We spent a month exploring Ireland, and much of that time was in the heart of Dublin city. Dublin is in a great transition right now, expanding as a multi-cultural city with waves of immigrants coming in every month. As such, the food scene is blossoming, and your visit to Dublin, whether long or short, is sure to be full of delightful food and drinks. We worked long and hard on this post and can't wait to hear your feedback. Please enjoy the Mint & Mirth Guide to Dubin, Ireland.
After a long morning of exploring downtown Dublin, Accents Coffee & Tea Lounge in Dublin 2 (+353 1 416 0040) is an oasis of peace. Voted Best Hot Chocolate in Dublin, Miss Anna's Accents Coffee & Tea Lounge is one of the best places in Dublin to come in from the cold, rest, enjoy some live music, and grab a coffee or delicious cocoa! Seriously, LOOK at that hot cocoa (above). Are you kidding me? It's a work of art!
I had the privilege of meeting with the owner, Anna (below, left), and hearing about her incredible vision to create an arsty, contemporary cafe that can offer respite and collaboration for Dublin's local and visiting artists. She often hosts poetry nights, open mic nights, get togethers for moms, and so many community events that bring together different threads of the fabric that makes up diverse, urban Dublin. I loved hearing about her experiences in Temple Bar in the good old days, before it became the gross tourist trap that it is today. She feels a responsibility to carry on the mission and intention of the original Temple Bar, which was a haven for artists and collaborators.
Anna serves up specialty seasonal drinks and cakes in a comfortably spacious space with deliciously-squishy leather armchairs and plenty of gluten-free options. The decor isn't fancy, it's just simple, cozy, and super welcoming to locals and travellers alike. Definitely stop by if you're in the mood for a warming cocoa or any other delicious latte drinks.
Pygmalion Café (+353 1-6779 490), on the ground floor of Powerscourt Centre in Dublin 2, has a lovely sunken coffee counter with delicious homemade cakes and tarts, artisan pastries, scones and muffins. That's their cute pink espresso machine below!
My favorite breakfast place in Dublin was Junior's! They have a gorgeous patio with warm woolen blankets all set up for you to wrap up in, and the service is so genuine and friendly that it makes you want to come back again and again. As for the food, everything on the menu is super fresh and delicious. They have a popular to-go option that's just a big bag o' biscuits and jam with hot drip coffee. You can tell that lots of locals come to take advantage of this delicious morning treat as they head out to work. I will absolutely be back as soon as possible.
Queen of Tarts in Dublin 2 (+353 1 633 4681) is known all over Ireland for their dainty sweets and indulgent tea selection. Get the Queen Of Chocolate Fudge Cake.
Antoinette’s Bakery in Dublin 8 (+353 1 475 9008) has crazy good chocolate brownies, peanut butter & chocolate brownies, cinnamon donuts and cheese pastries.
Bibi’s Cafe in Dublin 8 (+353 1 454 7421) is known for their butternut squash and Turkish eggs. Perfect hangover food.
Brother Hubbard in Dublin 1 (+353 1 441 1112) is a cute little hipster joint with high-end coffee and Portlandy vibes. Great ricotta berry pancakes and hearty breakfast fare.
Hatch and Sons in Dublin 2 (+353 1 661 0075) has seasonal mince pies, cute mini cast iron skillets of baked eggs, as well as fruity little scones and soda bread aplenty.
The Bakehouse in Dublin 1 (+353 1 873 4279) is a chic spot known for potato farls, sausage sandwiches, fresh salmon breakfasts, and feminine, cutesy cafe vibes.
Most of the lunches I had in Dublin were perfectly lovely and of comparable quality. Cafes embrace the local food movement and are eager to show their chops when it comes to innovating on seasonal fare. I'll share a few favorites.
Herbstreet in Hanover Quay (+353 1 675 3875) is an adorable quay-side new-Euro restaurant with a hip crowd and peaceful brunch vibes. Best bets: Full Irish breakfast with black pudding, sausage, and corned beef hashbrowns.
Shown above, The Pepper Pot in Powerscourt Centre in Dublin 2 (+353 1 679 4144) specializes in seasonal, homemade organic food and offers a wide range of gluten-free options. Adorable, light-filled cafe to hide away from the rain and enjoy some top-notch people watching. Check out the pretty floral shop, craft supply stores, and fashionable tailors' galleries on your way out.
A visit to the Irish Museum of Modern Art is not complete without lunch at its café, itsa @ IMMA, where delicious homemade food and great service go hand in hand. This is a great place to come if you're with a big group or with kids, as it's a spacious, lovely venue (above) that was recommended in "The Dubliner" as one of the Top 10 Family Friendly Venues in Dublin. Best bets: freshly baked buttermilk scones, creamy fish pie, slice of lemon tart.
The Cake Café in Dublin 2 (+353 1 478 9394) is a must-visit if you love cake or just life in general. Have you ever see the movie "Chocolate" with Johnny Depp? You know how the owner of the chocolate shop creates a really lush, romantic environment in the sweet little cafe she opens up? The Cake Café reminded me a lot of that creative energy. It's in an adorable secret garden location, tucked away in the corner of an alleyway near a stationery shop. Fellow wedding-industry maven and photographer Elisha Clarke was kind enough to meet up with me and show me all around this beautiful corner of Dublin 2.
We enjoyed a divine lunch of petit fours and mini cakes (shown above) and about a hundred different teas. You can see in the photo I'm enjoying a pot of tea, a latte, and a signature soda all at once. Why not? The food is so carefully prepared; you can tell there is a lot of love and attention to detail. Outside, bright rays of springtime sun filtered through the fluttering garden leaves. If it's nice, see if you can sit in the garden, where a divine scent of cake wafts down the alleyway, just off gritty Camden Street.
