Saturday, October 17, 2020

Michelin Stars and Cocktail Bars in Dublin, Ireland

Trip date: September 2019

There is a lot to see and do in Dublin, but there are also a lot of top-notch eating and drinking experiences. On my first full day I kicked it off properly with an over-the-top lunch at Michelin 2-star Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud which is housed in a beautiful brick townhouse between St Stephen's Green and Merrion Square. 

I was welcomed inside and led into a very bright and modern sitting room. I was surprised by the decor as it was very different than many high-end restaurants. A champagne trolly arrived, which is really the best way to start anything, and I browsed the various menus for lunch.

I was then ushered into the main dining room which couldn't have looked more different. The entire room was done in shades of beige and white. The tables were set with gorgeous porcelain and heavy silver. In the center of the ceiling was a large mobile that resembled a Calder. Each table was far enough away from the rest so that diners had privacy. It was beautiful and relaxing. 

Ravioli of Blue Lobster, Lobster Coconut Cream, Toasted Almond, Split Curry Dressing

I decided on the 3-course lunch menu. I asked the somm to feel free to pair wines which he thought would go best with the dishes as I wasn't privy to the courses being served. 

As with most Michelin starred meals, on top of the number of courses that I ordered I was also presented with an amuse, a palate cleanser, and petit fours. So really it was 7-courses. And every dish was lovely. 

Butter Roast Veal Sweetbreads, Coffee, Parsnip, Mimolette and Girolles

I thought it very sweet of one of my servers, to bring me the coffee table book about the restaurant to page through during my lunch. I also was a bit tickled when Mr Guilbaud himself stopped by my table to inquire about my lunch. And I enjoyed moving outside to their covered patio to enjoy my petit fours with a cup of coffee.

My lunch was €65 + wine + champagne, extremely reasonable, some might say a steal for this level of meal. I'd absolutely recommend dining at Patrick Guilbaud, reservations are essentional!

That evening I did a little cocktail crawl before having a late dinner. I started at Bow Lane Social Club which isn't a club at all (thankfully!) but there is popular music and dancing later. The bar feels a little divey, but the cocktails are interesting. I did notice that all of them, when I was there, were on the rocks. The bartender was super friendly and went out of his way to find me a charger when I realized I'd left mine at the hotel. He also gave me a few other bar recommendations. I wouldn't go out of my way to go here, but if you are in the area, they are open early and my drink was solid. 

My next stop was just two blocks away. The Lucky Duck is a traditional pub on the ground floor while the next two floors play host to separate cozy cocktail spaces. My drink in The Digges Room was delicious and the surroundings were super cute. They have a nice menu of small plates here too. Highly recommend.

I had about a 15 minute walk to my dinner destination. Bastible is a tad out of the way but that should not deter you from making a reservation here. And since the restaurant is on the small side reservations are recommended. 

I had requested to sit at the counter which gave me a full view of the kitchen (and the handsome chef Cúán Greene!) But he's not just a pretty face, the food is absolutely delicious! And fun!

I was still feeling a bit full from my decadent lunch so I ordered the 2-course option for €40. The kitchen then sent out 2 amuse bouches, a gorgeous salad, and bread with butter before my braised lamb dish which came with flatbread and various condiments!

I chose cheese in place of dessert and had 3 lovely Irish cheeses to finish. Then they sent out a little sweet also. This is such an excellent casual restaurant, I'd tell everyone to go here!

Lunch the next day was pretty much the exact opposite atmosphere of my Michelin-star restaurant from the day before. Klaw is a tiny hole in the wall near Temple Bar with barely 3 tables. They only serve sustainable fresh seafood from reliable fisherman around Ireland. 

I was excited to try a few of the Irish oysters, so I got 2 each of the Waterford and the Flaggy Shore. Delicious. I also had a lobster roll that came with homemade yuzu mayo, chervil, chive, and a "secret ingredient". Everything was really flavorful and I'd absolutely go back!

My last night in Dublin I started with a martini at the historic No.27 Shelbourne Bar at the hotel of the same name. The space was busy with locals and out of towners enjoying drinks and conversation; I was lucky to get a seat at the bar. This was a lovely stop if you (like me) enjoy a great hotel bar. 

