Words: Shamim de Brún
Images: George Voronov
With Ireland in its post-covid era, a shift has raised the collective aspirations of localised culinary culture and turned suburbs into must-go destinations. Empowering small businesses has been Square’s mission for many years. Square offers an all-in-one solution to help people run their businesses and accept payment quickly and securely. So we’ve decided to come together with Square to celebrate our local businesses with that in mind. So we’re bringing you this new Char Guide to the neighbourhoods of Dublin.
Dublin 8 is the sweet spot between old and new. With an eclectic mix of antique shops, vintage boutiques, art galleries, bars and cafés. The National College of Art and Design and Vicar Street events venue have cemented the area’s reputation for creativity and innovation. However, the traditional charm still remains with family-run businesses and rows of red-brick cottages. Dublin’s most popular attractions are right on the doorstep, including the Guinness Storehouse, Christchurch Cathedral, and Dublin Castle.
Very few busses don’t pass through some part of Dublin 8. Most of the red line Luas is dedicated to it, and Houston Station is, bam, smack in the middle of it all. But that makes it a perfect neighbourhood to visit if you’re coming from outside the city.
People have been coming to this particular part of Dublin in their droves for centuries. Sure dozens of warriors have been excavated at a significant ninth-century Norse Viking base at Islandbridge, complete with swords, spears, shields and other artefacts. Today, Dublin 8’s streets, alleys and quaysides are replete with millions of things to do. It’s hard to know where to start, so that’s where this guide comes in.
No trip to Dublin 8 would be complete without sampling some delicious coffee. With Dublin as Europe’s Coffee Capital, there is fierce competition for dominance. Without trying too hard, Two Pups competes at the highest level. Francis Street’s most notable coffee spot is known globally for great brews, artisanal produce, offbeat delicious eats, and vintage shopping.
It’s part of Francis Street Collective. The space is made up of an eclectic collection of bleached-wooden tables and chairs and a small glass countertop—dominated by coffee machines— set around racks of secondhand wares.
Among Dublin thrill-seekers, they have become known for their unique take on avocado toast which they slather with crispy garlic peanut butter and green chillies. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but by the deity of your choice, it works like a horse. Their menu is short, predominantly vegetarian, and features McNally Family Farm produce.
The thing about good coffee is that it’s far more than the sum of its parts. And yet what makes it remains elusive. You can point to good well-roasted beans, but almost every hipster coffee shop has them these days. They take those high-quality beans and transcend your average good coffee to become a destination joint for bean juice devotees. As it befits the place, every cup of coffee is full of personality. The wait times can be long, but you can grab and go with a discount for keep cup users.
Come to The Lab for memorable pizzas, scientific drinks, and the staff’s joviality. The decor is urban chic, the sourdough is homemade, and the toppings are exotic. It is the perfect pre or post Vicar Street spot.
Who doesn’t love a theme that’s followed through to every detail; there’s the name The Lab, the uniform, which sees employees wearing t-shirts with “Lab Assistant” emblazoned on the back, and there are also cocktails in beakers. All of which add to the experience without taking away from the pizza. It could stand alone, shining as a beckon of hope in a world where cardboard pizza can be procured for about the same price. But it’s nicely supported here by tongue in cheek science references.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that minor chemistry tweaks can transform a terrible pizza into an amazing one. The Science of Pizza; this is what’s at the heart of The Lab in Dublin 8. The key to a great pizza really does come down to the quality of the crust.
The crust is the star of the pizza show, perfectly charred with a crunchy exterior and hollow inside. If you are into your crusts – and what pizza fiends aren’t? – the Labs’ is about double the size of a standard pizza crust. Their tagline is the “home of sourdough pizza”, and they pride themselves they should. Slowing things down when it comes to bread dough is a game-changer which is why The Lab proofs their dough for two whole days. The result is a crunchy base on the outside but with a sweet, slight tang on the inside.
