Hometown: Dublin, Ireland
Occupation: Co-owner, Dunne & Crescenzi, Bar Italia, L’Officina
Years lived in Dublin: 38
Years worked as a restaurateur: 21
Accolades: The McKennas’ Guides, 1999-present
Family Friendly Restaurant of the Year for L’Officina, Georgina Campbell’s Ireland (2015)
Georgina Campbell Award for Outstanding Contribution to Irish Hospitality (2013)
What do you love best about Dublin’s food scene?
I love the vibrancy of our food scene here in Dublin. We have one of the youngest populations in Europe and it is refreshing to see groups of young people dining out (al fresco, weather permitting) and generally having a good time. The center of Dublin is small but bursting with a huge variety of ethnic restaurants and there seems to be a new concept restaurant around every corner. Nowadays we can be proud of home-grown Irish focused restaurants.
Name the top restaurants that you think every visitor to Dublin should try.
A visit to The Winding Stair is a must for all visitors – quirky, quaint and quintessentially Irish. The Wexford lamb with Jerusalem artichokes, mint, and caper gravy is our family favorite.
Rasam in Glasthule merits a visit and involves a pleasant dart (metro) ride. Here, the food offers an explosion of tastes and honestly I could dine on the starters all evening – palak patta (crunchy spinach leaves) and imli ki macchi (ginger and tamarind red snapper).
The Forty One for an innovative fine dining experience.
What’s your favorite neighborhood to dine out in?
The City Centre has always appealed to me. It’s buzzy any time of the day and any day of the week and there are limitless restaurant offerings. Head to the South William Street, Fade Street areas.
Describe your “perfect dining out day” in Dublin.
Imagining a lazy, sunny day in Dublin … A relaxing breakfast at the Dylan sinking into a velvet couch, indulging in a full Irish with a good pot of tea and the Irish Times newspaper. Take a walk along the canal and head into town via Merrion Square and admire the exquisite flower beds. Pop into the National Gallery and take in the breathtaking Beit collection.
Continue on down Nassau and do a little shopping at the Kilkenny Shop specializing in Irish artisan gifts. By now I am feeling a little peckish and am torn between a healthy salad lunch or something more substantial, but if I opt for the salad, I can partake in a mid-afternoon dessert. Off to Avoca then on Suffolk Street and order the soup of the day and their amazing brown bread and butter. I reluctantly defer the fresh cream and raspberry meringue. Whilst sauntering up Dame Street towards Dublin Castle, I cannot resist a muffin from the Queen of Tarts pastry shop. The Chester Beatty Library occupies the rest of the afternoon. The Westbury hotel beckons for late afternoon scones, clotted cream and home made preserve with a pot of good loose leaf tea. Time now to retire for an hour or so before heading out for dinner. A truly indulgent evening calls for a cocktail at the Residence sitting by the window with a view of Stephen’s Green Park, followed by a splendid dinner at the Forty One Restaurant.
What’s your personal favorite dish at Dunne & Crescenzi?
Pasta al pomodoro, a simple dish properly executed with just the right ingredients – good early harvest cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, finely sliced onion, fresh tomatoes and basil. People write from all over the world asking for the recipe and the reaction is always the same: “No oregano, garlic, tomato puree, sugar?”
What’s one dish in Dublin that blew you away and left you wishing you came up with the recipe yourself?
I cannot think of something in Dublin but just to let you know that smoked carrot tubes at the Chiltern Firehouse in London blew me away recently.
What are some of your favorite places to go to for good cheap, quick eats, and what do you like ordering from there?
Umi Falafel, Dame Street, seriously good falafel.
Duck, Fade Street, pork belly, truly authentic
Pig & Heifer, Pearse Street, pastrami sandwich New York style.
Lido, Pearse Street, fish n’ chips.
Listons on Camden St, great variety of foods. Pick up Auntie Trisha’s yummy apple pie.
Clarkes Bakery on New Cabra Road. Brilliant breads, cakes, and lunch.
