For many, Dublin may be more synonymous with creamy pints of Guinness rather than fine dining, but it has always been home to some truly great eateries, not to mention superb hotels. However, it has recently undergone something of a hip restaurant revival, with the emergence of many new comers, as well as some of the old guard having elegant facelifts. Whether uptown or downtown, there are some exciting hot spots to check out during your next visit.
Situated in a Georgian townhouse on St Stephen’s Green, it has been one of the capitals leading restaurants since opening its doors in 2003. Having recently undergone a complete refurbishment, the former wine bar offers an impressive one-hundred-and-fifty wines, and now includes a full drinks licence, so in turn an impressive cocktail list, with the Penicillin or The Truth of Drumshambo being favourites. The atmosphere is buzzy from early afternoon through till late night, with head chef Neil Mulholland creating mouth watering seasonal menus which feature wild Irish venison, as well as a number of fantastic fish dishes. As one would expect of a restaurant of its calibre, regular celebrity sightings are the norm. Dine at the bar for a fun upbeat atmosphere, or in the main room for more formal occasions. Booking is essential and in order to make the list, the man to get to know is the ever affable Frenchman, manager Fred Pellane.
As most know, Dublin does nightlife extremely well, with a new ‘It’ bar or club opening every other week. A firm favourite is 37 Dawson Street, which operates as a laid back bar during the day, offering a pretty good food menu, while after dark lights go low and volume goes high. Super stylish, and extremely busy is how I would describe 37. In order to proceed beyond the velvet rope, the man you need to know is handsome ‘Mr Nightlife’ Michael Sharpe. Whether in the main bar or the VIP you can expect divine cocktails and an impressive champagne list. Of all the bars in the city, Drake chose to party here on a recent visit to Dubin. Best seat in the house; The Snug.
Without doubt the finest hotel in the city, if not the country, The Merrion offers style on every level. Since opening its doors in 1997 it has attracted the city’s most stylish as well as many visiting celebrities and dignitaries – Bruce Springsteen, Cameron Diaz, Pamela Anderson, Sting, Stanley Tucci, Danny DeVito and Russell Crowe off the top of my head. The main hotel is housed within four beautifully restored Georgian townhouses, which over-look Government Buildings on Upper Merrion Street. Former residents of the terrace include Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, as well as Charles Monck, 1st Viscount Monck, who was involved in the building of the terrace in the 1760s. Naturally the hotel has numerous bars and restaurants, with my personal favourite being Number 23 or perhaps the main drawing rooms, where you can sit next to turf burning fires and escape into a world of utter opulence. Two-star Michelin Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud is also part of the hotel. For those in search of less formality and a great pint of Guinness, head to the Cellar Bar which is a bustling meeting place that also offers a tasty bar-food menu. Tethra Spa is located in the basement and comprises of treatment rooms, a gym and an ozone treated pool. Treat yourself and book the stunning Penthouse Suite, which offers private access and security, two bedrooms, a music room and a private roof terrace with views to the Wicklow Mountains, the city and the of course the period gardens below.
Since opening in 1938 The Unicorn on Merrion Row, has been the go-to spot for the city’s well-heeled, as well as visiting celebrities. The Italian gem is hidden in a small mews and has seen many incarnations over time, but it’s safe to say that the food has never been better than it is today. They serve a fantastic vitello as well as some very good daily pasta and risotto dishes. Known as a spot where lunch easily becomes dinner, during summer months customers dine al fresco on the bustling sunny terrace. Also part of the attraction is a super little bar called Number V which features live music at weekends, and just like the main restaurant, it attracts a stylish crowd. Aside from well-constructed cocktails, an impressive wine list offers delights such as Bolgheri Sassicaia and Ornellaia L’Iincanto. Some of those ‘well-known sorts’ who have enjoyed la dolce vita at Unicorn include Sienna Miller, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, Lionel Richie, Gabriel Byrne, Bill Clinton, Bono, Lapo Elkann, Tom Jones and Sophia Loren.
A beach-inspired bar on St Stephen’s Green offering a bright and breezy cocktail list and fabulous seafood. Stepping into urchin you feel as if you’ve been transported to a chic beach bar on Mykonos or Ibiza. Good looking staff mix cocktails that transport you further - the Beaches be Crazy is my personal favourite. They specialize in ‘small bites’ which are just enough to keep you steady as the cocktails continue to flow. The octopus plate is great, as is the Irish sea urchin. Every inch of the tiny basement that is urchin was designed to make it an instagrammers dream – crisp whites, against pops of blues and orange. It attracts a very fashion conscious clientele who spill out onto a fantastic heated terrace in both summer and winter to a soundtrack that is as divine as the place itself.
Although a regular face on television both in Ireland and the UK, taking part in shows such as Young Posh and Loaded (ITV1), Celebrity Farm (RTE1) and Celebrity 5 Go Dating (Channel 4), to name a few - Gavin is a true bon viveur, dividing his time between Dublin and Rome where he knows a thing or two about la dolce vita. He has recently published his first novel 'Diary of an It Boy' on Amazon.