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Dublin’s New Chapter

With Brexit looming, Ireland’s capital city prepares to step into the spotlight.

BY Sandra Ramani | Life | May 30, 2018
Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel. Photo courtesy of The Shelbourne Hotel

For nearly 200 years, The Shelbourne Hotel has served as a kind of living room for Dublin, a gathering place for a cross-section of locals, from politicians and socialites to regulars propping up the famous horseshoe-shaped bar to families treating kids to the legendary afternoon tea. So the hotel’s team has been uniquely poised to gauge the pulse of the city—and in recent years, they’ve noticed a change.

“Over the last two decades, Ireland, and particularly Dublin, has gone through a cultural and economic evolution as we’ve propelled a young, educated, skilled and well-travelled workforce into the world, who then are making unique contributions to Dublin culture upon their return,” says general manager JP Kavanagh. But now, as Brexit looms, it’s not just returning expats who are changing the city, but global tech and finance companies that are shifting their offices from London—or setting up new EMEA HQs here in order to have a base in what will be the only English-speaking country in the European Union. (The low corporate tax rates help, too.)  Facebook, AIG, Google, Bank of America, J.P. Morgan and Microsoft are just some of the companies that have set-up shop in the city center, helping to foster what Kavanagh describes as Dublin’s “increasingly sophisticated and cosmopolitan air.”

This increased worldliness and diversity is “driving creativity and evolution in culture, food, art, architecture and fashion,” says Kavanagh. Eveleen Coyle agrees. “There’s a huge energy here now, a renewed sense of optimism,” says the former international book publishing exec, who in 2006 founded the Fab Food Trails tours to showcase Ireland’s evolving style and culinary scenes. “It’s a great atmosphere for new businesses, and there is a sense that the city has space for it all. People are going out knowing what they want—they’ve traveled or lived abroad and are savvier.” As Coyle showcases on her tours, this growth has led to the revitalization of several formerly sleepy neighborhoods, with new cafes, boutiques and restaurants emerging in areas like Portobello and Stoneybatter.

Ask Coyle—and pretty much any local—where they see the most evidence of the new Dublin, and they’re bound to say the culinary landscape. In a country where for generations food was primarily seen as a source of nourishment (and survival), you now see a celebration of local products, innovative techniques and reinterpreted traditions. After six years helming the Michelin-starred L’Autre Pied and Pied a Terre in London—during which, at one point, he was the youngest Michelin-starred chef in town—Ireland native Andy McFadden felt the timing was finally right to return home to open his own fine dining experience. (Glovers Alley opened this past February; see more below.) “The food scene is thriving here now—people’s palates are more sophisticated, and there is more space for gourmet restaurants,” the 33-year-old chef notes. “The city has moved on with the times. It feels like a melting pot—a mini-London.”

Where to Stay

  • The bedroom in the Princess Grace Suite. Photos courtesy of The Shelbourne Hotel

Since 1824, the grande dame The Shelbourne Hotel on St. Stephen’s Green park has seen it all—from elaborate weddings to high-rolling business deals, celebrity guests to political tête-à-têtes and, above all, generations of devoted regulars from all over the world. (In 1922, it was even the site of the drafting of the Irish Constitution—a copy of which can be viewed in the Constitution Room.) Now, following an impeccable renovation and restoration by noted designer Guy Oliver, the icon is welcoming guests with a sophisticated new style and a host of new amenities. Equipped with a fireplace and clubby leather seating, the recently-launched Residents Lounge is an exclusive space for in-house guests to enjoy handcrafted cocktails, while the terrace lounge, to be unveiled this summer, will be the hotel’s first-ever outdoor bar. The beautifully-revamped suites include the rose-hued Princess Grace (named for the royal who once stayed there), the park-facing Michael Collins (a rumored favorite of actor Liam Neeson) and soon-to-launch rooms dedicated to other famous past guests like filmmaker John Ford and poet Seamus Heaney. The Saddle Room Restaurant (serving classics like Dover sole and Chateaubriand), the No. 27 Bar & Lounge (with its popular raw bar and jazz brunch) and the Lord Mayor’s Lounge (home to the legendary Afternoon Tea) are constantly buzzing, as is the dimly-lit Horseshoe Bar, where about 80 percent of those sipping drinks are locals (and might include a famous face like Bono). All the energy helps out-of-town visitors feel like they are in the hub of the city—which is exactly what The Shelbourne has been for nearly two centuries. marriott.com

Where to Eat

  • Glovers Alley dining room. Photos courtesy of Glovers Alley

Glovers Alley

Opened this February, chef Andy McFadden’s buzzy restaurant serves creative tasting menus and a global wine list in a chic, mid-century-inspired space overlooking St. Stephen’s Green (think moss green leathers, walnut paneling and marble tabletops.) The menu is constantly evolving—McFadden likes to bring in whole animals to butcher on-site, then change dishes once they’ve been fully used—so the place is already seeing repeat diners from both the foodie and expense account sets. A dream team including a noted pastry chef and sommelier ensure the breads, desserts and wine pairings are as on-point as the main dishes. gloversalley.ie

Heron and Grey

The hardest restaurant to book in Dublin started modestly, at least in terms of its facilities: It earned its first Michelin star, in 2017, before the space even had a restroom. Helmed by Australian chef Damen Grey and Irish maître’d Andrew Heron, the restaurant is open only three days a week, with only 20 covers done each night, adding to the heightened demand. Those who do manage to snag a seat will enjoy an 11-course, no-choice (and no-adjustments-allowed) tasting menu that changes every six weeks, highlighting fresh seasonal and foraged ingredients. heronandgrey.com

The Pepper Pot Café

Set in the historic Powerscourt Center shopping arcade, this casual café/tea room is an ideal spot to enjoy Irish classics reinterpreted using seasonal and organic local ingredients and slow food cooking techniques. From freshly baked scones and brown soda bread to savory tarts packed with goodies like maple-roasted organic parsnips or Irish brie, the quirky spot offers everything needed to refuel after a day of retail therapy. thepepperpot.ie

Where to Shop

  • Stable's Dublin store. Photos courtesy of Stable of Ireland

Stable of Ireland

Founded by Francie Duff and Sonia Reynolds in 2016, Stable is dedicated to honoring Ireland’s rich textile and weaving traditions and expert craftsmen while reinventing styles and designs for the contemporary high-end client. Choose from luxurious handwoven blankets and throws in unique colors and patterns, fine Irish linen crafted into on-trend kimono-style robes, herringbone woven scarves for men and women, rugs based on the traditional Crios stich from the Aran Islands and much more. stable.ie

Paula Rowan

Not only is Paula Rowan Ireland’s only remaining independent glove designer—she’s one of just a dozen left in the world. Her Dublin shop is a treasure trove of leather arm-candy, from stylish driving and winter gloves in an array of colors and styles to dramatic elbow-length pieces adorned with feathers or fur. The designer sources materials from the highest-quality vendors from around the world, then has it all organically dyed, hand-cut and crafted by long-time artisans in Italy. paularowan.com

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