Since it’s Dublin, we have to ask: where do you go for the best coddle and what makes it so good?
Coddle to Dubliners is like penne all’ arrabbiata to Italians, a dish you make at home but don’t tend to eat in restaurants. The best coddle calls for Superquinn sausages, bacon, onion and potatoes; the potatoes should thicken the soup. I have been told that the Boxty House has a good coddle however. A traditional Dublin wedding calls for a coddle breakfast!
What food is your guilty pleasure, and where do you go to get it?
Belly of pork from Duck on Fade Street. The best I have had outside of Hong Kong.
Since this is a site geared for travelers, are there any favorite restaurants or bars at Dublin Airport or in the city’s hotels that you particularly enjoy visiting?
The Rooftop Terrace at the Marker Hotel is a wonderful place to have a cocktail. The Westbury hotel is the perfect place to relax for a pre-dinner drink. The bar at The Shelbourne is always packed but welcoming, and I like their non-alcohol cocktails. Brunch at the Dylan Hotel is so relaxing.
Do you have any favorite watering holes you like to frequent?
The Old Spot on Bath Avenue is attractive because it has a great food menu and is recommended for those travelers attending the Aviva Stadium. My brothers are adamant that O’Neills on Pearse Street pulls the best pint of Guinness. Mingle with city journalists in Mulligan’s or financial buffs at The Ginger Man and have a sing song at O’Donoghue’s or The Brazen Head. I am a wine drinker myself but there is a notable surge in popularity of Irish craft beers. There are plenty of traditional pubs in the the City Centre, particularly the Grafton Street area. For the younger traveler, I would recommend the South William on South William Street: great cocktails, music, and atmosphere.
Are there any snacks or foods native to Dublin that you particularly like and that visitors should seek out?
Dubliners love sandwiches. Sandwiches are our street food; we put everything and anything between two slices of buttered bread … ridiculous fillings such as cheese and onion crisps, or sugar and butter sandwiches, fried white pork pudding, or try a hot chip sandwich that melts the butter making it more delicious, or a fruity tea cake sandwich and yes Dubliners have tomato sauce sandwiches! For dessert we have banana sandwiches…..
A true Dubliner craves coddle when living away from home, or rissoles (homemade beef burgers minus the bread), beef stew (not Irish lamb stew) with dumplings, and egg in a cup (mashed soft boiled egg in a cup with plenty of salt, broken sliced white bread, and a good knob of butter).
What would you say every visitor must see or do before leaving Dublin?
Hire a bicycle and cycle along the canals, then head into Camden Street and pick up an antique or bric a brac at the charity shop Age Action. Continue in this vein to Francis Street and pick up a couple of more pieces at the Oxfam charity shop. Cycle down to The Brazen Head pub for a pint and a traditional music session.
Finally, there might be some people reading this who have grand dreams to open a restaurant but don’t know how or are scared to take that first step. What are some of your best tips for someone thinking about opening a restaurant, especially if they don’t have professional restaurant/kitchen experience?
Opening a restaurant is like a marriage and requires passion, commitment and empathy. Stefano and I are married to each other and to the restaurant; our children grew up in a restaurant environment. I would recommend to a young aspiring restaurateur to get a job as a waiter in a busy restaurant, become exposed to every aspect of the daily operations. To an older person, I would suggest hiring experienced staff. Opening a restaurant requires knowledge of a multitude ofmaterial such as knowledge of food and wine, HR, HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point), recycling, marketing, local authority regulations, finance, etc. I learned through trial and error but it would have been extremely helpful hadsomeone told me the following: choose a high footfall location, choose a premises on one floor, have at least 60 seats, decide on your target market, and build your business based thereon. Don’t purchase a property during boom times.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Always check the weather forecast, remember the ‘ould song:
For Dublin can be heaven
With coffee at eleven
And a stroll in Stephen’s Green.
There’s no need to hurry.
