The Yin and Yang of Dublin Dining


We're delighted to introduce Paddy Cullivan as a new writer for us here on Lovin Dublin. One of the funniest men in Dublin and involved in pretty much every aspect of the entertainment industry, he's going to be writing for us every week on his experiences of living in Dublin. Starting with dining in Dublin without a reservation...

We are living in the era of rule-following. We have to. We almost capsized the place by not following rules. But you know Ireland has turned a corner economically when you get ‘the look’ and ‘the question’. You know them. You’ve arrived to the door of a popular brunch location five minutes after eleven o’clock on a Sunday morning (they open at eleven). The place is 25% full. ‘Can I get a table for one?’ you ask, full of trepidation, remembering how it was in 2006 when you even had to book a reservation in Supermacs on O’Connell St. And even though it hasn’t been like that in Dublin in years, you’ve broken the rules, and you are getting ‘the look’. The ‘why are you dining alone?’ look. The ‘I didn’t take a shower today and came in here in a post-hedonistic mix of pyjamas and leisurewear but that’s OK because it’s Sunday and the boss is unconscious in the early house but I’m 22 and I don’t need to sleep’ look. Then you get the definitive statement – ‘Have you made a reservation?’. I try to glance around the 25% full restaurant without emotion and say passively ‘no, but I really just want to eat and go – I won’t be hanging around reading the paper cover to cover or anything’, laughing nervously, like Ben Kingsley in ‘Schindler’s List’. The Reservations Clipboard comes out. It is thoroughly examined, in a manner much like the Iranian passport scene in ‘Argo’. Names are ticked, crossed off, brows are furrowed, lips pursed in concentration. Sounds are emitted – disapproving sounds. It takes a while, like ‘Breaking Bad’. The racial background of the waitress doesn’t matter - whether she is from Ireland or Fiji - she has been thoroughly schooled in the myriad ways the Irish hospitality industry has of saying ‘No’. But I’m in ‘luck’ (she said that). ‘Ok, I can give you a table, but I’ll need it back as quickly as possible’. I am led to a table, sit, and promptly wait ten minutes to order, because they - and I - are in a hurry, right?


But it gives me time to think. About how - despite this unnecessary bit of off-putting PR - Dublin is beautiful on a Sunday morning. The head-cases and suburbanites are asleep. The culchies contained in the Harcourt St holding pens the previous night are sleeping off their hard liquor-hangovers dreaming of Garth Brooks and what might have been (had we broken the rules). But I prefer thinking about Phil Lynott walking down Grafton St in ‘Old Town’. I’m thinking of the Bretzel Bakery and how Alfie Byrnes uses their Onion Bagels as Burger Buns on the best burgers in the city. I’m thinking of growing up on North Great Georges St and how every remaining Georgian House we have in Dublin is the result of someone fighting the wrecking ball to keep it there. I’m thinking how the only place you could get dressed crab in the City Centre before 1990 was Davy Byrnes. I’m thinking of how Kavanagh called it ‘Baggotonia’ because it was a whole world, with the canal more beautiful than any you’ll find in Amsterdam. I’m thinking about my breakfast, which hasn’t arrived, but when it does, it’s delicious, because it has to be, because we finally won’t accept bad food anymore, despite the side-order of re-emerging Tiger attitude. As I get up to leave, I notice the place is still 25% full, but it will be packed in a while. It deserves to be. I’ve been fed well, and cheaply. Next time? I’ll just book a reservation. It’s so much easier. My rule-breaking days are over…

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