Nothing quite beats the atmosphere of Dublin’s crowded streets at Christmas. The sing-song of canny street traders. Twinkling lights mirrored in the shimmering glitz of Appleby’s. A hint of old Switzer’s magic reflected in the ornate windows of Brown Thomas. Musical interludes of Adeste Fideles, Silent Night and Fairy Tale of New York. Warmly embracing people you haven’t seen for years. Dodging the relics of yuletides past.
Unless you did your shopping in July, chances are you’ll be joining the fray at some stage between now and the big day. True enough, there are times when the beady eyed, foot throbbing discomfort and joy of it all gets a bit overwhelming. A dig too many from razor sharp elbows, the exuberance of overexcited chuggers, an excess of ‘Anyone for the last of the Elsa dolls?’ all enough to set your teeth on edge, leaving your seasonal goodwill in tatters. Before you know it you’ll be whispering involuntary prayers for the intercession of Bono Vox and his gift for clearing Grafton Street on Christmas Eve.
You promise yourself that next year will be different. You’ll be better prepared, do it all online, become a determined acolyte of new fangled approaches such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But that’s Christmas Future. For now you have to work your way through the Advent of Christmas Present. What to do?
The best advice from those who study these things is to step away from the madding crowd, make like the young European you are and engage in a series of pit stops to ward off your inner Scrooge. Intermittent pauses here and there for a bit of pudding or something more substantial will set you up nicely for the task in hand. Having merrily tasted and tested this approach for many years now we can happily vouch for its effectiveness. The following is a small selection of seasonal suggestions to help you navigate your way through the mayhem. By all means feel free to invent some new traditions of your own, but most of all… Enjoy!
Avoca Café Suffolk Street
You can’t go far wrong with a trip to Avoca. This seven floor, mini department store is a veritable Aladdin’s cave, where ‘seasonal’ is not just for Christmas. Perform a quick reckie as you whizz up the stairs, settle yourself in the café at the top and sample the delights of a menu rich in fish and greens. You could make a start on that shopping list while injecting some welcome fizz into proceedings with a glass of sparkling elderberry or berry infused prosecco, then off you go on an excursion to the furthest recesses of the shop. Whatever your interest there’s plenty to choose from here and you might just emerge onto Suffolk Street with Christmas sorted.
Queen of Tarts, Cork Hill, Dame Street
The exterior of the queen of Dublin cake shops looks as inviting as a scene from an old fashioned Christmas box, its cosy interior filled to the brim with tempting treats. Start with a pot of freshly brewed tea and take your pick from a selection of seasonal crumbles and New York baked cheesecakes. If you’re on dessert duty over the season this is the perfect place to pick up delicious home made Christmas puddings and mince pies. For extra brownie points you can’t beat the Almond Frangipane with juicy cranberries and almonds. We suggest that you order it to go.
Library Bar Central Hotel
Everyone’s secret rendezvous, the comfortable Library Bar is a great place to take a load off while surveying your wares. Enjoy a freshly brewed pot of tea with a buttered scone or club sandwich as you take in the views over bustling South Great Georges Street. Why not treat yourself to the warmth of an inaugural hot port as December’s daylight fades? It’s medicinal!
The Stag’s Head
The interior of ‘The Stag’s’ has occasionally been known to offer splendid daytime isolation, but never more so than at this time of year. If you get your timing right you could be topping up your levels of bon homie in the comfort of the Victorian snug and enjoying a quick read of the paper with just the resident fox for company. Fancy a small bowl of stew with that? Bliss.
The Cake Café
Should your meanderings take you to the top of Camden Street allow yourself to be diverted into this lovely little place where everything from the coffee to the heating system is as ethical and environmentally friendly as can be. A delicious lemon slice, squishy sponge or – if you’re feeling virtuous – a seed and nut slice will propel you nicely onto your next destination.
Hidden in plain sight, the restaurant in Boyer’s Department Store is a great place to go off the grid for an hour or so while sustaining yourself with a meal that’ll have you bounding through Dublin’s streets for hours afterwards. For very little outlay you can set yourself up with some good old-fashioned sustenance including a hot dessert that your granny would be proud of. Come to think of it, that looks like her at the next table.
Neary’s Pub Chatham Street, Dublin 2
The spacious Chatham Lounge offers an oasis of calm just off Grafton Street. A chicken sambo and bit of banter with the sagacious bar staff will help revive your spirits, returning you replete to the wilds of Grafton Street.
Let’s face it Grogans is always thronged, but it’s ideally located for a swift half and a toastie. Most likely you’ll find yourself in the company of other shopping refugees sensibly laying low for an hour or two until the hordes outside have thinned and it’s safe to step, once again, into the breach.
**EDIT: Boyers closed in January 2016
Words: Martina Murray
Pics: Archiseek.com, Openculture.com, Central Hotel, Queen of Tarts