I went to Dublin in early November and truthfully, it was a terrible trip. Nothing worked out the way I planned. I woke up on the day of the departure, all set to head to City Airport, when a text arrived from BA, letting me know my flight was cancelled. Damn London fog! I attempted to rebook online and was unsuccessful. Luckily, my BA Silver status got me through the massive phone queue within 5 minutes but there were barely any options the next day.
I departed for Dublin 25 hours later than expected. So that kinda sucked. But a surprisingly tasty dinner and some Irish whiskey at Cleaver East at The Clarence Hotel set me to rights.
Here’s where I ate and drank in Dublin during my short visit and before a group of guys tried to mug me after I checked out of my hotel on Thursday evening. (Yup. That not-stressful-at-all-thing happened. Always be alert.)
Cleaver East: I was practically the only diner at Cleaver East on the night I visited, and I stayed for a lonnnggg time. Service forgot about me for a bit but once they remembered I was there, we got on swimmingly. The early bird special — two courses for €21.95 — was a great value. Particularly because I ordered it at like 6:40 pm and the special ended at 6:45 pm! Hah! You really can’t go wrong with beef carpaccio in my book, and the pan fried sea bass was a generous portion. I enjoyed my meal here. The Verdict: I’d go back.
Winding Stair: Social media pointed me in the direction of The Winding Stair, a small bookshop and bistro facing the Liffey by the pretty Ha’Penny bridge. In hindsight, my generous starter of smoked trout pate would have been enough for lunch. I could barely finish my main of beef cheeks and colcannon. (Lunch special: 2-Course €19.95, with glass of house wine €25.95) I liked the Winding Stair although I really would like them to refinish the staircase. It has seen better days. The place has a bit of a rickety feel, which might make it loveable to some. Me? I wanted to sand and stain everything. The Verdict: I’d go back for the food and view out onto the Liffey.
The Stag’s Head: While walking through Temple Bar on my 2nd evening, we dropped into this popular corner meeting spot for some Guinness. There’s a comedy club upstairs too so expect a lot of entrances and exits. (It was slightly distracting, the constant “Where is the comedy club?” questioning.) I can imagine the ground floor is unbearable when it’s too crowded. The Verdict: I’m not sure I would go out of my way, but it’s a nice enough spot.
Jule’s: I hadn’t eaten all day on Thursday so before I checked out of my hotel, I stopped into Jule’s for the lobster special. (As you do.) At 19€, it certainly wasn’t a bargain. Tasty enough, but a tiny portion. More fries than lobster. Staff were super helpful and friendly though. The Verdict: On the fence. Would want to consider price-to-value ratio in more detail first.
The Porterhouse: The Porterhouse, with its fantastically wide beer selection and central location, made for a perfect meeting spot. It also had the advantage of being right outside the doors to my hotel, The Clarence. (More about The Clarence in a later post.) Seriously great beer selection, not too crowded and live Irish music! I could have spent more time here. The Verdict: I’d go back here.
I may have enjoyed my time in Dublin, but as you may be able to tell, I did most of my eating and drinking relatively close to my hotel. (I’m selfish like that.) This was partly convenience and partly because my plans were thrown off by my flight delay. I like Dublin though so I’m sure I’ll be back. Always good to visit somewhere where everyone can pronounce your last name.
I learned something the other day. It’s really hard to take a photo of a box of beer. Unless you have a good table, a clean backdrop, and some props. I have a glass dining table and it just didn’t work. I debated using my as the flat surface but that seemed weird, and then I had the backdrop problem so there really was no good solution.
So what is Flavourly? Formed in 2012, Flavourly is the UK’s fastest growing artisan food, snack and craft beer discovery service. Through their monthly deliveries, they help foodies and craft beer enthusiasts discover artisan foods, snacks and craft beers.
If that sounds like I took it straight from the PR, you’re right. I did! I never said I wasn’t a little lazy.
But here is what’s funny. The PR contacted me about Flavourly and then I went to the opening of the very nice cocktail bar WM Barker & Company under Dirty Dick’s on Liverpool Street, and I met the very lovely Hannah from Hiver, the honey beer, there. We got to talking and I mentioned Flavourly, thinking I was coming up with a really unique idea that would help her grow her business. Hah, such misplaced confidence. Hiver is already in with Flavourly, and when my box arrived, there was Hannah’s beer, right there!
Here’s what I received in my box…
19th Brew Golden Ale by Eden Mill: Refreshing and well-balanced golden beer.
Amber Ale by Fourpure: An American amber ale with toasty malt character.
The Brown Honey Ale by Hiver: Honey complements and adds depth to darker roasted malts. Very, very interesting.
Black IPA by Stewart Brewing: Fresh pine and tropical aromas.
