Glass visits Dublin during its 1916 Easter Rising celebrations

CENTENARY celebrations of Dublin’s 1916 Easter Rising were dignified affairs and triumphalist displays of narrow-minded nationalism were not to be seen. There was a sense that something important had taken place in the city a hundred years earlier and it was worth remembering. What most Dubliners want to forget is the more recent past, the years following the economic meltdown of 2008 when the property market nosedived and a reign of austerity saw credit cards being cancelled like a collapsing pile of dominoes. Part of the quiet confidence accompanying the celebrations of Easter 1916 was a sense that another kind of rising is underway, an economic upturn, and visitors can join in and enjoy the show.

The exterior of Gideon Hotel's in Dublin's dockyardsThe exterior of gibson Hotel’s in Dublin’s dockyards

The landscape of Dublin’s dockyards was remapped in the heady pre-2008 years when spanking new office blocks and a hotel replaced the old warehouses but then they became empty shells and the hotel owner went bankrupt. Now it has been reborn and keeps its name – the gibson Hotel – and the views of the Wicklow Mountains in the distance. The hotel’s more immediate neighbourhood is dubbed Silicon Docks due to digital giants (Google, Amazon, Facebook) having a presence here but the Gideon isn’t a business hotel.

Directly opposite stands an entertainment complex where nearly all of the country’s music concerts with an international appeal take place. Its official name is now the 3Arena but it was once known as O2 but as the new sponsor is 03 you’ll hear it called 023. The hotel itself has attractive features: 24-hour gym and sauna, an open balcony on the 6th floor with hot tubs, a courtyard with barbecue stations for the summer, a restaurant and – wait for it – the longest bar name in Europe (Hemidemisemiquaver). The end of a Luas light railway line stops outside and a Flexiticket is handy for trips to the city centre and back.

Dublin's up-and-coming dockyards areaDublin’s up-and-coming dockyards area

If you want to stay in the city centre, jump on an Aircoach bus at the airport and zip into town for The Morrison Hotel, beckoning  as a hip hostelry on the quayside.  It too has a musical theme –lyrical song lines decorate a wall in every bedroom — and, again like the Gideon, it went into receivership after the 2008 crash. Now owned by an extremely wealthy Russian woman, the hotel’s interior design has been smartened up and it retains the striking feature of corridors that shrink in size. The restaurant facing the river boasts a Josper oven that heats to 5000 and cooks the meat and monkfish dishes on the menu. If enjoying a steak you choose the weapon of your choice from a tray of deadly-looking knives that looks like something Steven Seagal might keep at home.

Wall lyrics at the musically-themed Morrison HotelWall lyrics at the  musically-themed Morrison Hotel

Dublin is famous for its Georgian townhouses, nearly all situated on the south side of the River Liffey, and you can stay in one at Number 31, a guesthouse with 21 rooms in two buildings joined via a small garden. Number 31 had its heyday back in the 1960s when it was a watering hole for politicians and minor celebrities, drawn there by the way a then-famous architect had designed the interior. You can still enjoy the sunken lounge and, best of all, a breakfast far superior to your standard hotel buffet.

Dublin's River Liffey will be crossed more than once on any visit to DublinDublin’s River Liffey will be crossed more than once on any visit to Dublin

Many restaurants were also the victims of Ireland’s economic crisis and a Darwinism of the kitchen has seen only the fittest survive. Restaurant Forty One is one of these and it retains its prominent position in the heart of the city; its reputation for quality food with no shenanigans also remains intact. It is situated in a superb Georgian building, covered in ivy, and the restaurant cocoons itself in two rooms at the top; below stairs is a private members club. The more appealing of the two dining rooms has only five tables and through the large windows you see the streetlamps lighting up St Stephens Green as dusk descends.

White tablecloths, antique-looking art on the walls, moulded plasterwork on the ceiling, a marble fireplace and chandelier decorate the interior in ways that were typical of Georgian houses – making up for their rigid and uniform exteriors by dressing up the rooms behind the brickwork. With only five tables, of course, it only takes one diner with a too-loud voice or inflated ego to spoil the occasion but genteel Dubliners are not usually like that and your meal should proceed as gracefully as a scene from a Jane Austen film.

Graham Neville, the chef at Restaurant Forty OneGraham Neville, the chef at Restaurant Forty One

Graham Neville has established his credentials as one of Ireland’s top chefs by making Forty One a restaurant where the fine-dining experience does not rely on showing off. There are no novelties to the food so expect no tricks with the roasted scallops, the smoked salmon, the hill lamb and whatever else appears on the menu. The salmon comes from the village of Annagassan in County Louth where the River Glyde enters the Irish Sea, accompanied by crab from Clogherhead, another fishing village in the same county.

Visible from the window of Restaurant Forty One, Stephen's GreenVisible from the window of Restaurant Forty One, Stephen’s Green

This simple pairing – so obvious and yet not commonly presented on a plate – comes with a smidgen of caviar (on the tasting menu) or strips of a Granny Smith apple. Its elemental and no fancy sauce or embellishment is necessary. Similarly, the venison from Wicklow is served with perfectly cooked parsnips and smoked onion purée; the wild turbot with mushrooms and the beef with turnips. Life is complicated enough without confusing you over what is being eaten but you won’t easily find the equivalent of Forty One in London.

by Sean Sheehan