It was a quick walk to The Greenhouse for my 8pm dinner reservation. The decor is very simple and modern, spotlighting the absolutely beautiful food. 

I chose 4 courses for €110 and added wine pairings (there was also an option for 6). This was a great choice for me as dinner started with four separate amuse bites before the main menu set in.

Everything was absolutely delicious, and the service could not have been better. My main of Roast Yorkshire Grouse, Beetroot & Blackberry, Coffee, and Sauce Grand Veneur was truly spectacular. Even with beets in the sauce! 

Dining at The Greenhouse was one of my favorite meals in Ireland. The restaurant had 1-Michelin star when I visited and it is no surprise to me that they have been awarded their second now. 

Obviously there were a few other cocktail bar visits, as well as a nightly night cap in my hotel bar.

Ireland isn't all chippy's and pubs (not that I wasn't excited to hit those up too!). I was very impressed with the fine dining and top-notch cocktails in Dublin!

**As I visited all of these places before the COVID-19 pandemic, please double check on opening hours. And fingers crossed these businesses all stay in business!**

All photos from Dublin here.

Other posts from this trip:

Country Count #50: Ireland

Out and About in Dublin Town

24 Hours in Belfast

Ireland Road Trip: County Kilkenny

Ireland Road Trip: County Cork

Ireland Road Trip: Kenmare and the Ring of Kerry

Ireland Road Trip: Dingle Town

Dingle Peninsula Archeology Tour

Ireland Road Trip: Cliffs of Moher and Galway

Aran Islands Day Trip

Ireland Road Trip: County Mayo

Ireland Road Trip: End of the Road; Sligo to Dublin

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Out and About in Dublin Town

Trip date: September 2019

I had two full days in Dublin to explore and had a lot on my itinerary. The Westbury Hotel's continental breakfast was served in the beautiful WILDE restaurant and was a quick, easy and delicious way to start my morning. 

It was a super sunny fall day for my short walk to Trinity College. I had purchased a timed ticket for the Book of Kells online and was a little early so I strolled around the campus. It's a very picturesque campus, with a mix of medieval stone buildings, statues, and modern art.
The exhibit is amazing! It starts with the history of the Book of Kells and then leads you to blown up recreations of different pages so that you can see the intricate illustrations that went into writing each page of the gospel manuscript. A single letter could contain an entire picture with animals, flowers, people, etc. 

The rooms of recreated and magnified pages give you a better understanding of the book as a whole.  The illustrations and Celtic symbols are absolutely stunning. 
After this you enter a darkened room containing the actual book. It's kept under glass and photos aren't allowed. A variety of pages are on display, incredibly having survived since being written in 800 AD! If you want to read more, there is a very complete history of the Book of Kells here. 

As you leave the Book of Kells exhibit you enter the Long Room in the college library, a truly wondrous site. Light streams onto 200,000 of the oldest and rarest books in the college's collection. It takes about an hour to go through the entirety and even though there wasn't a line when I entered, the rooms were fairly busy. What a great introduction to Ireland, highly recommend making this one of your first stops!

Next up was the Museum of Archaeology and their super interesting collection! I browsed through gold relics and jewelry, artifacts and icons, and even bog bodies! The stories of those bodies and the treasure they find in bogs was worth the ticket alone!

That afternoon I took a taxi to Kilmainham Gaol for a tour of the prison. Tickets are purchased in advance online for timed entrance and as it is quite a popular destination I had only a few choices of tour availability.
It's a very interesting tour, with lots of historical information on the residents of the jail. Originally opened in 1796; men, women, and children were held here for being a part of revolutions, rebellions, and movements against the government as well as those who did actual crimes. 
Many of the arrested were imprisoned here and then transferred on a long journey to Australia! And of course there are countless Irish songs that tell the stories of the incarcerated and executed of Kilmainham Gaol.

On a much lighter note, the next day I took a bus to the Guinness Storehouse. This self-guided tour is housed in the original brewery location which was opened in 1759. There's a lot of history behind the 250 year old brand and the visit is equal parts education, advertisement, and touristy fun.

