Cakes, bakes, cheese and everything else.
Without looking too hard you can still get the toasties, the soda bread, the Tayto crisps, the Kimberley biscuits and floury potatoes, but in 2016 that’s just part of the story in Dublin. Ireland has the cleanest soil in the European Union and therefore the land is capable of producing some of the continent’s best ingredients. There is the Golden Vale, a vast area of quality pastureland in Munster, with grass-fed beef year- round, mountain lamb and some of the world’s best dairy. With the exception of Magill’s, a delicatessen selling European goods that has been open since 1922, the level of domestic producers and food stores has traditionally lacked the scope and ambition befitting a serious food-conscious nation. But now all that has changed: Dublin is unrecognisable from the city it once was, with a restaurant culture and food industry more befitting an island so awash with quality and with access to a vast array of foodstuffs from elsewhere.
The tale goes that brothers Kevin and Seamus Sheridan somehow sent a memo to all the cheese makers across the country and offered to sell their wares over a weekend at the market. If it didn’t work, they’d think again. Instead, they sold out. That was in the early 1990s and the duo has steadily cultivated a reputation as Ireland’s foremost buyers and purveyors of cheese. Setting up shop in Dublin later that decade, their reputation remains unchanged: the Sheridan family still buys the best Irish farmhouse cheeses, much of it direct from the dairies, as well as iconic cheeses from elsewhere in Europe, and they might easily be compared with the best cheese shops on the planet (rumour has it that at the world-famous Murray’s in New York, they’ll know who you mean when you mention the Sheridans). All of Ireland’s noteworthy farmhouse cheeses can be found here, and the staff will happily shave off tasters as you shop: Milleens, Coolea and Ardrahan. For real cheese lovers, Sheridans offers courses or membership to their cheese club.
Rossa Crowe is the man behind one of Dublin’s best specialist bakeries. In 2006 his passion for artisan sourdough took him to the south of France for three years to learn from some of the best artisan bakers, and now Crowe uses a traditional French natural fermentation method to produce bread at a modest bakery site near Croke Park on the north side of town. Although he doesn’t yet have his own permanent outlet, Crowe supplies a select number of shops, restaurants and cafés in the city. For now, his only direct retail takes place at the Temple Bar Saturday market where, given he’s been baking all night, either his mum or dad might take charge of the stall. It’s here that you can get hold of his spectacular high-moisture breads, and while his operation is small, he hopes that will change as the appetite for sourdough continues to grow in Dublin.
This emporium on the west side of the ‘creative quarter’ is a food-lover’s paradise: as well as the ground-floor grocery, butcher, cheese and coffee counters, there’s a brasserie upstairs and a wine bar cum cellar in the basement. Fallon & Byrne is a properly grown-up outfit – the kind of place you pop to for a loaf of rustic bread, but come out with a curious bottle of hot sauce, a tin of premium plum tomatoes and some obscure paste promising to inject umami into your cooking. Together with the rainbow of fruit and veg that runs down the centre (naturally displayed in wooden crates) there exists every dry good under the sun and from all over the world. Meanwhile the brasserie is focused on slow food and there is a wine cellar replete with interesting and excellent varieties available to buy and drink in the bar or to take home. All of which illustrates Fallon & Byrne’s focus on quality and locality: it’s quite literally the ultimate one-stop-shop for epicures of all creeds.
Caryna Camerino is a Canadian who, when backpacking through Europe around a decade ago, decided to stop in Dublin for two nights: she never left. After taking a course in communications, Camerino worked in HR and media while saving up the money to open a shop where she could turn her passion for baking into a profession. Her Italian grandfather, Enzo Camerino, once ran an eponymous café in Rome, and there are pieces of original paraphernalia displayed here. As well as offering cake- making services, each morning Camerino’s small team bake focaccia and challah breads which are used for the sandwiches – rotisserie chicken, brisket, marinated kale– sold in the shop that day. Her award-winning cakes – for example the gloriously rich but not-too-sweet raspberry cheesecake brownie – deservedly bring daily queues out the door. Once a week, she is one of only four outlets in the city to sell cult donuts from the Dublin Doughnut Co, made by Hilary Quinn, who had been Camerino’s classmate on the pastry and baking management course at the Dublin Institute of Technology.