By Colette Fitzpatrick
This year will mark a decade in Dublin for me, having moved up from Kildare to attend college when I was just about to turn 18. I have, in those ten years, always lived in and around Rathmines – bar one year in the Ringsend/Grand Canal area – and would like to think I know it pretty well by now. I have seen it undergo a decent amount of change and I have come to love it more and more. It really is a second home to me now (calling anything but my family home “home” may result in expulsion from my family). When I actually sit still for a weekend and have time to potter around the neighbourhood, I’m always struck by how truly mad about the place I am.
There is a truly remarkable number of places to eat and amount of shops clustered in quite a small area particularly when compared to a lot of other parts of the city, especially as you get further and further out from the centre. You have your McDonalds, your Starbucks (there were two at one point), burrito chains (two of them?), multiple takeaway restaurants with Chinese, Thai, Indian, falafel, pizza, and fish & chips joints among them. There is a teppanyaki restaurant, a Lebanese restaurant, two American-style diners, and other sit-down restaurants. There are lots and lots of cafés. There is a Polish supermarket, a Moldovan supermarket, two Asian supermarkets, a healthfood supermarket, a fancy supermarket, a Lidl, an Aldi, a Dunnes, a Tesco, a Spar, and a Centra. Then there are the bars and pubs; hip pubs, old man pubs, a cocktail bar, a French wine bar. There are DIY stores, an art supplies store, several bookshops, excellent charity shops, clothes stores, and more. We have a public library, yoga schools, hairdressers, nail salons, bakeries, an art gallery, parks, and much more besides. There are two cinemas – a chain and a boutique cinema….It really is a whole little universe of its own!
However, among all of the things packed into this neighbourhood, there are, of course, some highlights. Amongst the cafés, Pot Bellied Pig and Fia both stand out for their excellent food. PBB, in particular, is one of my favourites; cute décor, an ever-changing menu of delicious things, the most wonderfully friendly owner and staff. Voici, is a cute spot for a glass of wine and crepe and catch-up with a pal; especially lovely on winter nights with the candles and twinkly fairy lights illuminating the place and the hum of traffic just outside the window. The Stella Diner is where I go for pancakes-for-dinner stacks of fluffy chocolate chip delights at 9pm post swim on Friday nights in summer. For people-watching and a great cup of coffee, Grove Road, as it looks over the main Rathmines Road and the canal, is ideal. New addition to the neighbourhood, the Carrot’s Tail, is a vegan delight that I recently curled up in with a book and their too-good-to-be-true “chocolate” cake and where I plan to go for zero-waste pasta and grains refills in the future. Pints with neighbouring friends over a boardgame or some retro sweets in the Black Bird is also always a good idea (okay, mostly a good idea).
For entertainment, the Stella Theatre will always have a fond place in my heart. At nineteen quid, the tickets are pricey but pick the right film and it’s a truly magical experience. The first film I saw there was, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and the historic theatre and choice in flick made me feel as though I had slipped back in time (minus all the Consumption or worse lack of human rights or bad indoor plumbing). Finishing an evening in the perfectly managed and delightfully Gatsby-esque Stella Cocktail Club is always a good idea for the full experience. MART, the gallery located in Rathmines’ old firehouse is also a delight, frequently hosting events and contemporary art exhibitions. Wander in on a warm weekend day when the big front doors are thrown open and enjoy some culture for free. Speaking of free culture and warm summer days that seem too beautiful to be real life, float past the side of the library down Leinster Road in the evening and you’ll probably get to hear the musicians or opera singers of DIT(?) practicing in the rooms upstairs. I can’t tell you how magic the sound of these talented artists is on an endless summer day when the warm breeze is thick with the scent of flowers.
If you want to find a book to read, I recommend spending time in the aforementioned beautiful library with its stained glass, sweeping stair, high ceilings, and massive windows. However, if you want to buy a book then you have a couple of options. Head to Alan Hanna’s bookshop and work through the eccentric piles to find a gem (and hope there is a dog somewhere to pet, as there often is) or pop inside the Swan Centre where the branch of Dubray’s inside boasts staff members that offer excellent recs and wonderfully curated displays that ensure you’ll always come away with something interesting to read. For a stunning curation of clothes, head back out the side exit of the Swan to the Beautiful South, an independent boutique opened last year that stocks brands like MM6, Rachel Comey, Masscob, and Rains among others in the most elegant of store spaces. If you’re looking to outfit your home instead of yourself, April and the Bear is a recent transplant from Temple Bar’s Cow Lane and stocks stunning homewares, beautiful prints, and great gifts in a bright and stylish quirky shop that is an interiors delight in its own right.
I could go on ad nauseam about the things I love about Rathmines. In fact, writing this piece is only bringing more and more things to mind but, trust me, it’s a pretty special part of the world. Come explore it for yourself and really dig in and you’ll see exactly what I mean…