The best shops in Ireland:the search continues

Sat, Jul 21, 2012, 01:00

CORK READER RUTH Fortune has found her favourite store: O’ Keeffe’s Shop in St Luke’s Cross. “It’s the kind of local shop I’ve always wanted to live near”, she says, claiming the customers “reflect the mix of people in the area – long-time Cork natives and lots of newcomers from all corners”. “When I was in there the other day,” she explains, “the man ahead of me in the queue . . . an older gentleman, not especially dressed up . . . bought cigarette papers and blue cheese. That sums it up!”.

Miriam Cremin, is a staunch supporter of Connolly’s Fish Shop in Navan, Co Meath. Run by Kieran and Noleen Connolly, the store offers a “fantastic range of fresh fish five days a week”, as well as “very simple” recipe advice from the ever-diligent Noleen. “You can almost taste the finished product as she describes how to prepare it”, says Miriam.

“Long before the country knew what ‘hot’ was,” says Gypsy Ray, “Shortis Wong was the place to go for spicy food.” Shortis Wong Deli, located on John Street, Kilkenny and run by Chris Wong and Mary Shortis, is Gyspy’s eatery of choice because of its “wonderful foods, both practical and puzzling for Westerners”. Gypsy likes the layout of the shop, too, with its “aisles like small country roads, where you have to back up to let the other by”. If the weather is bad, Vaughan’s Garden Centre in Ennis, Co Clare is a great place to be, says Mary Greene, thanks to its “indoor shop, which contains beautiful plants, from geraniums to the most exotic orchids”. Abtree Books in Lucan, Co Dublin is also a store much admired, particularly by Aisling McSweeney, who says the staff are always on hand to “order books they haven’t got on the shelves”, and, she says “they are cheerful while doing it!”. She compliments Eadaoin in particular, who Aisling says was a great help, “when picking out books for children”. The “Parisian feel” of Hickey’s Bakery in Clonmel, Co Tipperary has attracted many return customers, among them Miriam Halley, who says “you can feel the history of and past generations of Hickeys in the cafe.” Paying a visit to Eden Boutique in Dundalk, Co Louth transports you too, but, according to Emma O’ Reilly, “it’s like stepping into the past”. The store, which deals in women’s and children’s clothes, is “on the upstairs level of a century old building”, and, as Adrienne Leavy explains, “it retains the feel and charm of a bygone era.” The Irish Design Shop is “a breath of fresh air compared to the boring oirish craft with the usual shamrock approach”, says Garrett Power of the store on Bow Lane East in Co Dublin. He praises it for encouraging young Irish designers and for its online shop. Patricia McBride has had a long and happy history with JC Stewart’s Foodhall in Magherafelt. She has experienced everything the store has to offer: from their “loose-packed liquorice whips” as a reward for getting the messages growing up, to their modern “prepared food, cooked fresh every day by resident chef Pat Doherty”. “They didn’t wear cool black chefs’ whites”, she says, comparing the store to Dean Deluca in Manhattan, “but they knew my name and they’d ask after my Granny.” Nominate your favourite shop by emailing bestofirishshops@irishtimes.com or commenting on our Facebook page, facebook.com/irishtimes.

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