There’s no need to worry.
You’re a king and the lady’s a queen.
Grafton Street’s a wonderland.
There’s magic in the air.
There’s diamonds in the lady’s eyes,
And gold dust in her hair,
And if you don’t believe me,
Come and meet me there,
In Dublin on a sunny summer morning.
Eileen Dunne’s Shortlist:
Dunne & Crescenzi, 16 South Frederick Street; Italian, breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.
Second location: 11 Seaport Avenue; breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.
Bar Italia, 26 Lower Ormond Quay; Italian, lunch and dinner daily.
L’Officina, Dundrum Town Centre, Unit 2; Italian, breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.
Second location: Kildare Village, Nurney Road; breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.
The Winding Stair, 40 Lower Ormond Quay; Irish, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
Rasam, 18-19 Glasthule Road; Indian, dinner only daily.
Restaurant Forty One, Residence Members Club, 41 St. Stephen’s Green; fine dining, lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday, closed Sunday-Monday.
Kilkenny Shop, 6 Nassau Street; Irish artisan gift shop, open daily.
Avoca Café, 11-13 Suffolk Street; Irish, breakfast and lunch Monday-Saturday, brunch Sunday.
Queen of Tarts, 4 Cork Hill; patisserie, open daily.
Second location: Cow’s Lane; open daily.
Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle; museum, open daily March-October, Tuesday-Sunday November-February.
The Westbury, Grafton Street; hotel, afternoon tea served daily.
Chiltern Firehouse, 1 Chiltern Street, London, England; contemporary American, breakfast and dinner daily, lunch Monday-Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
Umi Falafel, 13 Dame Street; Middle Eastern, lunch and dinner daily.
Duck, 15 Fade Street; Chinese, lunch and dinner daily.
The Pig & Heifer, 151 Pearse Street; deli, breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday, closed Saturday-Sunday.
Multiple locations available.
The Lido, 135 Pearse Street; chipper, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner and late night daily.
Listons, 25/26 Lower Camden Street; deli and grocery store, open Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
Clarkes Bakery, 54 New Cabra Road; bakery, open Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
Gallaghers Boxty House, 20-21 Temple Bar; Irish, lunch and dinner daily.
The Shelbourne, 27 St. Stephen’s Green; international, lunch Monday-Saturday, breakfast and dinner .
The Old Spot, 14 Bath Avenue; gastropub, lunch Sunday-Friday, dinner daily.
O’Neills, 36-37 Pearse Street; pub, open daily.
Mulligan’s, 8 Poolbeg Street; pub, open daily.
The Ginger Man, 40 Fenian Street; pub, open daily.
O’Donoghue’s, 15 Merrion Row; bar, open daily.
The Brazen Head, 20 Bridge Street Lower; pub, open daily.
South William Bar, 52 South William Street; bar, open daily.
Age Action, 30-31 Lower Camden Street; charity shop.
Oxfam, 86 Francis Street; charity shop.
About the Chef: Eileen Dunne’s move from Ireland to Italy at the age of 17 changed her life forever. Describing herself as a “picky eater” from a young age, she fell in love with the food of Italy as she studied for an art degree in Rome and worked for the United Nations in the International Fund for Agricultural Development.
While working at the UN, Dunne met Rome native Stefano Crescenzi, who was equally as passionate about food. The two explored Italy’s many regions, trying out new foods and constantly learning more about the country’s food culture. Eventually, Dunne and Crescenzi married and they moved to Dublin in 1995 to apply their vast knowledge of Italian cuisine to a new joint venture: a shop that sold Italian wines, salumi, and cheeses.
In 1999, they opened Dunne & Crescenzi, and Dunne describes the Italian food scene as exploding in Dublin over the past decade; “It does appear to be one of our favorite cuisines on the island.” Now, their business has grown to include five Italian restaurants, and Dunne also published a cookbook in 2011 that featured her favorite recipes from the original Dunne & Crescenzi restaurant.