Black Saison by Firebrand: Dark and full or roasted malt flavors.
Azimuth IPA by Hardknott: A balanced hoppy beer.
Seven IPA by Seven Brothers: Classic American IPA. Possibly my favorite.
Rose Wheat Beer by Ticketybrew: A rose wheat beer, probably my least favorite.
I also got some snacks which I ate immediately. They were from Man-o-Masa. Chipotle & lime tortillas and some white cheddar too. They were nice…maybe a little too grainy for my taste. I was much more interested in the beer. And well, if I were Flavourly, in making snacks part of the package, I might work on my snacks to beer ratio. I know eating is cheating in the UK but still…
I’ve done some research on Flavourly since my box arrived and learned that they went on Dragons Den and EVERYONE wanted to invest. Flavourly then turned them all down and went on to earn their own money through Crowdcube. SMART guys, very very smart. They earned £300,000 through crowd-funding, which is amazing. The company has grown a tremendous amount…I found one article that says that they’ve grown more than 500% a year since 2012. When they launched the club in 2013, they received 4,000 orders on the FIRST DAY. Check out this article for more deets.
OK, I’ve given it some more thought and maybe my photo isn’t too bad…I took it on the kitchen counter and then Instagrammed it up…
Flavourly costs £24 quid a month and includes 8 beers and 2 snacks. It’s a great Christmas present for the beer-lover in your life. If I drank more beer at home, I would totally subscribe! It is now definitely on my list as my new go-to birthday present for folks that like beer.
Flavourly was kind enough to send me a beer box for free. I enjoyed my Flavourly experience and would highly recommend it to beer-lovers in the UK.
This is my second visit to Shotgun and I’ve come at a bad time. It’s 3:45 pm on a Tuesday. There’s one occupied table in the place. I stand at the door, by the host’s table. I stand and stand and stand. No one comes. So I walk to the bar. There are three people behind it, busy unpacking things, cleaning. Even though I think I’m pretty visible, they don’t see me. But I swear to God I am pretty sure they know I’m there. They’re just not ready to talk to me.
A woman comes up the back stairs and sees me. She looks at me, oddly, and then looks at the people behind the bar. She does one of those head nod things to them. The “UM THERE’S SOMEONE HERE” head nod. The staff turn and look at me.
“Oh! Can I help you with something?”
“Uh, just wanted to have a late lunch and I’m pretty sure you are open all day, right?”
“Yes, yes, of course. Do you want to sit at the bar?”
All the tables are empty. Except for the one occupied one. I don’t want to sit at the bar. I have a big bag with me (Mulberry Sample Sale) and my handbag weighs 20 pounds and I just want to sit down and have some space. They let me sit down at a table.
A server drops by and takes my order. Pulled pork sandwich and a side of mashed potatoes. Although they don’t call them mashed potatoes. That’s fine. I just can’t remember what they’re called. I order a class of the house wine on tap too.
And I wait. And I wait. And I wait. They bring me my tap water. And I drink that, because I am thirsty. I am pretty sure they leave the bottle with me because I pour another glass, but later, the bottle disappears when I am not paying attention and I wonder why they would do that, take the bottle away. Because I still want water.
And I wait some more. And finally, they bring me my glass of wine. Finally. “Sorry for the delay,” they say.
And eventually, my pulled pork with a side of potatoes and two pickled okra arrives. I had joked about the lack of veg at Shotgun on Instagram a few weeks earlier. Green salad for you, or nothing. “You could have the pickled okra,” they told me. It’s not obvious on the menu. Next time, I will ask for a whole big portion because it’s great and okra is hard to get right.
And my pulled pork sandwich is great too. Although I am still not a fan of the bread, which is just too soft for me. Too wet. I need more structure. I mentioned this on Instagram too a few weeks back and Marina told me that she prefers the soft stuff.
I have never been one for white bread so consider that.
During my first visit to Shotgun, I had the brisket. It was fantastic. So get that. But the service was off then too. “We need the table back at 7,” they told us. “Yes, we know,” we told them. “We’re flexible so kick us out whenever.” The hostesses stood there at their stand, staring at us, willing us to leave.
The eye…the window to the soul.
(Later, the staff give us a glass of wine each, on the house, at the very narrow bar.)
The Verdict: Go, and eat all the delicious meat. But beware staying longer than 1 hour and 45 minutes. And don’t go to hang out at the bar either. It’s only meant for sitting.
When I wrote about my September trip to Normandy & Brittany a few weeks back, I didn’t really talk much about where we went once we got there! In case you too are interested in a quick weekend trip, here’s a summary of everything we accomplished in 36 hours. (We took the car on the ferry, which helped.) It’s a beautiful part of the world that I highly recommend visiting. Enjoy!
