Bearing in mind Dublin has always been the number one easiest European capital for me to get to, geography-wise, it’s a wonder I left it this long. I guess I thought it would be a bit behind the curve (divorce, abortion and same-sex marriage went through recently, hundreds of years after everyone else in the civilised world, so it was a fair assumption). Also every picture you ever see of a Dublin pub makes it look in a total state of disrepair. I assumed this would be a city-wide situation. Then there’s the whole insistence on lashings of ‘craic’, which seemed a bit wearing, like the enforced fun of New Year’s Eve every time you step out of the door. But it turns out Dublin has draed its charming arse right into the 21st Century, not least because it’s ditched all that archaic crap. Marriage equality, women’s rights, Toni & Guy salons, they’re all there now, right up in your face: restaurants that are not only good, but really good, like Patrick Guilbaud, The Winding Stair, Luna (which is as hilariously in love with itself as many a fancy London restaurant); a hi-tech hub just shy of the centre where clever people with fancy degrees pump lots of dosh into the community and spend it in the dinky boutiques around Grafton Street; street food and hip cafes à la Shoreditch in Phibsborough; and a slinky tram system – the Luas - to whizz everyone around. And we love being whizzed.
We’re staying at The Westbury, the smartest hotel in town with all the glitz to prove it but none of the pomp to ruin it. Having just spent millions zhuzhing up itself (mostly on crystal chandeliers by the look of it), it’s swish on swish just off Grafton Street, where Afternoon Tea in The Gallery is ‘a thing to do’, dining in Wilde (big up to Oscar!) is all 1930s glamour, and cocktails in The Sidecar – dinky, glitzy, waiters with all the right hair – are Prohibition strength. And it’s nearness is delicious especially as we did a very clever thing and took the FlyBe from Southend Airport, which is what is known in the business as a ‘doddle’ (check-in to gate in ten minutes, much?), but it also meant the potential for hens/ stags was off the scale. But winged-women with all the wrong lips and pished blokes in ‘comedy’ drag were nowhere to be seen. Maybe they’ve all gone to Lisbon. And yes those pubs are broken down, in exactly the right way. But that’s the funny thing about Dublin; whereas in most cities the gay joints are the rancid ones, straight out of page 73 of the International Gay Bar Brochure while the straight gaffs get all the money spent on them, here we get the slick ones, while your average pub feels like it just stepped out of 1953 with paintings left to rot on the walls just to create an atmosphere for those people playing Irish jigs (yes, they’re real!) which aren’t as grating as you think. As for the gay bars, PantiBar and The George are where it’s at.
Smart, handsome buildings, smart, handsome men, slick gay bars (with go-go dancers), nice food, good coffee... just goes to show, prejudice is so 1973. Rates at The Westbury start from €250/night. doylecollection.com flybe.com