It is hard to find a decent butcher in Dublin. Most are going the way of pre-packed, pre-marinated generic offerings, sourcing their meat from the same couple of factories. Very few are building relationships with farmers to source the best, free-range, organic when possible, antibiotic free meat – an animal who has a nice life before meeting its demise for our gastronomic pleasure. When we moved to South Dublin we tried a couple of local butchers and were left dejected. In Stillorgan a butcher told us that it wasn’t possible and would be ‘too expensive’ to get us in some beef cheeks. In Stepaside a butcher confidently informed us that he could not get us venison because it wasn’t in season – this was mid-November! Thankfully there are a couple of butchers we know of that are bucking the trend of mediocrity and preserving this declining craft.
Dunnes of Donnybrook is one we used to visit very frequently when we lived in the area, but still try to drop in when possible. Any request we have made has been met with enthusiasm – even getting us in pig’s cheeks (with head attached) without hesitation. They also stock a great selection of game when in season – something that very few butchers are doing. We have family in North Country Dublin so sometimes when we are out that way we will drop into Higgins in Sutton. Used by many restaurants Higgins sources great meat, some even from their own farm – their beef is particularly prized. Again they are willing to source you whatever you want – veal sweetbreads were ordered in for us quickly and cheaply.
Our Saturday morning ritual usually starts with a trip to Glasthule for some breakfast and this is where we also start our shopping. Cavistons is typically our first stop for, among other things, fish. The lack of good fishmongers in Ireland is both disheartening and perplexing. It would be easy to forget we are small island surrounded by fertile waters and the sight of the plethora of frozen fish in the supermarket is despairing. We are forced to limit our fresh fish meals to the weekend, because there is just nowhere for us to buy fresh fish midweek near our home or work. We should have fishmongers all over the city. Cavistons have a vast selection and it’s very reasonably priced. They also stock a good selection of organic fruit and vegetables and their cheeses aren’t bad either.
The Quay Fish Shop in Dun Laoghaire is worth a stop for your aquatic needs too. A tiny shack-like shop right down the end of the peer stocking a small selection of fresh-from-the-sea fare.
For our wine needs we stay in this area and head to 64 Wine. It is possible to get decent wine in a lot of shops these days, even in supermarkets, but you have to know what you are looking for. If you are not careful you could be bringing home mass produced, heavily marketed plonk and it is rare that you will find an interesting selection. The wine in 64 is refreshingly different. Stocking a compelling collection, including many smaller and up-and-coming winemakers, the wines here have been sourced based on their quality by knowledgeable proprietor Gerard Maguire, who is always happy to make a recommendation. The coffee is good in 64 Wine too.
Roy Fox in Donnybrook is a nice little shop for fruit and vegetables. Split between two small rooms it stocks some quality seasonal produce as well as some from further afield. It also has a decent pantry section to pick up some pulses, grains, spices, oils and Asian ingredients.
Speaking of which, we cook a lot of Asian food at home and thankfully it is getting easier to pick up the required ingredients – even supermarkets are starting to stock a better selection. There are two shops we usually go to for all things Oriental. The Asian Market on Drury Street is the obvious one that everyone knows about. We don’t go here often, but when we do we tend to stock up. Mostly now, because it is closer, we shop in Ingredients in Stillorgan. A smaller, but less chaotic and more organised, store that is great for spices, rice and most staples for the days when we cook some Chinese or Thai.
Sheridans Cheesemongers on South Anne Street is a great place. It is tiny, probably too small for its popularity, but stocks a great cheese selection, both top Irish and continental cheeses.
These aren't the only places we shop, but they are the best and those that we will try to get to as often as we can. We are always on the look out for more though...
Address: 58/59 Glasthule Rd, Glenageary, Co. Dublin
Phone: (01) 280 9120
Dunnes Of Donnybrook
Address: 53 Main Street, Donnybrook, Dublin 4
Phone: (01) 283 9679
Address: 2 Sutton Cross, Dublin
Phone: (01) 839 0090
Address: 64 Glasthule Rd, Glenageary, Dublin
Phone: (01) 280 5664
The Quay Fish Shop
Address: Traders Wharf, Dún Laoghaire
Phone: (01) 280 5936
Address: 49 Main St, Donnybrook, Co. Dublin
Phone: (01) 269 2892
Address: 11 South Anne Street, Dublin 2
Phone: (01) 679 3143
Address: 18 Drury St, Dublin 2
Phone: (01) 677 9764
Address: 5 Old Dublin Rd, Stillorgan
Phone: (01) 210 8080