Mr Glam and I sat on the roof terrace watching the seagulls swoop up and down the road, reminding us that we weren’t far from the sea. In fact we were watching the fashionable Dublin set, drifting in and out of the boutiques in Grafton Street.
We’d opted for a late breakfast, taking advantage of the rare moments of sunshine in a usually rainy Dublin. Our glassed in enclosure was the perfect spot for people watching and Mr Glam’s breakfast of Tarte Au Citron with fresh Black currants and a dollop of whipped cream. I had my usual poached eggs and a frothy latte.
The lilt of Irish music wafted up from the buskers below, drowned out momentarily by whooping and clapping as a school party stopped to watch the old guy Irish Dancing in his blue glittery suit. It’s only 10am – it’s going to be a good day.
The reason we were here was that some time ago I bought A Year At Avoca, Cooking In Ireland. A cook book with wonderful mood photography. I knew nothing about Avoca, either as a place or a business until I picked up that book. But the food, fashion, traditional weaving mill and that famous BBC TV series were all to be found in a tiny Irish village and the strands of the very successful retail business in Dublin itself and across the UK. I wanted to see it first hand.
The Avoca store in Dublin is four storeyed with unpolished, bare wood floors and off-set stairs leading to wide landings and mezzanines. Each showcasing a different piece of the Avoca concept.
The softest, vibrant mohair throws jostle with applique cushions on retro upholstered chairs on one. Quirky books on fashion, lifestyle and food with nostalgic homeware on another.
In a cramped, but cleverly laid out basement, a cafe serving fresh terrines and salads, for a quick lunch. Or everything you need for thr perfect meal at home, any time of the day.
All these contribute to the feel of discovery, as you move from floor to floor, until finally arriving at the top level restaurant. Buzzing with customers and decorated with mixes of vintage wallpaper (one drop per pattern) and re-used cabinets for tables.
After seeing the store I really wanted to stop at the Avoca Mill. I’ve visited plenty of mills in the old day job, but there’s a fascination in seeing how those narrow threads of colour mix and make such wonderful checks and stripes.
Avoca Village, about one hour outside Dublin, is an architypal picture postcard of stone houses, a village church and a river that once powered the mill wheel. Those of you who’ve watched Ballykissangel know exactly what it’s like.
I loved exploring the mill and seeing the hand looms churning out the fabulous fabrics in the same way that they’ve done for generations, despite several changes of ownership since the mill was built in 1723. The Wynne Sisters took over in 1926 and developed an international business selling to the couture houses of Paris and even made baby blankets for The Queen.
The current owners bought the mill in 1974 and have developed a company that has the beautiful woven items as it’s core, but has spread so much further than that.