Local businesses put new heart into village life
From food to drink to fashion, Monkstown has everything right on your doorstep, writes Lucinda O'Sullivan
PEOPLE not living in Dublin tend generally to think of the city as one big urban sprawl. In fact, the heart and soul of our fair city are the various villages which comprise Dublin city and county. I think of places like Glasnevin, Finglas, Howth, Raheny, Blackrock, Sandymount, Lucan, Dalkey, Cabinteely and Monkstown, where I live and which is the subject of my spake today.
The reason for this is that Monkstown village has been enjoying a revival of its very pretty array of shops on The Crescent. The village is a very attractive spot, with a wonderful Church of Ireland at its heart, which creates a dramatic backdrop and always reminds me of 19th-Century Arabian watercolour scenes.
During the Eighties, it was the place for restaurants. Although some died off in the late Nineties, the eating-out scene locally was greatly revived by the opening of the far-seeing Shane Kenny's chic urban neighbourhood-style restaurant, with lovely food by Nick Clapham.
Seapoint is always reliable, buzzy, with an interesting clientele and good prices. Sarah Gill's lifestyle and clothing store Seagreen also added to this new verve on The Crescent three or four years ago but there is now fresh excitement and anticipation afoot.
Seagreen, having moved its ladies' clothing range to a smaller shop on The Crescent, has made way for Avoca to open a new cafe, deli and foodhall in its old premises at the end of October.
From what I can glean about the new Avoca, we are set to have a mini Harrods Food Hall on our doorstep, celebrating the best of artisan food from producers around the country.
Clonmel-based butcher Pat Whelan, of James Whelan Butchers, the chairman of Tipperary Food Producers, who wrote his own book An Irish Butcher Shop, will be instore "putting the butcher's block back into butchering but in a funky modern way", as he puts it, and bringing Wagyu beef, of which he is a great proponent, to the denizens of Monkstown. There will also be a cheese room, a French-style rotisserie chicken area, seafood and much more.
It looks like Peter and Eileen Kelly were right on the nose when they decided to set up a Dublin branch of their Naas-based operation, The Blue Door. It is a gorgeous shop filled with bright light, offering fabrics, gifts, furniture and throws, from Scandinavia, principally Sweden.
When they started out in Naas eight years ago, it was the height of the Celtic Tiger but they are still very optimistic about the future.
"We have been in recession for three years -- we felt it in retail before anyone was talking about it," says Eileen.
Peter says he is absolutely certain about the future. "People are now making decisions and the country is being run and that's a forward move."
Eileen says: "We used to sell a lot of high-end Swedish furniture but that dried up. However, people are now spending their money carefully, they want to do improvements in their houses. You can change the look of a room with cushions and throws."
Their fabrics are all by Linum -- a beautiful illuminating range -- the colours work wonderfully in our Irish light. Look out for their fabulous, environmentally treated, lightly coated table fabric which, at €32 per metre, can just be wiped down and will completely change and revitalise your kitchen.
They also have brilliant animal ceramic wine breathers by Jane Maddison at €24.50 -- really cute -- and candle holders with varying colour tops for whatever colour scheme you are using on your dinner table. They also have super Susanna Hepp Swedish twist silk scarves at €40 and fantastic Bengt & Lotta trays.
Dee Connolly took the plunge in October 2010 with her Crimson boutique. Since then, her clever sourcing of stock, which is very wearable and has a good price point, has seen her building up a bank of local customers. Dee is from Killiney, Co Dublin, and has two children, Kim and Lauren, aged 10 and seven.
She credits her husband, Kevin, with inspiring her new business. He found the premises and, being a builder, fitted out the new shop. Dee had originally been in interior design some years ago but then worked in administration in Kevin's business.
She says: "Even when I was doing the administration, I used to do jewellery parties just to keep my foot in the door of the fashion world."
Dee then worked in a boutique in Foxrock and loved it. The recession did not deter Dee and Kevin from opening her business, nor did an unco-operative bank.
"I was as much as told that I didn't have the experience to run my own business front of house and that I wasn't a candidate -- so I proved them wrong," she says.
"I try to keep it that shopping is something you can still go out and enjoy, that the pieces will be versatile, that you can add to your wardrobe during the day or dress them up in the evening.
"I buy in season, freshen up my stock every three weeks, so people are interested in what is coming in. I am always looking for something different."
Two of Dee's main labels are Danish -- Oxmo and Peppercorn, and Sel by Peppercorn. She also has Gant and Maruti boots.
Crimson Boutique, Ph: 086 271 5240
Another newbie on the block is Cafe du Journal, beside the Sports Outlet Store, which sells Canterbury and Helly Hansen, outdoor and sailing gear at reduced prices.
Veronique Piales's vintage shop, Lulu, is another great place for designer bargains, with a particular emphasis on high-end French labels, such as Christian Dior, YSL, Chanel and Balmain. Veronique buys in France so Lulu's is a real destination for fashionistas.
Next door is another new shop by the long-established costume-jewellery designer Vivien Walsh. Vivien's jewellery is divine yet not unreasonably priced. This season's range includes dark chains with vermeil discs and taupe-coloured pearls, which start at €45.
Monkstown Village also has a brace of excellent florists, Greene's and Blooms and Bows, a similar brace of wine merchants, the long-standing Searson's and the newer Enowine, and yet another brace of Indian restaurants, the ever-popular and excellent Bistro Spice, where you can bring your own wine and pay no corkage, and Radhuni.
If you fancy Chinese food, there is the Victoria Chinese restaurant on The Crescent and Amerta upstairs over the Bath House. Goggin's Pub has Valparaiso restaurant upstairs, whilst The Pub at FXB's is also very popular, with casual food downstairs and a restaurant upstairs.
A few doors down is Chantelle boutique, who are also in Dunshaughlin, Co Meath. Atoria looks after the beauty end of our lives whilst Cosgrove's pharmacy looks after our medical problems from one of the most beautiful buildings in the village.
Monkstown is a great eating, drinking and shopping destination.