and-yellow accents, and colorful posters of India adorning the walls.
The Woollen Mills
42 Lower Ormond Quay, City Center
The Woollen Mills is the newer sister restaurant to the Winding Stair, and while the resolute dedication to Irish producers is the same, the menu and setting are different. The four-story building—every corner of it occupied with gastronomic something—is an iconic Dublin landmark preserving many of the original features. The breakfast here is good, really good—the Ha’penny fry-up for the traditionalists, the squash bhaji topped with the perfect poached egg, yogurt, and bright mango marmalade for the more adventurous. Dinner is even more impressive: Irish oysters with pickled seaweed, roasted monkfish with kohlrabi, and the best vegan burger in the city.
Butlers Chocolate Café
4 Liffey St., Lower, City Center
As Irish as soda bread, Butlers is an institution—every Irish person's first port of call when they hit departures at Dublin airport or find themselves at the tail end of a rough day (or long night) in town. The hot chocolate is sublime—actual molten Irish chocolate whipped into the creamiest, frothiest, steamed milk and always served with a chocolate of your choice (go for the butter praline). The special white hot chocolate, even sweeter than the traditional version, is positively artery-clogging in its delicious richness. The coffee is also very good, and thankfully you’ll find Butlers cafés dotted throughout the city, although the most charming—and quick—iteration is the hole-in-the-wall across the road from Trinity College.
Fallon & Byrne
11-17 Exchequer St., City Center
The middle floor of this three-story gastronomy center is the marketplace and café every home cook wishes they had at their disposal, effectively Dublin’s answer to Dean & Deluca. The space is reason enough to visit, a vast, cavernous industrial-style room with warm redbrick walls and ornate parquet floors that, thanks to the shopping crowds, feels very urban. Fallon & Byrne offers a proper taste of Ireland with fish, meat, and cheese counters brimming with the finest product, much of it from smaller, artisanal producers around the country. The takeout counter is a great spot for a quick but proper lunch of curries, lasagna, roasted vegetables, salads, and coffee to go (or to enjoy at the few tall tables scattered amongst the boxes of mangoes and Wexford strawberries).
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