St. Malo: Gorgeous little medieval town. I wish was had had more time here because it was early when we arrived and most shops and restaurants were closed. Lovely just to walk around. I would gladly go back here.
Dinard: A great beach town and a market town too. Excellent people watching. While we didn’t find much at the market that struck our fancy — we were really hoping for an oyster bar or something — I can see how this town might be an appealing destination in summer. Not sure if I would go back here though unless it was just for the beach.
Cancale: This was definitely a highlight of our trip. Sure, it’s a little touristy — oyster restaurants are chock-a-block up and down the main drag — but as someone who loves oysters, this was nirvana. We somehow decided to park up above town and walk down a little woodland path, putting us on the opposite end of town from all the oyster restaurants. Not to fear though, we had a lovely lunch at Cote Mer and walked it off on our way down the beach to see the rest of town. Would gladly go back to Cancale and Cote Mer.
Mont Ste Michel: Definitely beautiful, but rammed with people and we got there too late in the day. The monastery closes at 5 pm! I suppose it’s a must see but there were just too many people for me. A lot of people ask about the steps and it honestly wasn’t too bad but if you like me are still recovering from a bad ankle sprain, it’s a little troublesome.
Honfleur: We loved this little ocean-faring town. Lots of boats, lots of medieval architecture. A little touristy but enjoyable just the same.
Where we slept: Motel Les Bleuets. Clean, quiet, free bikes and a good breakfast.
Where we ate: Au Relais Des Cyclistes. Very very popular with the tourist crowd. A little too heaving for me but many people will like its liveliness.
Pont-l’Évêque: Sunday was rainy and dreary so we headed for the Pere Magloire Calvados Distillery. The tour was all in French, but we somehow managed to understand most of it and our tour guide was good at translating for us here and there. Definitely call in advance to ask about English tours. Very generous and inexpensive tasting at the end of the tour.
Caen: This is a port city so it’s not a destination really but we pulled into town and headed straight for the Normandie Wine Warehouse and loaded up the car with cases upon cases of wine. We then stopped for a surprisingly tasty lunch at the relatively non-descript Brasserie la Phare before queuing up for the ferry. Damn, I want to be able to cook like a French person. One thing we learned about France on a Sunday…it is VERY hard to get a table for lunch. Most places are totally booked up. Definitely plan in advance. We had pretty much given up before the woman at Normandie Wine Warehouse recommended Brasserie la Phare.
I honestly cannot wait to go back to this part of the world. I highly recommend it for a weekend jaunt!
Hakkasan Hanway Place was seriously one of the first restaurants I ever went to in London as an adult. (My 1993 London visit while I was in university doesn’t count for anything. One day, I’ll tell you about the sleeping arrangements.) My first visit to Hakkasan was in 2001 when I was here from the States for six weeks for work and the “Design Guy” came over and took us all out to Hakkasan and paid too. He must have read about the restaurant in one of those design magazines because this was 2001 after all, before blogs and Yelp and all those other Internet-Web-App things. My, how times have changed.
All these years later though and Hakkasan itself has not changed all that much. It’s still the darkly sexy place it once was and I still get a little freaked out when I try to find the door to the loos. Ah! They’re behind that wall/door thing! I get it! Hakkasan has also expanded, thanks to our friends at the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, a very sovereign and very wealthy sovereign wealth fund. If I were Mr. Yau, I would roll around in all my money all the live long day. Maybe, just maybe, I’d buy a small island somewhere. A tropical one.
Only we really didn’t have to order much except for some cheung fun. Because Hakkasan Hanway Place is offering a new Sunday set brunch special. And it’s an amazingly good value, even though this is going to seem like a big number when I tell you the number…
It’s £58 quid. And it is so so worth it because…
For £58 quid, you get all this…per person!
Choice of cocktail
Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV Champagne, France 12% half bottle
Choice of after dinner cocktail
Crispy duck salad with pomelo, pine nut and shallot
Chinese chive dumpling
Duck and yam bean dumpling
Royal king crab and truffle roll
Baked venison puff
Smoked duck and pumpkin puff
Golden radish crab meat pastry
XO seafood and water chestnut lettuce wrap
Stir-fry black pepper rib eye beef with merlot
Ginger and spring onion fried rice
Selection of dessert
If that’s not amazing, I don’t know what is. For £58 quid!! I mean, like I said, I know that’s a big number, but talk about getting your money’s worth!! Sure, there are some misses on the menu — I didn’t die over the lettuce wraps — but there are more hits than misses and that counts for something. Check out the full menu online and then drop into Hakkasan on a Sunday afternoon and then roll yourself home! Vegetarian menu available.
The Verdict: Nothing not to like!
I was a guest of Fiona’s and Hakkasan. I did not pay for my meal but I did tip on the full amount.