Months in the planning, when I say citybreak I literally mean one night child-free where we escaped into the blue yonder of Dublin. We try to do date night once a month, which is luckier than lots of couples who don’t have family or friends nearby to babysit so they can remember that they were – once upon a time – two humans who liked each other. But last year we decided to leave the little Ts at home, move the grandparents in for the night and make a break for it and although it was only one night, it truly felt like we’d been on a little holiday. So this year, although we flirted with alternative destinations, we found it hard to choose anywhere else. For us, Dublin has a lot going for it; it’s two hours down the road for us, it’s hiving with bars and restaurants and it feels different – more cosmopolitan (if that’s not too cheesy an adjective), a break from the norm. I love these boys but the best word I can use to describe them is probably relentless. They are fun, but they are also fun from 6am to around 8pm, when I finally sit down to survey the wreckage of the day. I should say at this point that Mr T is a fantastic dad; there is nothing he doesn’t or wouldn’t do for them and he takes care of them as much as I do. But…absence makes the heart grow fonder and sometimes a bit of time apart is just what you need to revitalise mind, body and spirit. After a summer with less than fantastic weather and more than a few stir-crazy days in the house, I’m not ashamed to say that I was counting down the days to our getaway. Nails painted, hair done, suitcase packed around two weeks in advance, it was also to be the first proper break from our sugar-free lifestyle, so obviously my bag was weighed down with snacks and treats for the weekend. More about that and the repercussions later…
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t skip to get in the queue for the train. I felt really good in my clothes from following the Fatburn plan and it was nice to not be pulling my jeans up or worrying how I looked, because it didn’t matter – I felt good. We’d pre-booked the Enterprise from Belfast-Dublin a few weeks ago, picked up our tickets from the station with the printed voucher and joined the queue consisting of travellers aged 60+. For some reason people in Northern Ireland live to queue and once one person starts the trend, we’re off, nobody wanting to be caught sitting around when they could be standing in a line for something. I’d given Mr T his orders – I’ve got the coffees, so while I stampede to the furthest carriage before you hit first class to get a table, you follow with the cases. I’d heard from a lot of people the train is really busy on Saturdays, with 8 people to a booth for 4. Since I’d planned a charcuterie breakfast complete with prosecco, this wasn’t the romantic snuggling I had in mind. Anyway, all settled in our seats, I needn’t have worried and we enjoyed just sitting back and relaxing, reading trashy magazine and nibbling as the countryside passed our window.
Arriving in Dublin on time and to sunny skies, we meandered along the river to our home for the night; the Marker Hotel, on Canal Square (I think the address is actually the beautifully-named Misery Hill). Welcomed in the most lovely informal, super professional but non-cloying way, our room was ready despite it only being 11am, which was a bonus in that we could make a quick pit stop, hang up some clothes, put our feet up and even have a little drink before heading out into the wiles. I had this great plan that we’d walk into town and stop for a coffee at Offbeat Donuts on Pearse St; including pre-ordered birthday donuts as a surprise. Unfortunately my great plans were met with a blank face from the lovely girl behind the counter and no birthday donuts, plus puzzled looks from Mr T who was sat wondering why 10 people had come and gone and I was still standing there. Forced to tell him what I was up to and how it hadn’t quite worked out, he appreciated the gesture anyway and one of the girls rustled us up some freshly iced happy birthday donuts to go. We may have eaten a lemon meringue one between us just for energy and kept the creme brulee, caramel apple, red velvet and boston cream ones for later.
Fast-forward to Grafton Street and Brown Thomas, we wandered around checking out the designer labels and prosecco-fuelled me may have even tried on a few Self-Portrait dresses as we had some time before our late afternoon appointment at Vintage Cocktail Club. We walked up Grafton Street with an aimless freedom before realising we were getting peckish, so swung by Fallon & Byrne’s deli to see if there was anything on the menu we fancied. So distracted by the produce and shelves of unusual and expensive groceries, we came out without anything to eat, and were a few shops down the street when we decided to go to Temple Bar early and see if we could eat at Vintage Cocktail too. The good news when we rang the buzzer on the non-descript black door? We could and we did; the brunch menu ranged from eggs to sweet options. Mr T opted for a fine-looking BLT with skin-on fries and I couldn’t not pick the American-style pancakes with *swoon* maple syrup, bacon, berries and sweet cream. Honestly I think our waitress never thought I’d finish it, but I was so hungry the bacon was eaten with my fingers and, although I had to sit back and take a couple of breaks, that plate could’ve gone back into the cupboard by the time I was done.
I was really impressed with the food; maybe because we weren’t expecting to eat at VCC, or because with cocktails so good, I didn’t imagine the food to be their priority. But those pancakes were fluffy, the berries were sweet and sour and paired with the cold whipped cream and a sticky drizzle of maple, I was more than pleasantly surprised. Ok, so full disclosure, I also had a portion of chips, but I was really hungry and hadn’t had potato in more than a month. They were crispy and fluffy and covered in salt, dunked in cold ketchup and I’m not sorry. The food was so good I’ve forgotten to even mention the cocktails – a Tiki Peeky and Eliminator for me and Navy Grog and House Mules for Mr T went down a treat. The VCC is a hidden gem, that’s for sure; modelled on a speakeasy, the interior is almost like an art deco or Victorian sitting room, with candlelit tables and a fire lit making it romantic and intimate and, for me, a highlight of our trip. We’d been before on our last visit, but this time was really special and we remembered we used to have things to say to each other beyond did you put the bin out and what nights are you gymming this week.
Next up: The Marker Hotel, Saba and Bunsen