Last weekend Sam and I nipped over to Dublin for a little weekend getaway. Neither of us had ever been to Ireland before so we were both quite keen to visit and Sam was very excited about going to the famed Guinness Storehouse.
We flew from Glasgow – a mere 40 minute flight that rushes by in what feels like 10 minutes – and arrived in Dublin around 10:30pm on Thursday night with the daunting task of finding our way through town to our hotel.
We had decided to save money by staying a little further out of town and managed to get 3 nights in a hotel for around £130 – the only problem was it was around 20 minutes outside the City Centre and we had no idea where we were going. Fortunately good old Google Maps came to our rescue and after a bus journey from the airport, we hopped on the Dublin tramline to our hotel.
I had, perhaps too eagerly, booked reservations at various restaurants I wanted to try across the weekend, and our first stop was lunch on Friday at The Pigs Ear, right in the heart of the city. Not knowing much about the place, and hearing only recommendations from others, we were surprised when it turned out to be a small, fine dining restaurant. We were seated and given the Christmas Lunch menu priced at 35 euros for three courses – it was a little steep for us considering how slim our budget was for the whole weekend!
In the end we decided to go for the A La Carte menu and go straight for a main. I chose a Pheasant dish which was really stunning – the meat had lots of flavour and every garnish on the plate worked really well and included parsnips and root vegetable crisps. My only problem – something out of control of the chef – was that the bird had clearly been shot through the breast and the area around it was very bloody and dark. The whole dish was beautiful though and Sam polished off the areas I didn’t finish!
We decided to treat ourselves and share the ‘Pigs Ear Cheesecake’ for dessert and the presentation was the most charming I’ve seen. It came to the table in a pink & white striped paper bag, which, when opened up, revealed a jam jar filled with the upside down cheesecake, consisting of chocolate biscuit crumb, cream cheese mix and caramel sauce. It tasted as good as it looks and I could have eaten it twice over. It was an expensive meal and very much a one-off for us – we loved the food but it’s definitely somewhere for special occasions!
After our yummy lunch we headed out to the Guinness Storehouse, which must be Dublin’s most popular tourist attraction. For 18 euros you get a self-guided tour of the storehouse, a taster session and either a lesson on how to pour your own pint (which you get to then drink) or a free pint up at the Gravity bar, which has panoramic views over the city. We took a good couple of hours to wander up the 7 floors, stopping off to do the taster session which involved a lesson in understanding the flavours and smells of Guinness with a little baby shot glass of the stuff.
The whole experience is great fun and if you like Guinness, there’s a pint waiting for you at the end – I only managed a third of mine because I’m really not a beer person! After the tour we headed along to The Brazen Head – an old Irish pub – for some grub and a couple more drinks.
The next day we grabbed a quick lunch at another pub then headed to the National Museum of Natural History. We heard a tour guide telling us as they drove by that people refer to it as “The Dead Zoo” which was pretty accurate. Inside are two floors of various animals from Ireland and around the world, including a Basking Shark hung from the ceiling which looked incredibly tired and tattered. The displays were all a little sad and it barely took us an hour to walk round the whole place. In all honesty, there isn’t all that much to see and do in Dublin as a tourist – it’s very much a place to go for a wild and expensive weekend of partying, which, obviously, we weren’t doing.
We did however have an amazing meal at the other restaurant I had booked: Chameleon. In the heart of Temple Bar, this little restaurant focuses on Indonesian cuisine served tapas style. We ordered an amazing range of dishes including Crispy Squid, Pork Wontons, Satay Ayam, Slow Cooked Pork Belly, Babi Spring Roll and Scallops. I enjoyed every dish including the squid – which is weird because I still don’t really eat seafood…I’m getting there though! We followed all that yummy savoury food with a Chocolate and Baileys Panna Cotta which was smooth, rich and a perfect end to a really great meal. It’s not exactly traditional Irish, but it’s something a bit different and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Ireland.
On our last day, we wandered the gardens at St Stephens Green and then popped into the Christmas Market which had been set up just outside the gardens. The stalls were all fairly similar: hot dogs, crepes, burgers, hog roast, mulled wine & cider, all the usual suspects. It was incredibly busy and there was a controlled queue to get inside which was bizarre, but it was nice to go and feel Christmassy for a little while.
On our way through town we stopped to see some street theatre, which Sam somehow got pulled into and made to throw flaming torches at the performer, who was balancing on a ladder. He was really entertaining and Sam somehow managed to throw the torches without hurting anyone! My overall feelings about Dublin are that it would make a great place for a hen or stag do, but isn’t necessarily a romantic destination for a couples city break because there’s not really much to do there unless the glue that holds your relationship together is Guinness. We had two outstanding meals and some great Irish pub grub, but by the end of the weekend we were extremely poor – Dublin really is as expensive as they say!