Travel

Ireland

Establishment neighborhood
The Shelbourne
27 St. Stephen's Green, City Center
There is no better hotel in Dublin than the Shelbourne. Not only is the centuries-old building majestic inside and out, but the location on St. Stephen's Green means you can walk everywhere. The whole operation—the service, the amenities, the restaurants—is five star. Walking into the marble lobby, you have the buzzing No. 27 bar on your left and sumptuous Lord Mayors Lounge on your right with a roaring fire and classic afternoon tea. The rooms reflect the Georgian character and are outfitted with antique furniture, generous bathrooms, and the softest beds you could imagine. The suites feel akin to stepping back in time to a luxurious period residence, each window overlooking the park. The Shelbourne has borne witness to many of the more significant events in Irish history—the first constitution was drafted here by Michael Collins—and the famous Horseshoe bar is perennially packed with politicians and journalists sparring over pints of Guinness.
The Westbury
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.
777
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.
Bibi’s
14b Emorville Ave., Portobello
Bibi's, on a corner of a sleepy Portobello terrace, can be hard to find unless you know about it—which everyone does. Run by brother and sister Geoff and Maisha Lenehan (their mother often lends a hand), the café is beloved for the reliably good breakfasts of creamy eggs, crispy bacon, and fresh ginger-and-honey tea. The menu rarely changes, which is just fine with the locals. People always want the same thing here anyway: spicy Turkish eggs and thick buttery slabs of sourdough. The space is small and cozy with a lovely familial atmosphere thanks to friendly regulars and servers who have bussed the same tables for years.
Brother Hubbard
46 Harrington St., Portobello
Unanimously declared the best breakfast in Ireland, Brother Hubbard serves portions such that you probably won't eat much for the rest of the day. The food strikes the balance between health and indulgence; the classic but simple porridge is a reminder of childhood breakfasts—healthy, hot, with too much honey. Bravely opened at the tail end of the recession, no corners are cut here, and each dish has been constructed for maximum flavor. The beans on toast are topped not just with the perfect poached egg but with a zesty lemon-turmeric yogurt and pickled red onion; the homemade masala chai is the only coffee alternative we ever willingly order. The modern dining room is immediately appealing, super minimalist lifted by sculptural undulating lights that descend from the ceiling and give the space a golden glow. There's always a line snaking out the door, usually for the do-it-yourself hot cocoa: chocolate ganache and steamed milk in separate cups, a dream come true for those who like a little milk with their chocolate.
Chapter One
18-19 Parnell Sq. N, Parnell Square
A mainstay for Irish gourmands for the last two decades, Chapter One always gets it right. A Michelin-rated, white-tablecloth establishment housed in the elegant basement of a Georgian townhouse in one of Dublin’s most culturally significant squares (the Garden of Remembrance and the Dublin Writer’s Museum are mere moments away). The menu leans heavily on the products Ireland does well—fish, game, and especially good vegetarian dishes with the freshest vegetables, beautifully prepared. For the experience without the hefty price tag, try the pretheater menu before attending a play at the Gate around the corner.
Coppinger Row
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.
Etto
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.
Fia Café
155B Rathgar Rd., Rathgar
Fia is the brainchild of two friends who felt a hyper-seasonal café was missing from sophisticated Rathgar, and who hired Dublin chefs, like Keith Coleman, to create the menu. The dishes are all supplier-driven, brimming with Gubbeen cheese and chorizo, vegetables from McNally’s Farm, and Roasted Brown coffee beans. Everything from the lemony yogurt that drapes the eggs to the cherry kombucha is made in house. It's absolutely tiny—there are only twenty-five seats—so expect a line, albeit a fast-moving one. But it’s worth it: This is one of the better breakfasts in Dublin.
Glovers Alley
128 St. Stephen's Green, Stephen's Green
Glovers Alley is Dublin’s shiny new kid on the well-trod restaurant block, the kid in question being thirty-two-year-old chef Andy McFadden. McFadden has taken over the old Thornton’s and transformed it into a glamorous Art Deco salon that marries texture—marble, glass, wood, velvet—with function. This opening has created buzz among the Dublin culinary crowd, the kitchen filled with some of the city’s best talent, some of those who had moved across the pond to London and were lured back to an Irish kitchen. Glovers Alley is the kind of restaurant where you start with a crisp glass of champagne before delving into a menu that hints at French influence. The dishes celebrate Ireland’s fields and rivers with gamey, wintry plates like sika deer with bone marrow, suckling pig, or a lighter crab with ponzu and kohlrabi. The desserts are really clever. Pastry chef Aoife Noonan infuses classic items with sake, coriander, and cheese creating dishes that are still sweet but not too much so.