There was a really interesting mini exhibit about their coopering practices (barrel making). And also a whole floor dedicated to the different characters and themes used in their advertisements. There was also a fun interactive aroma and tasting experience. And at the end of your tour you had a ticket to use at the top-floor Gravity Bar for a pint of the star of the show.  
The views of Dublin and the surrounding areas, especially on this sunny fall day, were fantastic. Even if you are not a huge beer person I thought this was a great way to spend a couple of hours.

The rest of the afternoon I spent wandering around the Temple Bar area to Christ Church. The Cathedral is beautiful and has a lot of interesting relics in its crypt. There's also a case containing a mummified cat and rat which were found in an organ. The Irish love their preserved bodies!

It had been a long two days of seeing Dublin's sights, so I was headed back to the Westbury to have a little lay-down and I ended up walking past Dublin Castle on the way.
I didn't go inside but the large square is very impressive. It is still a government building and is smack in the center of town.

Dublin is absolutely fantastic for walking around. Lots to see and do, I couldn't get to it all but I feel like I did a pretty good job!

**As I visited all of these places before the COVID-19 pandemic, please double check on opening hours. And fingers crossed these businesses all stay in business!**

All Dublin photos here.

Other posts from this trip:

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Country Count #50: Ireland

 Trip date: September 2019

After having such a fun-filled hiking trip with Nic and Forest the year before, we decided on another one, this time in Nic's home country of Ireland. I had never been so was super excited, and as I researched what I wanted to see and do I realized that I would need a bit more time than the 1-week hiking adventure with the girls. 

I took advantage of an airfare sale on Aer Lingus and got round trip in coach for $750! I would be driving around the country for 2 weeks on my own before meeting the girls in the northwest for some hiking and castle touring for another week!

It was my first time on Aer Lingus and unfortunately the flight was delayed by 1½ hours, which wasn't the first impression I had hoped for. I used my priority pass and had a light dinner in the lounge at SeaTac. It was an uneventful overnight flight directly to Dublin.

I took a taxi for €24 to the 5-star Westbury Hotel located right in the center of Dublin. The hotel was absolutely gorgeous and posh (there was a cushioned bench in the elevator!) as was my huge king bed room. I had used points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve card so my 3-night stay was free!

There was just enough time for a quick nap before I headed out for my first night in Dublin! Friends of mine had suggested doing the Musical Pub Crawl tour. Touristy? Yep! Super fun? Absolutely! 

The tour met in Temple Bar (not a bar but a particular area of town! who knew?) at Gogarty's pub. I grabbed a pint while waiting for the guide to show up and lead us to our first stop. 

At Ha'penny Bridge Inn we were introduced to our musicians for the night. Bernadette Nic Gabhann is a well-known fiddler who has traveled the world and just happened to be filling in for another musician. 

Not only was it super fun to listen to traditional music but they taught us lyrics (which would come in handy in numerous pubs on my trip!), history of the songs, different styles of songs, and general manners while out listening to trad music. 

The last stop also included some traditional Irish dance as well as dinner. This was the only thing that I would suggest skipping, I'd book for just the regular pub crawl and grab a bite somewhere else.

As it was still relatively early I decided to hit one of the cocktail bars on my list before heading back to the Westbury. Vintage Cocktail Club took a while to find but it was worth the search. 

I was led up a series of flights until we reached a tiny room with low ceilings and overstuffed furniture. Tables were lit by candlelight. It felt a bit Alice in Wonderland! I loved it and stayed for two rounds. I think they take reservations which would be a smart move.

It was a gorgeous night walking home, and pretty quiet as most bars close at midnight on weekdays. I was absolutely taken with how cute the streets and buildings were. I also walked past incredibly drunk people- one who was passed out in the street while their friends stood over them chatting. It was a Tuesday. haha!

Back at the Westbury, I noticed that their cocktail bar, The Sidecar, was still open. As I waited for my nightcap martini I was served a tiny coupe of champagne. They were guaranteed to see me again with that service! And there had been turndown service in my room which makes me incredibly happy. 
Day 1 in Dublin had been excellent!

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