Capel Street: Why Dublin's black sheep is its most brilliant street
A Second Coming
Capel Street is Dublin's most surprising street, says Pól Ó Conghaile. And it's due a second coming.
Capel Street is Dublin’s black sheep.
It doesn’t play with the other streets. It’s a rough diamond, messy and matter-of-fact, ripping up the rulebook in a glorious snub to chain stores and city planning.
Crammed with history, with independent businesses and attitude, a second coming is due (watch our exclusive video (above).
“Capel Street reflects what Dublin is more than any other street,” says Rory O’Neill, whose Pantibar (Nos. 7-8; pantibar.com) is a highlight.
“The variety is insane... you could live here and never have to leave it. You can buy a lightbulb, sexual lubricant, Brazilian rice, get a pint and go to a trad session. I mean, what isn’t there on Capel Street?”
That’s not all. Pantibar is a stone’s throw from one of Dublin’s last pawnbrokers. Gorgeous Wyatt windows mix it up with cheap fascia shopfronts. There’s snap-fresh sushi at Musashi, and sharp suits at Louis Copeland.
“It’s not the most stylish street in the city,” says Copeland (Nos. 39-41; louiscopeland.com), whose father grew up here. “But this is where we do the most business.”
Though ramshackle today, Capel Street was once a fashionable Dublin address. Back then, before O’Connell Bridge existed, mansions lined a salubrious strip stretching towards City Hall.
Over the centuries, it became a commercial hub, with two-bay buildings transforming the streetscape, before finally falling from grace in the 20th century.
Today, change is in the air again. Sure, the traffic is awful, the paths too thin and the shopfronts chaotic. But there’s no Starbucks, Zara or McDonald’s. Capel Street is pure, dyed-inthe- wool Dublin... and that’s worth celebrating.
“I love the randomness of Capel Street,” says Caryna Camerino, the baker and shaker behind Camerino (No. 158; camerino.ie).
Caryna started out with a tiny oven salvaged from a boat, and has gone on to build a thriving business with some of the tastiest sweet treats in the city.
It’s a tiny, ridiculously colourful café dropped like a cherry amidst the eclectic stores and shopfronts (My tip? Get there early, and get the raspberry cheesecake).
“There isn’t a formula for this kind of shop,” she says. “Capel Street was the perfect spot to do it.”
“Capel Street is the scrappy underdog,” says Garret Fitzgerald of Brother Hubbard (No. 153; brotherhubbard.ie), a thriving café, restaurant and wine bar central to the street’s latest mood swing. “It’s fiercely independent. From tailors to power tools and sex shops... it’s a wonderful mix and a wonderful spirit.”
Like Pantibar, Brother Hubbard has brought new options in food and fun to the northside, but tempted southsiders across the river, too. Swing by of an evening for the Middle East Feast (€29.95 for three courses). Bon appétit!