Aoife Carrigy highlights some of the best spots in Dublin to grab a drink or a bit while you're enjoying - or navigating - the festive mayhem.
Shopping and eating (and drinking). Eating (and drinking) and shopping. Whatever about Black Friday, by this first weekend in December, the silliness is surely upon us. It’s time to get strategic.
Maybe you have all your gifts in the virtual bag, having ordered online in your Christmas pjs. Or maybe you have a few suburban stores earmarked for a targeted blitz to avoid the mayhem. Call me a traditionalist but I love the buzz about town in Dublin as the 25th looms closer, shopping stakes get higher and fevered hilarity ensues. The thrill of the hunt can take it out of you, though, and the time will come to retreat for cheap eats and perhaps something fortifying to wash it down.
There’s always the magnificent reward of pints and toasties outside (or even inside) Grogan’s, should you be in the full of your health. Last year, I wasn’t, having been lain low with a lurgy. I escaped my duvet on Sunday 21st for some last-minute shopping, and then beelined for some Grogan’s action – but when I got there I just wasn’t able. And that’s when the little bench outside Loose Canon cheese and natural wine shop loomed into site. Ten minutes later, we were ensconced with glasses of juicy reds from their selection of natural wine pours and plates of Irish charcuterie and gooey cheese, enjoying the Castle Market mayhem from a perfect distance and chatting to the familiar faces strolling by as night drew in. For all its awkward growing pains of late, Dublin remains a village and, in moments like these, a picture postcard place to call home.
Other favourite south city centre pick-me-up spots include The Pepperpot in Powerscourt for their sausage sandwich (the best hangover cure) or house-made bagel with smoked salmon, or Klaw for crabshack-style oysters and lobster rolls. Simon’s Place in the George’s Street Arcade is a national treasure, offering perfect sandwiches that haven’t changed in decades, superb cinnamon rolls (fun fact: Tom Waits is a fan) and some of the city’s best people watching. Or for a real retro kick, grab a slice of quiche or tea and gur cake at Kilkenny Shop on Nassau Street and absorb the calming views over Trinity’s cricket green.
For northside options, affordable refuel stations include Madina Desi on Mary Street for masala dhosa (stuffed Indian pancakes), Ristorante Romano on Capel Street for brilliantly priced homemade pasta, Aobaba on Capel Street for steaming Vietnamese pho, Blas Cafe in The Chocolate Factory for vibrant flavoured flatbreads at lunch or eggs berber for brunch, or Bar 1661 for charcuterie boards or fish finger baps (because why the hell not?) and their signature Belfast Coffee of cold brew and Bán Poitín.
Also this weekend is the Sustainable Christmas Market (Friday 4pm–8pm, Sat/Sun 11am–8pm) hosted by Native Events in Dublin 1’s D-Light Studios near the Five Lamps off North Strand. They do promise ‘Christmas themed food and beverages’ and festive music on their solar-powered sound system to set the mood for shopping for plastic-free, sustainably sourced and ethically produced gifts, but nearby tasty alternatives include North Strand’s Cloud Cafe, who source ingredients from local community gardens, and Da Mimmo for excellent pizza (try take-away if you can’t nab a table).
If you haven’t checked out Bodytonic’s new Jam Park in Swords (the old Wright Venue), then this weekend could be the time to do so (Sat/Sun 12pm–5pm), as Eatyard and Urban Markets team up for a Christmas Market Park. Expect over 100 vendors combining mulled wine and hot food from Eatyard stall with crazy golf, movie screenings, gigs and DJs.
Urban Markets also host their Christmas Market On The Green over the next three Sundays with 50 eclectic traders (12pm–5pm). Its location in The Well means you can wash down a slice from resident Dublin Pizza Company with mulled wine or craft beer from The Well Cafe. Other city centre markets including alpine huts galore at Dublin Castle (12th–22nd, 12pm–8pm), goth-heaven at The Grand Social’s Alternative Christmas Market (Sunday 15th, 12pm–6pm) and South William Market (Saturdays 7th/14th/21st, 12pm–5pm) at Bloody Mary’s, with a full bar and vegan and veggie food to keep the energy up.
Shopping and eating (and drinking). Eating (and drinking) and shopping. Time to get your game face on.
Author: Aoife Carrigy
Aoife’s first proper work experience (if you don’t count a formative stint as the milkman’s assistant) was a TY placement as commis chef in The Wishbone in Glasthule, where she caught the restaurant bug. From her teens and through her 20s she worked front-of-house in restaurants around Dublin and beyond, before a freelance gig as restaurant columnist for the Dublin Event Guide and then Totally Dublin turned into a five-year full-time editorial stint in FOOD&WINE Magazine. She has been freelance since 2010 and keeps herself busy co-writing and editing cookbooks as well as writing on food, drinks and travel. Aoife is WSET-trained and is currently researching a Masters on ‘Cultural Representations of the Irish Pub’ at TU Dublin.