Friday, 30 May 2014

The Hipster Triangle

Anecdotal evidence in the restaurant business suggests that there is a two speed recovery happening. The Irish market can be segmented into two main categories...Dublin City Centre and the rest of Ireland. This is the a mirror image of the recovery in UK where London is experiencing strong growth and with a few exceptions, the rest of the country remains flat. While there are pockets of activity dotted around the Dublin suburbs and other parts of the country, the centre of the capital is absolutely booming. No where more so than one specific part of Dublin 2.

There is an area of Dublin City Centre which runs roughly from lower Georges Street to South William Street and across to Stephen Street which is known locally as The Hipster Triangle. The nickname is of course tongue in cheek ( although there are more heavy beards, skinny jeans & interesting headgear per square metre than anywhere else in the city!). This area houses many of the busiest bars and restaurants in the city, and I suspect, the country.

The mix of venues is quite diverse but there is a specific demographic which make up a sizeable chunk of the bums on seats in almost all of them. Twenty and thirty something professionals, many of whom escaped the property crash and have plenty of disposable income, are driving the seemingly endless demand for cocktails, small plates & cool tunes. These are people who know exactly what they want and are looking for an overall experience which ranks above all else in order of importance. Food, drinks & sevice must be up to snuff but the sum of the parts must also add up to a great night out.

It's very interesting to observe this evolution, the blueprint for which was drawn in London approximately five years ago. Places like SpuntinoMeat LiquorPolpetto and Burger & Lobster started a shift away from the usual dining experience. Young professionals who wanted more than a night in the pub but not the formality of a conventional dinner could now enjoy decent food, excellent cocktails, cool service and a rocking DJ. If the overall experience delivered on all fronts, then people flocked there in droves.

Meanwhile, the pace of new openings in D2 continues unabated and some substantial investment is clearly evident in many of them. It's fantastic to see savvy restaurateurs with their fingers on the pulse putting their money where their mouths are and creating such an exciting hub in the heart of the city. I've been out in this area a few times recently and have loved the vibe and completely get why so many people are attracted to it. I've tried most of the new openings and to be honest, there are highs and lows in the food offerings and prices reflect the high cost of doing business in D2 but as I've already mentioned, it's not about that. Almost all of them were packed and had an air of optimism about them which was generated by aspirational people having a good time. Once the overall experience hits the mark, minor glitches are overlooked.

Damson Diner

Super Miss Sue

No caption required!

777. Image courtesy of French Foodie in Dublin

Drury Buildings

There is currently a new shift in the London market as those who drove the scene five years ago come of age and look for new experiences. This change is also driven by the resurgence of the financial services sector in London and the return of a demand for good food but with a little more opulence. Stuffy fine dining is defeintely on the decline but people like Marcus Wareing and Jason Atherton are making fine dining far more accessible to the masses.

In my experience, we track London market trends and I will observe with  interest what direction the market takes here once the real economy finally picks up. In the meantime, I for one will enjoy the new buzz in the heart of my home town...even if I'm not nearly cool enough.

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