Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Love Letters To Dublin: 10 Of The Best Places To Grab A Drink In The City Over Christmas

Okay, up front, my idea of a good place to get a drink might not match everyone's tastes.

First of all, I can't really drink much anymore. I tap out early nowadays and suffer the next day even if I only have a couple.

Because of this, it's majorly about quality over quantity for me and I'm okay with spending a bit more. Therefore, this list features very few inexpensive options but it does boast choices of venues where the drinks are excellent and the atmosphere is second to none (and, in my opinion, that's worth paying for) but the price tag matches the sense of luxury.

That being said, Christmas is the time of year when everyone comes home and you have loads of people to meet up with. If you're looking for a nice place to bring them - especially pals who might now live abroad and not know where to go - then these are some great choices. And, of course, if you are planning on visiting Dublin at all, no matter the time of year, these are locations that I always love.

In no particular order, we have...

1. Dollard & Co., 2-5 Wellington Quay, Temple Bar

Let's get one thing straight, I don't rate the food here. I've been much less than impressed by it in the past. However, I am a fan of browsing the grocery store section for foodie picks (their frozen Vegan foods selection is one of the best in the city and the booze section is pretty on point as well) and it's a nice place to get good gelato, meet a friend for coffee and cake or, better still, grab a quiet drink. Timing is important. A weekday evening is the perfect time, not empty but not too busy and a place to have a polite conversation over a glass of wine, without having to compete with obnoxiously loud music or feel your way around in the dark (I'm aware that I'm a grumpy old man). Drinks aren't cheap (a glass of wine is just under 7 quid) but the setting is nice, well-lit and perfect for a catch-up.


2. Roberta's, 1 Essex St E, Temple Bar

While in the area, if you're more interested in a cocktail, Roberta's is a good option. Again, it isn't cheap (it is in Temple Bar, though, so I wouldn't expect bargains) and I've heard rather mixed things about the food (though the fries we were given on the house to accompany our drinks were pretty damn good - not sure if this always happens) but the cocktails are great. And, once again, the location is super stylish. For seriously elegant cocktail bar vibes, it's one of the better choices in town and the glass ceiling over the bar means that it is a wonderful sunny location during summer evenings, in particular.


3. The Liquor Rooms, 6-8 Wellington Quay, Temple Bar

(I swear to God that this is not sponsored by the company that owns all three of these picks so far, though, if you're interested guys, my rates are very reasonable) The Liquor Rooms are one of my all-time favourite bars in the city. A mixture between a speakeasy and your granny's sitting room, it is located underneath the Clarence Hotel and serves up some of the finest cocktails in the city. I'm obsessed with their menu of drinks named after and inspired by amazing women from Irish history, which is a thing of beauty in its own right and features beautiful illustrations and information about the women in question. In fact, I may have nicked one of the menus while drunk one time...heh...heh. But, for reals, cool-ass vibes and delicious drinks aplenty. Again, again, timing is key (the atmosphere can be weird and it can be way too packed late on a weekend night) but if you pop in and it isn't jammers, stick around and fork out the extra few quid it'll cost you to drink here as it is well worth it. I recommend the Tread Softly, which is inspired by Maude Gonne and is adorably served in a vintage teacup.


4. The Westbury, Balfe St

Okay, so maybe none of my picks are anyway cost effective...oops.

I just really like fancy bars and, really, any part of the Westbury is a lovely place for a drink. Balfe's restaurant downstairs is great for a light bite with some wine (get a charcuterie board and sit outside under the heaters and you may trick yourself into believing you are in warmer climes). Wilde is a stunning dining experience with a wee bar outside it for waiting for your table. The bar itself is a classic Dublin institution. But, for me, it's all about the lobby. Get a table and couch, a truly excellent mulled wine (the best I've had after my mother's) and cosy up with a friend for long chats in the most luxuriously comfortable setting. Just don't expect speedy service. But that's okay, you'll want to loaf around.



5. Balfe's, Balfe St

Worth its own mention, separately. Seriously, get the boards to share with a friend and a glass of wine, embrace continental living and forget your responsibilities for a few'll thank me later, once you feel like you were on the Costa Azzurra for a couple of hours.


6. Yamamori Izakaya, 12/13 South Great George’s Street

If you want Japanese beer on tap, black and white Japanese films playing on all the screens and Japas (Japanese tapas - or small plates of Japanese dishes), then Izakaya is the one for you. This George's Street bar, located underneath and connected to the restaurant of the same name serves up great food, great beers and some mean lemonades that can be made into alcoholic lemonades. Once again, it is a bit of an escape, transporting you away from Dublin for a while and much as I love the city, we could all do with that from time to time. My personal picks from the menu are the Kirin Ichiban on tap (in the giant glass that makes me feel teeny), the Ginger Lemonade with a shot of whiskey and the gyoza.


7. Library Bar, Exchequer St

A little further down the street and around the corner from Izakaya, in the Central Hotel, you'll find Library Bar. Like the Liquor Rooms, it's a little like your granny's living room but a lot quieter, calmer, less hip but incredibly elegant in a charmingly old fashioned and worn-in kind of way and impossibly cosy. This isn't where you come for innovative drinks or wild selections of craft beers or for the 'gram. This is the type of place to go to if you really want to sit back, relax and enjoy good company in a truly pleasant setting.

8. The Marker, Grand Canal Square, Docklands

Somewhat similar is The Marker, or at least its lobby, in that it is a pleasantly chill place to curl up and catch up with someone. The bestie and I went there a few weeks ago, draped my blanket scarf over our legs and stuffed ourselves with fried food and cocktails. Here you will get those shots for the 'gram (between the architecture and the drinks) but you'll also have a chill evening of it. I've never actually been to the rooftop bar (I don't do queues, if I can help it) but I get the feeling that it's a lot buzzier and busier, by comparison so it's the lobby all the way, for me.


9. Green & Bean, Brown Thomas, Grafton Street

These last two picks are a little unorthodox, I'll admit but they are two of my absolute favourite places to get a drink. The first is Green & Bean, located in Ireland's premier luxury department store, Brown Thomas, it is a pretty So-Cal-inspired cafe. While not a bar, it is a great place to grab an excellent Rosé either over brunch on the weekend or after work on a late-opening Thursday. My personal favourite combo? Wine and cake and a good friend.


10. Lighthouse Cinema, Market Square, Smithfield

I LOVE the Lighthouse Cinema. I'd live there if I could. Not only do they show excellent films and host wonderful film festivals, but its also a great place to grab a drink. Either bring a beer into a film with some freshly-made popcorn or, do like me and Sarah, and go see an arthouse movie that will emotionally devastate you and then have to spend two hours drinking on the seats built into the stairs to recover.


So, if you're catching up with good people over Christmas, keep these ideas for venues to grab a drink in mind and thank me later (your wallet might not do the same, though).


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