Afternoon Tea at the Shelbourne Hotel (shown above) was so wonderful that I wrote about it in an entirely separate post here. Over the last few years in the beverage industry, I’ve spent a lot of time visiting restaurants and cafes, meeting chefs, tasting new drinks, and figuring out what refreshment innovations they represent and what lessons I can learn from them. Every so often, I spend time at an establishment so inspiring in its competence, so pure in its intent, and so graceful in its performance that it makes my head spin. Tea at the Shelbourne was one of those experiences.
A few weeks ago, I paid a visit to the legendary Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, Ireland and had the pleasure of taking afternoon tea with Executive Chef Garry Hughes. I wanted to spend some time getting to know more about this storied, historic hotel and how they’ve conquered the world of high tea.
Let me set the stage for you. The Shelbourne is a magnificent 191-year-old Victorian hotel overlooking St. Stephen's Green, just a few minutes from all the grand sights of Dublin, including the National Gallery of Ireland, Trinity College, and the National Library. The hotel is crazy-luxe, with classical styling, sumptuous textiles, marble floors, a style butler, floral butler, genealogy butler, doormen, footmen, porters and more, all dressed to the nines in tuxedos and fine silk hats, and opulent living and dining areas. Veuve Clicquot champagne flowed like honey. In summary, it was one of the most memorable dining experiences of my life and if you can spare the change to make it here, you will not regret it. Read more about my delightful afternoon at the Shelbourne here.
Okay, let's talk about cocktail culture in Dublin! If you are coming from the realm of remarkably competitive cocktail bars such as those found in Portland, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, London, etc., you might be a liiiiiitle bit unsatisfied with what you'll find in Dublin.
Ireland is a beer-loving country. Spirits, if ever ordered, customarily come in the form of a shot. The market doesn't yet demand cocktail culture, so the range of options is limited, with the ordinary restaurant bar offering little more than a simple vodka soda or half-heartedly shaken martini.
Now, I don't think this is a bad thing or consider cocktail culture in Dublin to be poorly-executed per se, but rather less developed than might be expected for such an international city. Most people prefer to just drink beer. In this guide, I haven't reviewed beer-focused establishments because the selection is comparable anywhere you go. The pint of the day is, of course, the black stuff. Do note that when it comes to ordering beer, you'll want to order pints rather than glasses (halves) because you'll save more money in the end. You can expect to pay about €5 for a pint of splendid, smooth Guinness, whereas if you were to buy two half-pints, it would cost you €6. A quick note on tipping: you don't have to tip bartenders in Ireland, but if you get amazing service, you should anyway.
The good news, as far as cocktails, is that the new tech gold rush is here to stay. Every day, fresh European immigrants find high-paying jobs in the offices of Airbnb, Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other tech giants. They'll continue to demand different and more innovative food and beverage prospects. That's one of the only highlights of the gentrification that's transpiring in Dublin today. As the Docklands area of Dublin continues to emulate Silicon Valley, I guarantee new cocktail options will emerge. Until then, your destination is singular: the Vintage Cocktail Club in Dublin 2 (+353 1 675 3547).
The Vintage Cocktail Club is THE main reason I wrote this blog post. It's a blissful getaway with an out-of-this-world cocktail menu. Enter through a nondescript, mostly-hidden door labeled "V.C.C." in the back alleys of the Temple Bar district. If you spend ten to fifteen minutes trying to find it, don't give up, just keep looking. This place is unmissable. To visit Dublin without drinking at the VCC would truly be a sin.
Inside, an opulent interior wraps you in a shadowy, sexy embrace, and even the tables closest together feel like their own little world. Seated across from my friend Eric, I couldn't help but fall under the trance of the VCC's enchanting atmosphere. The red velvet seats and pinstriped interior only further the vision of this vivid landscape of sounds and aromas. The music is rich but subtle. You can't hear the conversations of those around you. Couples, businesswomen, and intimate groups speak in hushed tones as they know they've come to worship at the altar of the best cocktails in Ireland.
What should you order? Everything you can afford. Their ice is on point, their bitters selection could rival that of any award-winning New York City bar, and the bartenders know exactly what they're doing. Expect to spend $12 to $15 per drink. If you will splurge in Dublin, splurge here. Get the absinthe, delivered with its delicate glass fountain and slotted sugar spoon. Get the creamy sweet drinks, get the stiff Manhattans and anything stirred, get the fresh citrusy sours, get everything they serve with fresh garden mint.
Peruke & Periwig in Dublin 2 (+353 1 672 7190) is a sister bar to the Vintage Cocktail Club, so it offers the same level of excellence and creative decor described above. Don't only go here if the VCC is too crowded and you can't get in -- it's a bar of its own and deserves its own night. Go here on a busy night to enjoy the revelers and pretend you're in Toulouse-Lautrec's Moulin Rouge. Every drink has a different innovative garnish, from burning cinnamon sticks to toasted marshmallows set amid graham cracker crumbles (below, left). Best bets: smoke-infused anything, classic gin-based drinks.
I didn't eat a lot of dinner in Dublin. The dinners I did have weren't impressive or worthy of reviewing. If you have a fabulous dinner in Dublin, let me know. : )
That's all for now! I plan to return to Dublin in 2017 and will be sure to keep notes and update this post with new recommendations. If you go to Dublin, please write to me with what you liked and if you tried any of these places! I always love to hear how your experiences are. Thanks so much to the lovely Irish hosts who welcomed me into their establishments and showed me that world-famous Irish hospitality. Because of your generosity, I will never forget my time in Dublin.
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