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15th Sep 2023

12 Dublin spots that used to be something else entirely

Katy Thornton

Anything can be made into a restaurant these days.

Dublin has a wealth of history, not just in museums and parks, but in its restaurants as well, as you can see from this quirky list of spots that used to serve different purpose.

12. MV Cill Airne

Set sail on this renovated training vessel for an afternoon of Modern European food, or head along for a North Wall Quayside drink at the maritime-style bar and deck seating.

11. Hawksmoor 

One of the most hyped openers of the last while, the luxe-ness of Hawksmoor could only come from being a former bank, the National Bank to be precise. Most Millenials will remember the spot on 34 College Green as housing the dark, strongly smelling American clothing brand Abercrombie & Fitch.

10. Hanks

This converted petrol station is now a dog friendly neighbourhood cafe serving up toasties by day and pizza by night. There’s plenty of room to chat with pals and shade (needed at the moment) coming from the massive ol’ canopy.

9. Good Vibrations 

With the help of a few licks of paint and a bit of scrubbing, this horsebox has been transformed into a colourful little cafe located near the King’s Inns. If you’re a fan of the TikTok-famed dark academia aesthetic (mysteriously sipping a flat white while reading a book, wearing loafers and a woolly jumper), you’d be hard-pressed to find a better location to live out this fantasy.

8. Churchtown Stores

Until January 2018 this bar and restaurant in Churchtown was a beloved hardware store. It first opened in 1987 and was frequented by locals for all their hardware needs. The shop was closed and sold, but later that year it reopened to continue “the wonderful tradition in customer service”, serving pints and food instead of paint and drills. Jack Rabbit, who provides the menu for Churchtown Stores, is wonderful and we especially recommend their coconut curry chips.

7. The Church Bar and Restaurant

This 17th Century church St Mary’s on Mary’s Street closed its doors in 1964 and was purchased in 1997. It was converted into John M. Keating’s restaurant and Bar in 2005, and was renamed The Church bar and restaurant in 2007. Although refurbished, it maintains its church aesthetic and is a popular spot for cocktails and good food. They have an indoor and outdoor area so everyone is welcome. You can book a table on their website HERE.

6. The Bank Bar and Restaurant

As the name would suggest, this bar and restaurant on College Green used to be a bank. It was bought by the Belfast bank in 1892 and became The Bank Bar and Restaurant over a century later in 2003. The main eating area used to be the bank’s hall, and it still looks this way. The Bank serves delicious pub food such as burgers, salads, and fish, and is well worth a visit.

5. La Peniche

Maybe it’s because Hallie and Annie’s parents got married on a yacht in The Parent Trap but there’s something romantic about dinner on a boat. La Peniche (which is French for The Barge) used to be called the MV Riasc and would transport people across the canal until the 1960s. It was converted into a restaurant and now sits by Mespil Road, serving amazing French cuisine and fine wine.

4. The Perch

This café on Leeson Street used to be a kiosk, but before that, it was a tearoom, and before THAT is was a water pressure station. The Perch has been all sorts of things since it opened in 1929, although it has maintained the art deco aesthetic to pay homage to its roots. If you need a pick-me-up or just want a sweet treat, pop into The Perch.

3. Happy Out

So many cafés and restaurants have been converted from old shipping containers, but Happy Out on Bull Island is one of our faves. They specialise in all things coffee, toasties, and brunch and it’s just the sustenance you need after a long walk on the beach.

2. Old Music Shop Restaurant

This iconic spot off Parnell Square opened in 1924 as Walton’s Music and housed Ireland’s first music school. The school stood for 80 years before it closed in 2013. Nowadays, Old Music Shop Restaurant serves delightful afternoon tea.

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1. The Market Bar

What is now a popular tapas bar on Fade Street, known for their great food and live music, used to be a sausage factory, and before that it was an abbatoir.

So, which of these quirky Dublin restaurants do you think has the coolest backstory?

Header images via Instagram / Hank’s & / MV Cill Airne


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