AN EXTENSIVE TRAVEL guide can be more of an undertaking than the trip itself.
Forty-seven different restaurant recommendations, 19 local landmarks, multiple categorisation of hotels: there are so many options it's hard enough to decide what you want, let alone find a consensus. (This is also know as the Netflix phenomenon.)
We've broken Dublin down to the essentials: a hotel, and suggested venue for each meal of the day. (Plus a photo gallery for each so you know what you're getting.)
Follow our lead and you can't go wrong.
Stay at Number 31
The Shelbourne is the most famous hotel in Dublin, and the Merrion might be the most luxurious, but Number 31 brings the style. It describes itself as a bolthole – more of a second home than a hotel, or to quote the Cambridge Dictionary definition: “a place that you can go to when you want to get away from your usual life and escape from other people.”
An ideal that will appeal to everyone from time to time, especially if that time is 9am on a Monday morning. Although quite honestly your usual life could entail partying with supermodels on a private yacht, and it would still be worth paying a visit to Leeson Close. (You could sail up the Liffey. Only you probably couldn’t.)
Number 31 is actually two different buildings: a Georgian townhouse and a modernist mews, connected by a garden. The latter was a disused stable when it was bought by architect Sam Stephenson in 1957. Today it houses a sunken entrance lounge, a beautiful area flooded with light and housing an honesty bar – a lovely touch of Irish hospitality. Once you have helped yourself to a dram, retire to one of the 22 rooms, which vary in design depending on what half of Number 31 you are staying in, the ‘Old’ or the ‘New’.
For the full experience, book into the main townhouse that stands on Fitzwilliam Place: not only are the rooms here nice and spacious, the whole building has beautiful classical decor throughout – you half expect to pass by James Joyce on the stairwell.
Breakfast at Number 31
Well this is a happy coincidence… However these guides are meant to make your life easier, and it would be remiss of us not to point you in the direction of Number 31’s magnificent breakfast.
Need further conviction of its excellence? Number 31 won the 2017 Georgina Campbell Guesthouse Breakfast of the Year. Looking at the spread you can see why.
Dishes to order include classic breakfast fare such as kippers, eggs Benedict, mushroom frittata, scrambled egg with smoked salmon, and a selection of omelettes. That’s not including the yoghurts, berries, freshly baked bread and of course chef Delia’s cranberry and orange nut loaf, all waiting for you when you sit down.
The setting only adds to the joy: served in the glass conservatory – you might even get sunshine! – the communal tables groan beneath the food, juice and coffee. Plus, there’s the chance to meet and mingle with your fellow guests – you’re in Dublin now, sociability is encouraged.
Lunch at The Legal Eagle
For a cosy Irish lunch, The Legal Eagle, a newer addition to Dublin’s Chancery Lane, is the place to go. The pub is full of old world charm with stained glass windows, leather sofas and wooden panelling but serves a modern collection of dishes which focus on their ‘nose-to-tail’ philosophy whereby no part of the animal is considered a waste served alongside a celebration of traditional and lesser-known vegetables.
Lunch downstairs features a daily-changing roast-in-a-roll, potato flatbreads (think bacon, cabbage and parsley sauce) and some incredible pies (including the classic steak and ale or more original mutton and caramelised onion), alongside fish platters, meat platters and even a crisp sandwich containing their homemade cheese, bacon or smoked tomato flavour crisps. Using local Irish produce this is a pub not to be missed especially when dishes are washed down with craft beers or wine off their extensive 200 bottle wine list.
The Legal Eagle re-opened in August 2017 having been taken over by new owner Brian Montague with restaurateur Elaine Murphy who is behind other popular Dublin gastro-pubs, The Woolen Mills and The Winding Stair.
Dinner at The Garden Rooms, the Merrion Hotel
In a city famous for its Greens, it feels appropriate that one of Dublin’s finest new restaurants is located on the edge of a garden.
The Garden Room is merely the latest reason to book a stay at the Merrion Hotel, but it is certainly one of the most compelling. (Another good reason? The Merrion also contains Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, the only restaurant in Ireland to hold two Michelin stars – but The Garden Rooms will show you’re ‘in the know’.)
An elegant and airy space on the east side of the hotel’s courtyard garden, The Garden Rooms offer the most idyllic of spots to while away an afternoon with friends, food, and a bottle of house white.
Chef Ed Cooney has created a menu of the freshest ingredients – order at least one fish dish – that speaks with a distinctly Irish accent. On clement days the vast glass doors open up for a true al fresco experience. Bliss.