Cocktail making is a science, and not just because of its magical powers to uplift moods all over. When mixed well with the right amount of concoction and ice, a good cocktail can be the ultimate crowd-pleaser. The Lab knows this. Whoever is designing the drinks here has a deep understanding of alcohol and the flavours they blend with.
The team are down to chat through a simplified version of the complex chemistry occurring in your drink. In fact, they encourage chatting about it. The atmosphere of learning created here by just-the-right-amount-of-enthusiastic staff brings out the fun.
Mixing the right amount of alcohol with the right amount of refresher to make it taste delicious is one thing. But making sure it tastes good without losing the zest of the alcohol is definitely something these ‘Einsteins’ of bartending have done seemingly effortlessly. Bang for your buck wise, a boozy cocktail and perfectly pitched pizza comes in under €30. So it’s as wallet-friendly as it is genius.
If you’ve just landed in Dublin at Houston Station, Provender on Park Gate Street should be your first port of call. Train stations are rarely if ever, host to a decent pint, let alone a glass of wine. With their motto being Bread. Wine. Cheese. Smiles, it is an ideal spot to hit up before you go galavant in the Phoenix Park. Or after you’ve finished a tour in Collins Barracks down the way.
Wine bars are all the rage at the moment. So it’s easy to forget that just 10 years ago, those who preferred natural wine would’ve been hard-pressed to quench their thirst anywhere in Ireland. Now we have a plethora of options. The opening of wine bars like Loose Cannon and Frank’s have allowed us to tap into our inner vino nerd. Provender is one of the newer kids on the natty wine block. They established themselves quickly as an authentic wine lovers spot with sell-out classes in Pet Nat and Sherry.
In its most pared-down sense, “natural” implies wine that’s made with organic viticulture, nothing added, nothing taken away. The same can be said for Provender. They are pared back and simply presented, relying on the wine and somms to tell their story to the willing. And the willing throng in their droves.
The Provender wine bar is an extension of Provender and Family, who serve breakfast, lunch, speciality coffee and loose leaf tea just next door. Jenny, who owns and runs Provender fell in love with the energy of professional kitchens and began a journey leading to Provender. That authenticity can be felt in every nook and cranny here.
Focusing on artisan suppliers and sourcing excellent produce Provender takes inspiration from Indian, Asian, and continental flavours to create both exciting and fluid menus, offering something for everyone. The wine is just as varied and has an ever-evolving by the glass selection. You can also grab and go with Provender. So if you’re looking to level up your picnic in the park this is the place to start.
In many Dubliners’ eyes, the perfect Sunday is a stroll through Saint Patrick’s gardens, browsing Books and Browsables Market and heading to Hens Teeth for the best damn food of your life.
Hen’s Teeth is another eclectic gem that serves just around the corner energy. It’s a lifestyle store slash art gallery slash café slash fine dining restaurant that is a one of a kind must-stop for those in touch with their creative side.
Hen’s Teeth are as innovative as they are wiley. When you think you have them pegged, boxed and rounded off, they subvert your expectations with a flourish. Their flavour-packed food has been some of the most talked-about in the city. And they serve much-lauded lunchtime fare, which features serious sandwiches and salads.
The curated natural wine list and well made artisanal coffee rounds out the vibrantly coloured picture. From their carvery to their cocktails and their affordable tasting menu, chef Killian Walsh has been knocking ball after ball out of every park in Dublin 8.
Killian has a well-founded reputation for being brilliant, as L’enclume and Pied à Terre fans will know. He’s done a heck of a job on the new tasting menu. Managing to pack flavour and variety into a focussed and crucially affordable selection while working with many local producers.
If you’re into tunes, you’ll bop along to everything from low fi bangers to classic belters that seave together like an impressive sonic tapestry. Hit up their events page because this is a spot that hosts most of the best. Be it DJs to culinary superstars and actors come, chefs, there’s nearly always something a happening here of a Friday.
We’ve come together with Square to celebrate our local businesses and bring you this new Char Guide to the neighbourhoods of Dublin. Learn how Square can help your business – square.com.