We’re highlighting the bakeries ushering a new Irish baking renaissance, all within walking distance of the heart of Ireland’s fair city.
Derived from the Irish term for “black pool” (dubhlinn), Dublin, Ireland, has been a home to the Irish people for more than a millennium. Even with its ancient pedigree, it’s a city always quickening with the heartbeat of something new. Medieval castles and Gothic cathedrals share space with international restaurants, sleek hotels, and modern architectural marvels like the Spire of Dublin (Monument of Light), a 390-foot-high needle that pierces the moody blue sky. Within this cultural collage of past and future, local bakeries have been popping up that break the mold on what Irish baking truly means. Alongside the traditional scones and soda bread, travelers can now find sourdough, pâtisserie, and challah claiming a place on the breadboard. With every visit to one of the following bakeries, you’ll find that the baking scene in Dublin is much like the city itself: innovation blossoming from heritage.
41 Pearse St., Dublin 2
At the artisan Bread 41, you’re immediately confronted with a hearth-style brick furnace and long, spanning display counter overflowing with boules, epis, and laminated pastries. Warning: visitors may be temporarily overwhelmed with the sumptuous selections. Custardos, their take on the Portuguese pastéis de nata, give way to croissants, morning buns, and sausage rolls. Of particular fame is their toothsome Old-World sourdough beloved by devout customers. “It’s extremely simple and not too sour. We let the customers push us in the direction they want, and they have a massive hunger for bread, real bread,” says Eoin Cluskey, owner and head baker. In the back, the emporium continues with a massive flour mill and wall-to-wall shelves of pickled and fermented ingredients, from house-made kimchi to preserved lemons. This hidden annex has become Eoin and his fellow bakers’ workshop for creative experimentation on all things dough and fermentation. One genius creation to come from all this work is their in-house butter. “It all comes back to the butter,” Eoin says when explaining the success behind their laminated pastries. “We culture our butter, which means we add buttermilk back to the churned butter. And our Irish dairy is second to none.” It’s exactly what’d you’d expect from the sourdough pioneer of Dublin, where “from scratch” is taken to the extremes. In addition to his baked goods, Eoin teaches sourdough workshops, paying forward some of the knowledge he gained as a child. “The way I was brought up, if you can listen, you can learn. My nan was a baker, and I grew up around it and it was wonderful. Now, I look to the new bakers,” Eoin says.
MUST-TRY: The crowning jewel of the display case is their confectioners’ sugar-dusted Custardo, a laminated pastry tart shell filled with a creamy custard filling.
THE PEPPER POT
59 William St. S., Dublin 2
For the Pepper Pot, the Powerscourt Centre, an 18th-century Georgian manor transformed into a modern shopping center, might be the most scenic spot in Dublin to house a world-class bakery. With a slice of Victoria sponge cake or a pear, bacon, and Cheddar sandwich held together by thick-cut slabs of house-made bread, you can sit a spell and enjoy your historical surroundings from the balcony, a prime vantage point to admire the ferns, ivy, and spruce that hang like verdant chandeliers in the light-filled atrium. Run by Ballymaloe Cookery School-trained Marian Kilcoyne and sister Catherine Kilcoyne, the head baker, the Pepper Pot functions as a dual bakery and café, offering lunch fare and an impressive bread shelf featuring their new exploration into sourdough and their personal claim to fame, bagels. “Very few bakeries do their own homemade bagels, and we’re very proud of ours. It was very hard to get a good one in Ireland that wasn’t stodgy, and so we made our own,” Catherine says. Their lofty sandwiches are enhanced by their signature white bread, a simultaneously downy and crisp invention. “We bake a variation of cob loaf, which is crusty on the outside and fluffy on the inside. It’s a well-established white loaf we’ve made our own,” Catherine says. But their sweet offerings, from towering scones to marbled chocolate-caramel squares, deserve special note. All baked in the tiny kitchen in back, these desserts offer elevated decadence all due to that secret Irish tradition of superior dairy and Old-World methods.
MUST-TRY: Victoria sponge, a divinely moist sponge cake layered with a double dose of jam on top and in the middle and a generous filling of freshly whipped cream.
