This weekend there was outrage at the cover of the Independent’s LIFE magazine as they splashed a host of celebrities across the cover along with the headline “the good life”. The implication was that after years of misery John Delaney, Barry Egan and even the TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor could safely lift their champagne flutes and party again without fear of upsetting the public. Unsurprisingly it pissed quite a few people off especially when reading inside that the celebrities had tips on saving water including using more deodorant and letting the dogs lick the plates clean. Bad taste or a superb piece of trolling? We’ll let you decide. It did get me thinking about the new Ireland that is undoubtably emerging post recession…
On Friday night we had our Christmas party for 20 people in Sophies restaurant in The Dean Hotel. I wrote how the concept was undoubtedly copied from the Hoxton and the Ace in London but I wanted to give the place a fair crack with a review of the top floor which is where the action is. It is part restaurant, part goldfish bowl with spectacular views over the city and part rooftop bar with a cracking perch over Harcourt Street. Whoever had the vision and talent to transform this place has done as good a job as any of the Georgian designers working 300 years ago who made this city what it is today. As we sat down to dinner with the room buzzing around us I decided it was the most alive and cosmopolitan I have ever felt in Dublin. I could easily have been in New York or Sydney.
There are touches of Hakkasan here with pretty young things in their post work heels and slick looking dudes knocking back pints and cocktails which adds to the buzz. The tone is set as you walk past the open kitchen where the chefs are on full show (as a chef myself I know what a nightmare that is! What happens when you get an itchy arse?) before you spot the iconic pizza oven. The food was fairly decent but I wouldn’t go into too much detail given that the place has only been open a couple of weeks and it was a Christmas party menu. Well above average and the pizzas would be a good shout because they were thin, crispy and had an awesome sauce.
Between courses I popped out to the smoking area. What struck me walking around the place was that this was new Ireland. 100 million miles away from the people on the cover of LIFE standing on the rooftop terrace of the Marker Hotel. See people aren’t just pissed off about the water charges. Thats the straw that broke the camel’s back but what we are fed up with is the cronyism, the bloated pensions and the fat cat public sector salaries. Irish society has for so long been about a back hander and a doff of the cap and a sneaky wink. “Sure it’ll be grand”. It might be taking time and many of us were foolish enough to think it would just disappear with Bertie and the Celtic Tiger but it is proving a little harder to shake than we thought.
What we are seeing though is a new younger generation coming through who want to do things differently. Much of that comes from the tens of thousands of foreigners coming to work here. It no longer matters that I walk up to the hottest new hotel in town wearing runners. My name doesn’t need to be on any list. You don’t need a wheelbarrow full of cash to buy a bottle of Vodka to reserve a table. All of those things were second nature to the folk on the cover of that magazine but thats not how new Ireland works these days. The young people today have been kicked in the teeth enough times over the last decade due to unemployment and mass emigration but they also have a completely more modern perspective on life than the previous generations. One day they’ll be dressed to the nines hanging out in the Dean but the next day they’ll be just as happy handing saving money drinking a few craft beers at home. The Sunday LIFE folk can keep that world they all want to hang onto because it is irrelevant, outdated and crass. If you want to see the new Dublin emerging head along to The Dean. Sometimes in life you need to take one step backwards before taking two forwards and that is what we are seeing with Dublin right now.