Wed 10 Aug 2016
Last Saturday, Mountaineering Man and I had our usual almond croissants from Morgan, the French Baker, and flat whites from Revolution Bakery at St. Anne’s Park. Afterward, we stopped by the Organic Delights veg stall and got a few things – spinach, courgettes, onions and potatoes. Normally I would’ve gotten some flowers at the florist’s stand, but all of our vases were already packed.
This has been our routine every Saturday morning for at least the last few years now, and though I’m sure there are farmers’ markets where we’re going, Morgan (bread/croissants) and Denis (veg) won’t be there. It’s going to take some getting used to.
There are so many places that we frequent in Dublin and beyond that we will miss. So in the interest of passing on the scoop on some great places, here’s a list of our favourites. I hope you’ll check them out, if you haven’t already.
Clontarf Wines: Ronnie & Helena are passionate about wine and we love popping into their shop to talk about (and taste!) their most recent discoveries. There’s no snobbery here, so even if you know nothing about wine you’ll feel welcome. The shop sells nice nibbles too, like charcuterie and cheese, so you can pick up a lovely little spread of treats and vino for an evening when you’re too tired to cook. We often do.
il Valentino Bakery & Café: When I first met Valentina, the whip-smart Italian co-owner (along with her Irish husband Owen) of this lovely bakery café, I knew we would become fast friends. Her straight-forward, no-nonsense attitude and her passion for honest, good food had me hooked straight away. MM and I have come to know Valentina and Owen very well over the last few years, and in them we have found kindred spirits. But on to the bakery itself: the breads, pastries, cakes and sandwiches at this Grand Canal joint are not only delicious but made with top-quality ingredients and a lot of love. Try the polenta lemon cake – it’s my favourite!
L Mulligan Grocer: I still remember going to the opening of this gastropub way back when, and it’s great to see the place still packs it in night after night. We’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and Wednesdays here, and have brought nearly every visitor in to try their famous scotch egg. When we brought Weezer here for dinner when they were in town for the Oxygen Festival, they declared their fish ‘n chips the “best in Europe.” Couldn’t agree more!
McHugh’s Wine & Dine: This Raheny bistro is – hands down – as good, if not better, than any in Dublin city centre, and I feel so incredibly lucky to have this just down the way from our house. Chef John Poole is an incredible talent and has been at the helm of this place for as long as we’ve been going there. After a long week, we’ll often pop down to Cedar’s Lounge (another neighbourhood gem) for an aperitif and then to McHugh’s for a relaxing dinner. For our engagement party, which was held in one of the private rooms of Cedar’s, the McHugh’s folks were kind enough to cater in nibbles (though it’s not a regular thing they do!). I am seriously going to miss this place!
Octopussy: It’s the seafood restaurant with the funny name, but there’s nothing funny about the incredible dishes being served up at this Howth favourite. Their secret? Take really good, fresh seafood from Doran’s fishmonger’s next door and don’t f*** it up. Everything is simply prepared so you get a true taste of Ireland’s best fish and shellfish. My brother in law requests a visit every time he’s in Dublin. It’s that good.
Eastern Seaboard & Brown Hound Bakery (Drogheda): When I first moved to Drogheda, I heard there was an American, half-Japanese chef running a restaurant with his Irish wife. Being a half-Japanese American myself, I had to meet this guy! I rang, requested an interview (for my blog) and met Reuven and Jeni – the duo behind the Eastern Seaboard restaurant and later Brown Hound bakery. It still boggles my mind that these two places exist not only in Drogheda but outside of the town centre next to a housing estate, because when you walk into either place you feel like you are in New York or Los Angeles. The food is incomparable, the atmosphere is unlike any you’ll find in Ireland and the service is outstanding. We will be back every time we visit Ireland, this is for certain.
Nolan’s grocery store: The thing about Tesco is that, if you ask an employee where something is, they’ll likely respond with, “I don’t know” and a blank stare. Also, it takes about 5 hours to find anything in the massive Tesco Extras. That’s why we love Nolan’s, our neighbourhood grocer, which employs proper butchers, fishmongers and nice, helpful people who run the tills and stock the shelves. Yes, it might cost a bit more than Tesco but the produce is better and the service is outstanding. When I ask where something is, a Nolan’s employee will tell me to continue my shopping while they look for it, and then they’ll come and find me with the product in hand. It’s service from another era, this.
Etto: I’m sure you’ve already heard about this place, as it has won numerous awards since they opened a couple of years ago. Their small plates menu is my favourite, and as it changes with the seasons you’ll never get bored – no matter how often you go (and we go, often!). MM and I love to sit up at the bar and chat with the staff, who are all so lovely and knowledgeable on food/wine. This is another place we bring visitors, as there’s really nothing like it in Dublin.
Picado Mexican: You can pretty much throw a rock in any direction in Dublin and hit a burrito place, but there’s nowhere in the city you can buy authentic, Mexican ingredients to make your own (real) Mexican feast – except Picado. Owned and operated by my mate Lily, who is from Mexico, and her Irish husband Alan, Picado has it all – masa, mole, a range of dried chilies, chipotles, a variety of beans and real, corn tortillas – made from Lily’s own recipe. She also offers cooking classes and supper clubs, and I guarantee you will learn that there’s more to Mexican food than burritos (something that doesn’t even exist in Mexico) and have a taste experience unlike anything you’ve ever had. Check it out.
IMMA/Royal Hospital Kilmainham: When we first started dating, MM and I often went to IMMA as it wasn’t too far from his bachelor pad. The exhibits are always excellent, and the grounds (like the English garden) are stunningly beautiful. We’ve also enjoyed a good number of shows out back, at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, including Beck and Sigur Ros. Unlike many venues, this place actually has great food and decent drinks, and – occasionally – the most incredible sunsets you’ll ever see.
Fuel: We’ve been obsessed with this place since it opened earlier this year, thanks to their excellent coffee and healthy-but-delicious food. From protein pancakes to oat-crusted mackerel over avocado toast with poached eggs (I know, NOMZ!), we always find something here that we love and that loves us back.
TXFM: This is a radio station, not a place, but listening to it has certainly transported me to another place in time on many occasions. When I was a teenager growing up in LA, we had a station like this, called KROQ, but it has disintegrated into a mess of mainstream pop rock mixed with annoying gags and commentary from the DJs. Not this station. The DJs are smart and clever, knowledgable about the music they play and – when they want to be – are actually funny. I relish my drive to and from work thanks to the excellent tunes and entertaining commentary from Cathal Funge and Joe Donnelly. They even read my texts (always signed American Clare) on air, which pretty much makes me feel like a giddy school girl again. Ah, such good times. I’m sure going to miss you (and so will everyone else, when it goes off the air in October for good – argh).
Dollymount Strand: This is probably mine and MM’s favourite spot in Dublin – and one we have visited more times than I can count as we are lucky enough to live just down the road from this stunning destination. With a view of the hills of Howth on one side, and the Poolbeg Towers on the other, this stretch of sand on the north side is a little piece of heaven. Tomorrow I’ll walk your sandy shore for the last time in a long while, and peer out the window at your breaking waves from the plane on Monday.
Miyazaki: The only problem with this tiny, Japanese takeaway is that it’s all the way in Cork, which is terrible for me because I live in Dublin! The first time I went to Miyazaki, I felt like I was back in Tokyo because the smells emanating from the kitchen took me right back to my roots. The way chef Miyazaki incorporates local produce into traditional, Japanese dishes is simply genius, and I think he has single-handedly showed the locals in Cork that Japanese food is so much more than just sushi (even though his sushi is incredible!!).
We hope you enjoy all of these places as much as we have.