Christmas shopping is great...on paper. You’re all wrapped up, the streets are adorned with twinkly lights, there's cheery festive music playing. But the reality is more likely you’ll be too hot, you’ll wait too long and you’ll inevitably get hungry. And hungry shopping is never a good idea. What an organised shopper needs is a little black book of places to stop off, recharge and refuel throughout the day. Here are my favourite pit stops around town…
Tang, 9A Abbey Street Lower, Dublin 1
A brilliant escape when you’re tackling the busy shopping streets of Dublin 1 is the newish Tang on Abbey Street — a picture perfect, relaxed cafe with a strong vegetable focus. Daily changing seasonal salads and flatbreads are full of earthy Middle Eastern flavours with plenty of dukkah, zaatar and sumac featured. Choose from marvellous slow cooked lamb, chicken and veggie-friendly falafel and hummus. Throughout the day, they serve tempting sweet treats and excellent coffee and brunch all day on Saturdays.
Wigwam is a stop-off that ticks every box. Vice will sort you out with faultless flat whites, hot chocolates, Christmas toasties and the ultimate reward (or recharge), their award-winning Irish coffee. There is plenty of seating, comfy booth seats, WiFi and spot-on music. Then Wigwam has a full bar and a hearty Brazilian menu with sandwiches, burgers and bar bites. For December, they are also running their Bottomless Brunch every day serving French toast, acai bowls, all the eggs and chicken and waffles, along with some tasty bottomless booze options, just in case you get all the shopping done with time to spare.
Christmas shopping doesn’t get more charming than a potter around Powerscourt Town Centre and thankfully, the lunch game is just as strong with the superb Pepperpot Cafe taking up a big chunk of the first-floor balcony. This quirky café, usually busy, is worth a short wait to try terrific food featuring plenty of local suppliers. There are bright salads with seasonal organic greens, homemade bagels with Burren Smokehouse salmon, all-day breakfast, creamy scrambled eggs and brilliant fresh baked goods, perfect with a pot of tea.
Don’t let the tiny shop front put you off — there’s a hidden warren of floors of seating here so plenty of space for hungry shoppers. The extensive ramen menu has something for everyone, all with luscious broth bases made from scratch and fresh handmade noodles piled in every bowl. They are a joy to slurp through and there is plenty of options for customisation on the menu. Tempting appetisers are worth squeezing in as sides or starters - niku-man burgers are steamed buns with pork and spicy sauce, and the pumpkin korokke and the sharing prawn cracker nachos are to die for.
The Westbury, Balfe St, Dublin 2
A hotel stop-off can offer lots on a day out and none more than the Westbury, a skip away from Grafton Street. Downstairs is the stylish Balfes with a New York-style brasserie vibe — they open all day and serve up gorgeous plates for breakfast, lunch and dinner along with a superb cocktail selection. Venture up the sweeping hotel stairs for a more sophisticated affair and nab a seat in the plush lobby for refreshments or, if you’re thinking ahead, have Afternoon Tea booked. Post-shopping, there are few nicer places to sip a cocktail than the elegant Sidecar cocktail bar. Choose from an extensive drinks menu, perfectly mixed, to celebrate a day well spent.
Industry Cafe, 41 Drury St, Dublin 2
You don’t have to stray from the shops at all for a sit down in this bustling cafe nestled in Industry, a dapper design lover's dream. The space is small, but one of the best stop-offs for light lunch and a chance to browse the beautiful homewares while you’re at it. They do simple salad boxes and lunches served from a long marble counter laden with bowls of fresh, pomegranate-bejewelled salads, abundant with Middle Eastern flavours with plenty of herbs, spices, zaatar, roast vegetables and red onion. They serve excellent coffee, hot chocolate and always a selection of irresistible sweet treats.
Tucked away in a St. Stephens Green Georgian basement, you’ll find the funky Urchin Bar where they are taking Christmas shopping very seriously, having devised two menus for the season aimed at getting you fed and watered fast before getting back out there. The Christmas Pit Stop, available from 12 - 5 pm is a plate of croquettes and a drink for €15, and they also offer an end-of-day treat between 5-7pm with their seafood platter overflowing with crab claws, oysters, lobster, mussels and all the trimmings with a glass of bubbly each. At €60 to share, it’s a great way to celebrate a job well done!
Right in the heart of the Creative Quarter, seek out the unassuming La Maison on Castlemarket Street. This classic French restaurant is much bigger than the façade suggests and provides a real escape from the hustle and bustle of the shopping streets. An extensive Gallic menu covers sharing boards; the most divine paté; French onion soup; mussels and chips; perfect omelettes and plenty of delightful dessert options. It’s perfectly suited to a quick lunch but even better for an end-of-day feed where you can sit back, relax and work through their wonderful wine list.
The Woolen Mills, 42 Ormond Quay Lower, Dublin 1
The Woolen Mills is the ideal stop-off as you cross the river mid-shop. For a quick fix, there’s the deli offering plenty of colourful salads and big-gun sandwiches stuffed with ingredients like burnt onion hummus, crumbled Irish feta or shredded blackened chicken. Sit in, and choose from a fantastic line up of Irish focused dishes on the all-day and lunch menus - Harty’s oysters with pickled spaghetti seaweed or Roaring Bay mussels with Howth velvet crab bisque and chips. There are drinks, coffees, wines and cocktails galore if you decide to stay a while and enjoy people watching with great cityscape views.