Those are happy places, right there.
So imagine my delight when I find all three in the one spot.
The Winding Stair is a well loved bookstore in Dublin. It’s also a stonkingly good casual bistro on the north side of the Liffey. And let it be known, their soda bread is a force to be reckoned with.
This was our destination for lunch on our first day in Dublin.
Since the 1970’s The Winding Stair has been a favoured place for artists and writers to meet. When it nearly closed a few years back there was something of a kerfuffle.
These days the kelly green bordered book store remains stocked with treasures; old and new. It is host to the romantic smell of aged pages and a sweet children’s section.
Up the adjoining winding stairs is the revamped bistro. The floors are wooden and the walls are lined with books, curios and bottles of wine. During the day the large windows let the grey hued light stream in, and through them you can sneak a view of the Ha’penny Bridge.
There’s a two or three course set lunch which has four choices at each course. It’s well priced and pretty enticing, but it’s somewhat like an abridged edition of the menu. Never fear, we soon locate the complete works to cross check and choose from. To make sure we get the best of the lot we pick a little from each.
By this point I’ve only been in Dublin for three hours, but I’ve twigged that this is the kind of city where it would be a little wrong not to enjoy drink at lunch.
There are ales and wines by the glass listed on a blackboard in the far corner. The rest of the wine list is delightfully carved into themes, rather than grape varieties or regions. So if you’re after a ‘minerally, floral or stone fruit wine’ you’ll find nine to choose from. The same goes if you’re feeling more in a ‘light refreshing and crisp’ kind of mood.
From there, we turn our attention to the food. The menu trumpets local food heroes and the greatest hits of Irish dishes, gussied up with some European touches. The first plate we share is a fine display of Fingal Ferguson’s charcuterie from Gubbeen.
It initially comes with toasted white bread- but if you find yourself there be sure to ask for a piece of the brown soda bread as well. The malty sweetness of the bread makes the happiest of friends with these meats.
A bowl of rabbit casserole and pearl barley is as soothing as some time with a Beatrix Potter tale and a lap rug. It’s listed as a starter in the set menu, but that’s underselling its powers. A serving of this stew will steel you for anything.
Similarly, I’ll wager that the portion size of their shepherd’s pie will stop most common people in their tracks. Beneath the cheesy slicked mound of mashed potato we found a substratum of mince, sticky with fat and peppered with green peas. A glass of Cote du Rhone, (while certainly not local) brought some welcome cut through. The Hungry One, bless him, not only tackled the pie, but a serving of serving of pork loin with cabbage, and a Guinness.
This is the kind of place where it would be very easy to while away an afternoon with a plate of Irish cheeses, another glass of wine and a book that you’ve picked up downstairs that smells like afternoons by a fire.
Except that out the window, we can see the rest of Dublin pottering along. We’re only here for 32 hours. There are more places to visit. There are plenty more places to drink. There is plenty still to see.
So off we go down the winding stairs, leaving one happy place, as we continue in our search for others.
(NB If I’d known then that The Hungry One would insist I drank a full pint of Guinness at the Guinness Storehouse not long after I may have been tempted to stay put. Or eaten a little less of that shepherd’s pie).
The Winding Stair
Lunch and dinner served daily, 12-3, 6-10.30pm (to 9.30pm Sun).
Set 2/3 course L €17.95/22.95.
40, Lower Ormond Quay
Dublin 1 Dublin.