LOLLY AND COOKS
Drury St., Dublin 2
George’s Street Arcade has been the Victorian architectural prize of Dublin since its rebuilding in 1894, housing indoor markets and stalls within dramatic red brick arches and luminous glass windows. Beckoning at the green-gated main entrance, the Lolly and Cooks booth greets intrepid shoppers with the welcoming scent of butter-rich pastries and breads. Helmed by two sisters, Lolly and Chirpy Strahan, the bakery was born of their mutual passion for Irish comfort food. The bakery, with five different locations dotting Dublin, has made a name for itself by serving soda breads, cakes, scones, and Savage Rolls, savory pastries that have earned a devoted cult following. Why the term “savage”? “In Ireland, if something’s savage, it’s amazing,” Lolly clarifies. “It was a savage event when we made these.” A recent addition to the Savage Rolls is the vegetarian Savage Roll, a happy accident Lolly invented after a night of one too many tipples. “I was a little drunk when I did it. I couldn’t even remember what I put in them. But I basically discovered I’d made the vegetarian one naughty, very cheesy and bread crumb-y,” Lolly says. Their vegetarian option is just one of the many inclusive baked goods they offer, including gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free baked goods, ranging from Lemon & Rosemary Traybake to Aubergine Chocolate Cake (eggplant). At the heart of their enterprise is their devotion to locally sourced ingredients. “We’re always working toward sustainability, buying local so we can support local farmers, including our mom. Our mother has a farm and supplies many of our pork, eggs, and dairy,” Lolly says. One bite into their pork- and herb-packed Savage Roll and you’ll realize it’s an investment that has more than paid off.
MUST-TRY: Savage Roll, their savory staple featuring a flaky pastry that encases sausage or a vegetable filling and is the late-night snack of choice for Dubliners.
6 Bachelors Walk, North City, Dublin 1
Nestled on historic Bachelors Walk across the River Liffey like a pink-parceled pastry, The Bakehouse is a bakery and eatery serving up traditional Irish fare housed in especially homey digs. Owner and head baker Joanne Peat was an interior decorator before opening the bakery, a fact made evident when admiring the retro pop décor details of The Bakehouse. A row of blond wooden rolling pins line the magenta wall like a baker’s take on a horizontal ladder. At the serving counter, where the bakery’s Dublin Coddle and Gur Cake await delivery, white subway tiles gleam pink from the glow of a neon sign proclaiming, “Food from the Heart of Dublin”—a bright exclamation point on Joanne’s mission to bring quintessential Irish comfort food to the increasingly cosmopolitan Dublin. The bakery crest, an image of the landmark two chimneys of the Poolbeg Generating Station, also announces Joanne’s pride in old Dublin. This dedication to tradition stems from Joanne’s grandad, Terry, who died about six months before the bakery was opened in 2011. “My grandad was a head baker at Bewley’s, one of the great Dublin bakeries, for about 50 years, and we would call his place of work ‘the bakehouse.’ So much of what this place has become is inspired by him. And the country had just hit a recession and I wanted to return to our roots, offer a bit of comfort in this time,” Joanne says. The sweet comfort has continued well past those hard times, nine years on, with a steady stream of customers enjoying her “delights,” mini cakes filled with anything from apple to chocolate, as well as her Irish take on American buttermilk pancakes. It’s the ideal place for those looking for their baked goods accompanied by a generous helping of Irish nostalgia.
MUST-TRY: Bakehouse Pancakes, an instant sensation that combines quality Irish ingredients with an American diner classic.
158 Capel St., Dublin 1
A neat package of a bakery, Camerino offers a little storefront with no sitting space—which is fine considering you’re in Dublin and have much to see and do. All the same, you’ll find yourself lingering in the bakery even after you’ve received your Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie, if only to breathe in the enchanting scent of fresh-baked golden challah and Irish honey-sweetened cakes for a moment longer. This little slice of heaven has had a long, winding journey to its brick-and-mortar existence. Owner Caryna Camerino, a native of Montreal, Canada, took a backpacking trip through Europe with a two-day stop in Ireland that has turned into a 17-year-long residency. During the recession in Ireland in 2007, Caryna had the unenviable job in HR of delivering layoffs and began to take on a new, comforting hobby: baking. The hobby turned into a side hustle at a farmers’ market, which eventually turned into a wholesale business powered by her little Vespa and then the brick-and-mortar Camerino Bakery. On a shelf is a vintage coffee tin sporting “Caffe Camerino” in hot orange vintage scrawl with a uniquely touching backstory. Caryna’s grandfather Enzo survived the Auschwitz death march during World War II, rescued by American soldiers who had seen a Caffe Camerino in Italy, a place owned and operated by Enzo’s brothers. Her grandfather lived long enough to watch Caryna realize her dream, sending her a canister of Caffe Camerino coffee in celebration of the bakery’s opening. One month later, on his birthday, he passed away. This key element of Jewish heritage comes through in the traditional challah Caryna serves daily in the bakery. In addition to dishing out finely crumbed scones, delicately frosted cakes, and oodles of traybakes, Caryna offers classes for cake decorating and bread baking for the public. And that’s just the beginning. “My friends and I, all expats, have this expression, T.I.I., ‘This is Ireland,’ meaning things are possible here, magical here,” says Caryna.
MUST-TRY: Scones, the hand-mixed and -made specialty they serve the traditional way, with salted Irish butter and their house-made raspberry jam.
Thank you so much for this article. My grandmother grew up in Dublin before she came to the United States. We are a “baking family” and my grandfather owned a bakery in Chicago for many years. I remember my grandmother describing the bakeries there and this article brought it all back to me.
Thanks for much for a vivid trip down memory lane!
How wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing.