BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: ‘Dita Von Teese: A Musical Film featuring Sébastien Tellier’

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At a time when everything we hold dear seems to be perpetually, crushingly under threat, our beloved Dita Von Teese continues to represent a glorious sense of freedom and possibility. One wonders, Is there anything she cannot do?

And indeed, 2018 brought with it the revelation that there is yet one more thing she cannot not do: record an album – one that is alive with her inimitable essentialness. Perfect timing, as right now…we need more Dita.

No surprise, her stunningly sensual, self-titled debut has already charted in Belgium and France, the latter’s capital something of spiritual home for her. Fittingly, it was a collaboration with the prolific Frenchman and musical genius Sébastien Tellier, who has had the privilege of counting her amongst his fans – and who decided to one day take it upon himself to write an entire album for her. In properly grand fashion, they have also created the unambiguously titled short Dita Von Teese: A Musical Film featuring Sebastien Tellier – which BlackBook premieres here.

 

 

Based around for of the songs on the record, director David Wilson (who has also worked with Arcade Fire), explains it thusly: “I knew this was an album which will never be toured, and so the task of capturing Dita and Sébastien together was an extra exciting prospect.”

Taking a cue from the album artwork, he fused the pastel 80s with classic 50s Hollywood, for an unmistakable final aesthetic that is 120% pure Dita. It is ethereal, whimsical, seductive, glamorous…and even a bit clever.

“One of my favorite parts of the script development,” Wilson enthuses, “was fusing an emotive, romantic imagery with Sébastien’s humor. The microscope, the drawing scene, the bubbles, the swing…all came from his brain. An inspired direction that both myself and Dita were all too happy to entertain.”

No surprise, stylist Jaqui Getty pulled from DVT’s personal collection…and it’s all worth seeing for the outfits alone.

 

 

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Soulful New Mako Single ‘Murder’

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Human relationships can sometimes be, well…murder. At least that’s what the new Mako single “Murder” – which BlackBook premieres here – is trying to get across.

The musical alter-ego of LA DJ Alex Seaver has been in existence since 2011 – but 2016 brought a first big breakthrough in the form of debut album Hourglass (via Ultra). There’s no official release date yet on the follow-up full-length, but this new song certainly intrigues in regards to future direction. Combining 80s-style soul vibes with haunting atmospherics and Seaver’s sultry, expressive vocal style, it’s lyrical allegations are nothing if not unambiguous.

“The way you look so perfect / You get away with murder,” he indicts the song’s subject.

 

Image by Daniel Batalles

 

“I wrote ‘Murder’ in London during my last trip overseas,” he recalls. “I felt like I had something special, something I could embrace a darker, cinematic side with. I wrote the piano line immediately and started referencing left field material and film scores, like Jonny Greenwood’s There Will Be Blood, for textural inspiration. A lot of that headspace flies in the background, especially in the chorus.”

It certainly shows in the cinematic qualities of the song’s lush soundscape. Does this indeed mark something of a new direction?

“Much of my upcoming album is incredibly solitary,” he reveals, “but I’m really excited to have walked through ‘Murder’ in a far more collaborative space than usual.  Knowing me, [I’ll be getting ready to record] a full orchestra for new versions.”

 

 

BlackBook Exclusive: Phoria’s Gloriously Authentic Guide to Brighton, UK

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Just an hour south of London, Brighton is a storied seaside resort (read: Graham Greene’s classic novel Brighton Rock), with everything that goes along with being a resort town in grey old England (listen: Morrissey’s “Everyday is Like Sunday”). No surprise, it’s a place whose soul is a musical one – nurturing a legendary dance scene, and turning out a steady parade of singularly eccentric, inimitable acts…most recently the likes of The Kooks, British Sea Power and Bat For Lashes.

Since 2010, cleverly monikered electronic quintet Phoria have also been a part of that great tradition. Over three EPs and one full album, 2016’s stunning Volition, they have cultivated an aestheticwhich manages to seem both transcendently otherworldly, and utterly viscerally earthbound. NPR enthused that they make “Breathlessly pretty electronic music, in which every note sounds conspicuously human.”

 

 

A new album is in the works for early 2019. In the meantime, they’re teasing that big event with this dazzlingly chill-inducing double single, “When Everything Was Mine”/”RROTOR.” The former, with its lush atmospherics, ethereal instrumentation, and lilting dynamics, reminds of Sigur Ros without the Hopelandish; the latter is a strikingly visceral, almost psychedelic epic.

We also asked them take us around their famously idiosyncratic hometown, before gentrification attempts to iron out all its eccentricities.

“Brighton has lost a lot of its charm over the last few years,” observes the band’s Tim Douglas wistfully. “What was once an exciting city with oddballs on every corner and a tune from every window, has since turned into a Scooby-Doo corridor of overpriced emporia and VICE endorsed barbershops.”

 

 

Phoria’s Fave Places That Still Have ‘That Brighton Magic’

 

Marwood Bar & Coffeehouse

If you’re going to go somewhere to buy coffee – and let’s face it, you probably are – then you’d do us all a favor if you made it Marwood. It’s one of the only places that isn’t one of the other places. It has good music in the evenings, old cinema seats upstairs. Sometimes the effort can be seen, but the execution is so good in the end that it doesn’t really matter. Good bar, too.

 

 

VIP Pizza

This one comes with a caveat: don’t get a pizza from here unless you want to enjoy no other pizzas. If you live in Brighton, you’re fine, because you know the goodness is only a short sprint away at any time; but if you live elsewhere then your tongue/stomach’s demand to re-experience the glistening glutenous discs they pluck from the delicious dimension using their old wind-up clockwork fire (I think) will see your life spiral down into a haze of train tickets and wasted gym memberships. That said, it will all be worth it.

Wax Factor

If you want books, go to Wax Factor. Scour the walls. They have almost an entire section of L. Ron Hubbard novels (it’s right at the back), and usually the entire bibliography of Andre Gide. If you want CDs, go to Wax Factor. Do you want CDs? You might. They’ve got a fair whack of stuff that you won’t find on Spotify. A killer jazz and blues section. Do you want collector’s vinyl? Now we’ve got your attention. It’s an actual shop, with loads of different things in it and good music on the stereo. It’s not a sterile white room with minimalist displays of underwhelming products and a lone sales assistant swanning round with a iPad. You probably can’t pay with Apple Bone Marrow or whatever people use now, so take cash.

 

 

GAK

Is there anything wrong with independent giants? Their online service is the bane of independent instrument retailers everywhere, but go into the showroom and most is forgiven. There’s simply no better music shop. And which showroom? There are three different stores, for drums, tech/keyboards, and guitars. Each with everything ready to go. All with professional staff. We’ll go to the smaller places for a treat, to see what’s in stock, and to try and support them. Otherwise, everyone goes to GAK.

The Great Eastern

Talking of bars, The Great Eastern is only a five minute walk down a hill from the railway station. Has that sold it? How about the fact that it’s the best whisky bar in Brighton? It’s got lots of wood. The staff are nice. It’s also one of those places where the layout is primed for a natural atmosphere. Seriously, there’s loads of whisky. And special offers on whisky. Go to this pub.

 

 

Easy Hours

If you were dead before Easy Hours on Grand Parade opened, then you may not have visited it. Otherwise, you have definitely been here. They stock lots of things, but all you will see is milkshake, vegetable samosas, and entire cities of colourful cylinders reaching the sky. You can pick the cylinders from their housing. They are cans. They are cans of beer. You need refreshment…if you’re going to the beach.

The Beach

You’re going to the beach! Whatever your plans are, until you’ve been down to the seafront on a long summer evening with a bunch of good friends and a Tesco’s Bag For Life packed with cold alcoholic refreshment, you’ve not done Brighton. Find a spot among the pebbles, get comfy, get pissed, laugh, and watch the sun set. I think there’s currently planning permission to turn the entire promenade into a Costa Coffee vending machine, so get here quick before it gets as good as that.

 

 

The Soul of España: Indulging the Art, Food + Flamenco of Madrid

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A massive sign high up on Madrid’s City Hall read “Refugees Welcome.” A cynic could take it as being a bit glib; but in truth, the statement was genuinely characteristic of Spain, whose citizens have actually held protests urging the government to accept even more immigrants. It was particularly poignant, as our time there coincided with the re-escalation back home of Donald Trump’s spiteful (nay, ridiculous) plan to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

All socio-political machinations aside, we were actually in the Spanish capital to check out the exceedingly cool new Only You Atocha hotel. The brand itself had launched in 2013 with a very different sort of property: the Only You Boutique hotel, in the trendy Chueca district, an aristocratic 19th mansion converted by star designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán into a surreal but drop-dead stunning maze of differently themed public areas and plush guest rooms. He was enlisted again for the Atocha, this time giving a distinctly Spanish context to the lobby-as-hip-playground concept familiar to denizens of hotels like The Ace.

And indeed, everywhere you might turn, there was something to grab your attention. To the right of the entrance, The Bakery by Mama Framboise, which serves decadent Tartaletas MF, a dozen flavors of macarons (goat-cheese-figs-pralines!), and Iberian ham toast all day. To the left was the Latin-Asian Trotamundos restaurant, with its buzzy corner cocktail bar. And just beyond, a dizzyingly dramatic atrium, where nouveau jazz happenings regularly bring in the city’s modern day hepcats.

 

 

But probably our favorite part of every day was shuffling off the hangovers while lingering over a lazy breakfast against spectacular views at the 7th floor Séptima – where in the evenings DJs soundtrack the Panoramic Drinks Sessions…thus perpetuating the hangover cycle.

Upstairs the rooms were a great deal more plush and stylish than those in typical hipsterrific hotels, with smartly patterned bedspreads, exposed brick walls and white tiled bathrooms. For a particular splurge, we can’t stress enough the fantabulousness of the sprawling Terrace Suite – whose outdoor space could easily accommodate 10-12 enthusiastically gyrating party people.

Madrid itself – sometimes mistakenly passed over for the more archly hip Barcelona – comes especially to life as winter passes into spring, with its scores of pavement cafes, its teeming plazas for sexy-people watching and its streets that buzz late into the night (really, more like 6am). The food is transcendent, the nightlife is some of the best on the Continent, and its grand boulevards / grandiloquent baroque architectural icons make it a city that gleams in the April-May sunshine.

Here’s what we did.

 

The PradoThe Reina Sofia

The thing about classical art in Spain…it’s just different. It’s a country that still has a king, after all. And so a great deal of la historia de España is still told in a place like The Prado. It’s indeed a very Spanish museum, and even if you’re a contemporary art geek, you’ll find yourself drawn in to the narrative as told through the dramatic works of Velazquez, Goya and El Greco. The jaw-dropping collection also boasts Rubens, Titian and Hieronymous Bosch’s proto-surrealist masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights. Don’t kill too much time on the stiff royal portraits.
The Reina Sofia, just a short stroll from the hotel, is Spain’s most important museum of 20th Century art, with treasures by Miró, Juan Gris, Pablo Serrano, and, of course, Picasso – whose influence can be appreciated in the current exhibition Telefónica Collection: Cubism(s) and Experiences of Modernity. The museum also holds more contemporary works by the likes of Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, Man Ray, Julian Schnabel and Richard Serra.

 

Prado Museum 2017

El Prado

 

Art Gallery Tour

It’s not Berlin, surely – but Madrid’s contemporary art scene has genuinely started to garner international attention, with its annual ARCO fair having become one of Europe’s most important. The Art Gallery Tour people are your best bet for getting an insider’s view, with tours of specific districts like the hip Letras and posh Salamanca. They will also curate private tours to suit your taste. You can add a wine drinking element, should you wish to pontificate on what you’ve seen over a glass or two of Ribera Del Duero.

Barrio de Las Letras

Also a short stroll from the hotel, Las Letras is just that sort of neighborhood that defines Madrid, with atmospheric streets where charming little bars and cool indie boutiques reign – and there’s not a chain outlet in sight. The outdoor cafes on Plaza de Santa Ana and the narrow streets around it are great for lingering and people watching.

 

calle-huertas-barrio-de-las-letras

 

Palacio de Cibeles Restaurant Terrace

Atop the spectacular municipal building on the Plaza de Cibeles is a hidden away 6th floor restaurant and terrace. There’s a full gourmand’s menu – but come for cocktails, views and to soak up the vivid afternoon Madrid sunshine.

YOUnique Restaurant at Only You Boutique Hotel

Just being in this gorgeous hotel is an indescribable aesthetic pleasure. Its signature restaurant is a particular delight for a long, lazy lunch (okay, there’s really no other kind in Madrid), with Valencian paella, oxtail cannelloni, and skipjack carpaccio all beautifully presented. Ask for a table in the verdant, art-adorned garden. Come back in the evening, as the YOUnique Lounge is a stunningly designed setting for fancy cocktails – and the surrounding neighborhood jumps at night.

 

02-younique-restaurante191

 

1862 Dry Bar

Spain’s is a wine-beer-sherry drinking culture. The cocktail thing, mercifully, did not sweep into its major cities and strap all of its bartenders into old-timey suspenders. 1862, for instance, is distinctly Spanish bar, not some awful Brooklyn imitation. A crowd of urbane Madrilenos come to sip updated takes on the classics (Gimlet, Sazerac, Manhattan) by drinks wizard Alberto Martinez. Spread over two floors, it’s one of the city’s buzziest scenes.

Corral de la Morería

Flamenco is way hotter than you might actually think – and five decades after opening, Corral de la Moreria is still one of the hottest tickets in Madrid. In a classical but sensual setting, with Arabic touches, watch some of Spain’s top names in the genre heat up the stage (and the audience) with their visceral, passionate performances. It’s actually quite an intense, even somewhat aphrodisiac experience.

 

Flamenco Madrid

BlackBook Exclusive: Summer Cocktail Recipes From the New Green Room at London’s The Curtain

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When Michael Achenbaum opened The Curtain hotel and members club in Shoreditch in spring of 2017, it represented a challenge to the primacy of the existing Shoreditch House in London’s trendiest neighborhood.

As it turns out, that can both exist and play nice – and The Curtain has indeed since become a galvanizing point for buzzy young London, hosting a steady parade of fashion, music and entertainment “It”sters, Pixie Lott, Ella Eyre, Gemma Chan, Georgina Campbell, Henry Holland and Dougie Poynter among them.

The scene just heated up with the opening of the new Green Room lobby bar, which is pretty much what it says it is. With a gorgeous interior by Ellie Horwell, it looks like the greenhouse of your flamboyant, eccentric auntie, with blue and pink velvet seating, a strikingly green-tiled bar, lots of hanging and potted plants, and huge windows framing the scene outside.

Jenny Willing, formerly of the Mondrian, is heading up the drinks program – and house specialties have cheeky titles like Rough Trade and Holiest Harlot.

 

 

“We’ve drawn on the area’s history of great pubs, and also on local products from our neighborhood,” she explains. “Our wine list is curated by Passione Vino and The Knotted Vine, both local suppliers with lots of heart.”

To kick off the summer, we asked her to reveal the “magic” behind two of their most popular tipples.
“The cocktail list doesn’t take itself too seriously,” she offers. “You can tell from the pairing of London-made Bloomsbury Amer and tuck shop classic, foam bananas. Our priority is our guests having a great experience and hopefully trying something a bit different.”

Cocktail Recipes from The Green Room

MaBelle (pictured top)

20 ml Bombay Sapphire
10 ml fresh lemon
30 ml Italicus
10 ml Crème de Cacao liqueur
75 ml Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic
Add all ingredients to a Highball glass, half fill with cubed ice and stir. Add ice to the top and garnish with a bay leaf.

Baby Grand 

40ml of you’re favourite rum, we like Bacardi Cuatro or East London Liquor Company Demerara Rum
15ml good quality honey
20ml fresh lime juice
One dash of Angostura bitters
Pinch of turmeric
25ml Champagne
Optional egg white of one egg if you have cocktail equipment and strainer.
Mix the honey with the pinch of Turmeric then lightly heat just until it softens up. Add all ingredients apart from Champagne to a cocktail tin, shake with spring first (if adding egg white) then add ice and do a short hard shake. Strain into a glass and add Champagne and some broken up Crunchie to the top.
If that’s too complicated see below:
Mix the honey with the pinch of Turmeric then lightly heat just until it softens up
Add all ingredients apart from Champagne to a cocktail shaker, shake hard then strain in to a coupette. Add a splash of champagne.

Charli XCX to Kick Off W Hotels Music Series this September

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Over the years, we’ve taken in a lot of pretty stimulating music at various W Hotels around the globe – from Cassius’ Boiler Room session in Paris to Cee Lo and De La Soul poolside in Scottsdale.

The nightlife-loving hotel group’s latest series, cleverly titled WAKE UP CALL, will kick off this September, just in time to offer up a cure to those end-of-summer blues. Indeed, from 9/1 -9/3, W Hollywood will host a head-spinning lineup of international superstars, including Charli XCX, Betty Who, Phantogram, Chromeo and Léon…plus Dancing Pineapple Presents: Codeko, Papa Ya, Christofi and Curt Reynolds.

 

W Hollywood

 

From there, WAKE UP goes full intercontinental, with Martin Solveig, Gorgon City, Thomas Jack and Pete Tong on the bill at W Barcelona (9/21 – 9/23)…then Angus & Julia Stone, along with Nightmares on Wax bringing the tunes in exotic surrounds at the W Bali – Seminyak (10/4 – 10/6).

But it won’t just be about getting your groove on. Included in the festivities are spa treatments and fitness sessions, plus specialty food and cocktail selections specific to WAKE UP CALL. Marriott and SPG members get access to special privileges – so sign up now, and line up those “big shot” credentials ahead of time.

 

W Barcelona 

 

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Aussie Songsmith Didirri’s Haunting New Track ‘Worth the Wait’

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You heard him here first.

Indeed, youthful Melbourne songsmith Didirri has swiftly caused a sensation in his home country, with a pair of sold-out headlining tours, and raves about his being one of Australia’s best new live performers – and all before he’s even released an album.

Looking a bit like a young Keanu Reeves, his dark, soulful indie-folk has actually rightly drawn musical comparisons to Jeff Buckley – but the gothic-blues-tinged styling and raw romanticism of his songwriting also recall Tindersticks and the “balladeer” Nick Cave.

His recent video for “I Can’t Get Last Night Out of My Head” emphasized his swoon-worthy natural charisma. But we fell hard for the haunting, piercingly visceral new track “Worth the Wait,” which BlackBook premieres here.

 

 

“When I suffered my first adult heartbreak,” he explains of the song, “I absolutely couldn’t stand someone telling me that she just wasn’t meant to be. I keep telling myself one day we would get back together. I wouldn’t listen to them – I told myself that it was worth the wait. The whole thing was incredibly confusing…and for the first time in my life I disagreed with the majority of friends that I trusted.”

Who, we might add, just happened to be right.

“After a year of singing this song,” he concedes, “I finally realize that they were all right and that she wasn’t worth the heavy weight. Sometimes it takes a long time to fight a past love away.”

His debut EP Measurements will at last see release on July 6. After which, he’ll be touring Australia extensively through September – though rumors of Stateside live dates this autumn are starting to circulate.

 

Listen: Sultry New Baby Ariel Track ‘Gucci on My Body’

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We hopped on board the Baby Ariel train when she released her first single “Aww” last December – and she also clued BlackBook in on her fave hangs around Miami.

The still-just-17-years-old media sensation – with her popular YouTube series Baby Doll Records and her first book, Dreaming Out Loud, due this October through Harper Collins – has now just released a third single, and its title, “Gucci On My Body,” makes no secret of its extravagant subject matter.

Indeed, over a sultry, bouncy groove and lushly synthesized atmospherics, she confesses, “I got Gucci on my body / But it’s you that’s on my mind.” A triumph of love over luxury!

In other words, it’s the perfect anthem for that early summer love. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Skittish Sheep, Hotel Poets and Majestic Church Bells: BlackBook Does Dublin

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It seemed fitting that we’d arrived in Dublin for the first time just days after The Pogues’ frontman Shane McGowan’s very well-documented 60th birthday party. The guest list, hardly surprisingly, included the likes of Nick Cave, Johnny Depp and Bobby Gillespie, all of whom had checked into the Conrad hotel, where we also happened to be dropping our bags. For us, the lobby (and surely the bar) had been “consecrated” in advance by their visit.

Now we’d over the years clocked considerable time and kilometers in England, Scotland and Wales; but the Dublin soil had yet eluded our soles. Charmingly, the first “attraction” our airport driver brought to our attention? “Those are U2’s offices,” he beamed, pointing proudly to a strikingly modern looking building along the River Liffey, as if it were the Parthenon.

 

 

But what we eventually would come to most appreciate of the Irish capital was that it felt decidedly more Euro than Anglo – and our new friends there seemed happy we’d noticed just that.

A special treat? We had taken an Aer Lingus flight from New York, which also happened to be carrying one Peter Dinklage – decisively confirming that the filming of yet another season of Game of Thrones was well underway in the far reaches of the Emerald Isle.

But despite all that, surely nothing reminded us more profoundly that we were, indeed, in Dublin, than the Conrad’s in-house…poet. It was surely the highlight of our trip.

Here’s what we did.

 

Christ Church Cathedral

Perhaps owing to our particular aesthetic inclinations, we genuinely relish any and every opportunity to ponce about in an extravagantly gothic house of God. And dating to 1030, Christ Church doesn’t even have to use the “neo” prefix of so many of those English cathedrals. We were afforded a particularly special privilege: that of climbing up to the bell room to actually ring the enormous church bells – and the music they made was all the more majestic for that proximity (mind, they are also really heavy). Surprisingly, they’re actually short of ringers there – so if you’re seeking employment that might also take you a few steps closer to divinity, Christ Church should be your first call.
Downstairs in the “crypt” were a mummified cat and rat, discovered in the 1850s trapped in the church’s pipe organ. Do not leave without visiting them, nor the on-site Foxy Friars gift shop.

 

 

St. Ann’s Church 

For dark-hearted literary types, this is sort of like visiting the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris, where one can kneel before the graves of Baudelaire, Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. But St. Ann’s was actually the site of Oscar Wilde’s baptism in 1854, and Bram Stoker’s wedding in 1878. Fittingly, the latter’s bride, Florence Balcombe, was also making time with Oscar. Would you have expected anything less?

 

 

Iveagh Gardens

For a particularly ethereal immersion in the unique Europeaness of Dublin, we slipped behind the National Concert Hall to discover the elegantly discreet Iveagh Gardens (tip: you’ll want to make sure to bring your best garden-sauntering soundtrack with you.) Built by Edward Guinness, Lord Iveagh, he was to Dublin what the Medici were to Florence – an aesthetically defining patron. There is some English influence, but the Iveagh is most notably marked out by its Italianate fountains and its French style waterfall and promenade. Truly lovely, and delightfully furtive.

 

 

Tea at Lemuel’s

Taken in London or Bath, tea can be a bit…twee. But The Story Teller Afternoon Tea at Lemuel’s, the Conrad’s chic, Art Deco style bar and lounge, was distinctly Irish – encouraging as it does some mid-day tippling with your rarefied nibbles. It’s anything but traditional, with hibiscus infused scones, white chocolate and pistachio cake lollipop, and a free range egg sandwich with chive truffle aioli. We added cocktails, specifically the brandy based Sorcerer’s Tipple, and the Brobdingnag Sting for the gin lovers amongst us. All the signature drinks have backstories culled from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, a fittingly literary touch – and the selection of specialty loose leaf teas is head-spinning. Classy, but fun.

 

 

Teeling Whiskey

Despite its ostensibly mythic status, it turns out Irish whiskey makes up only about 4% of the worldwide total consumption. But the lads at Teeling are not having it, and have been leading a renaissance – which was perfectly encapsulated in their eye-catchingly modern city centre distillery and tasting rooms. At one of the latter, a 007-meets-Illuminati private enclave, we learned the intricacies of their small batch, single grain and single malt whiskeys – like, how one hits the throat, and another the gut. Their lush, amber single grain is literally a symphony of flavors, one of the most satisfying whiskey experiences we can recall. There’s also a swank new bar on site, should your tippling preferences tend towards swish cocktailing or fancy Irish coffees.

 

 

The Pig’s Ear

You wouldn’t think from the name, but this is one of the more romantic eateries in a city where you’re just as likely to be romancing a demon spirit as a beautiful lass. In one of the art-and-fireplace-adorned rooms, we dined rapturously on St Tola goats cheese, Earl Grey Tea cured Irish salmon, and duck liver, pork & smoked black pudding terrine. It was also an ideal opportunity to take a break from the hard stuff – their sommeliers are totally aces.

 

 

Coburg Brasserie

The Conrad’s exceedingly stylish signature restaurant, the Coburg is a buzzy scene from breakfast all the way through to late night. We first did time at its chic Champagne Table for an expertly led course in whiskey and gin tasting – and fell hard for Irish Gunpowder Gin, with its juniper base enhanced by flavors of coriander, cardamom, star anise and, naturally, gunpowder tea. Coburg’s menu is approachable but intriguing, and dinner highlights might include smoked steak tartare, whole grilled mackerel, rack of Irish lamb, and a 35-day dry-aged Irish beef fillet so flavorful that it will likely have you requesting a few cuts to smuggle home in your luggage.

 

 

The National Concert Hall

We were most thrilled to just take in the nighttime view of The National Concert Hall’s luminously illuminated facade from our suite at the Conrad. But this is where you would come to experience an elevated program of music in Dublin: Weill, Schubert, Beethoven, opera and more curated contemporary offerings. We took in Imagining Ireland: 21st Century Song, for a fascinating narrative on modern Irish music. It makes for a refined break from the city’s more rockist live music offerings.

 

 

Newgrange

Dublin is one of those destinations, like Florence, where you haven’t truly visited unless you’ve gotten out of the city. And really, when was the last time you were invited out to experience something, you know…neolithic? For certain, Newgrange is a must for Neanderphiles, a Stone Age monument dating to 3200 B.C.  An ancient passage tomb – now a UNESCO World Heritage site – it was conceived to capture a shaft of sunlight at the Winter Solstice, and still, amazingly, performs that function. The complex, mathematical construction makes it all the more shocking that it was built 5000 years ago. An incomparable experience.

 

 

The Hill of Tara

An ethereal, Iron Age archaeological site, it’s home to a number of ancient monuments, all with fascinating backstories…as well as some mind-blowing sun circles. We climbed the hill for its awe-inspiring vantage point – and there encountered a herd of sheep we were hoping to make friends with. Alas, the cleverly skittish little fellows were cagey enough to avoid our advances – amusingly matching our movement step for step. Meaning, we never really even got close to them.
While you’re there, do make sure to pop in to The Old Book Shop, which is exactly what it sounds like it is – with an owner, Michael Slavin, that you should plan to spend some time chatting up about the area’s history. And a couple of doors down, Maguires Cafe is a buzzy but charming spot for a long, lazy lunch.

 

 

The Conrad Dublin

It’s mentally exhausting, listening to every new hotel’s endless proclamations of “immersion in local culture.” But the Conrad Dublin totally nails it…by the utterly genius employment of a “house poet” (what could be more Irish?). To be sure, natty young lad Stephen Clare sits in the private dining room at Lemuel’s, tapping away on a typewriter (in a totally non-hipster way), and turning out poignant yet startlingly mellifluous poetry, considering its unpremeditated spontaneity. (Being in Ireland, we asked him grace us with some ethereal words on Christianity – and were nothing shy of awestruck by the result.)
As for the hotel itself, it might well be Dublin’s best, drawing the likes of J-Lo, Bill & Hillary and, aforementioned of course, the occasional debauched rock star, with its 5-star goodies and utterly brilliant staff. And while the smartly art-adorned public spaces dazzle in their unstuffy elegance, the rooms and suites exhibit a more subdued chic, with their white-and grey color schemes, soothing light woods, plush bathrooms and generous windows, framing the surrounding city centre. Request one with views to the Neo-Classical National Theatre, or over to the lush St. Stephen’s Green just up the road.
It also has a distinctly fun side, with a basement pub, Alfie Byrne’s, that can go head to head with almost any local for authenticity, vibe, beer selection and spirited clientele (who went totally mental upon the Irish beating the French in Six Nations Rugby). Though, admittedly, we were at our most content cocktailing the night away back up at Lemuel’s, where a couple of rounds of Dublin Daisies – made with Teeling whiskey, naturally – capped our visit to a city (and a hotel) that we must admit we fell pretty hard for.
Indeed, return plans are already in the works.