The people, places and things that make Dublin special.
Sitting on a small traffic island, amidst that delta of tarmac where Adelaide Road and Leeson Street meet, is a quirky little red-brick kiosk. It’s special place of sanctuary, removed from the lines of traffic and the hustle and bustle of rush hour.
The building dates back to 1928. It was designed by architect Michael Moynihan to house a water pressure station, public lavatories (ladies-only!), telephone booth and shop. Now, it’s a small café – and, yes, the coffee is excellent. Ned McCarthy is the current owner and the kiosk has been in the McCarthy family since 1954.
It’s not like anything else in Dublin. It’s full of charm and its red-and-white-striped awning makes it look like something out of an old French movie. It’s the detailing that does it. The building itself has some really nice chevron-patterned brickwork and a beautiful city of Dublin coat-of-arms. ‘Let’s be proud of our waterworks, Dubliners!’, it seems to say. The hanging baskets add to the welcoming, family feel and the people behind the counter make this place even more special. The welcome here is as genuine as you’d get anywhere in the city so it’s definitely worth stopping for a morning coffee. Even if it’s just to put you in good humour for the day.
Dublin.ie: Kiosks in Ireland aren’t exactly ten-a-penny. How did your family get into the kiosk business?
Ned: My old man was coming home one evening and stopped in a place called Kiely’s in Donnybrook for a pint. There was a guy sitting at the bar and he said to him “listen, I have this place in the middle of the road, I’m selling it, would you be interested?” He asked what he did and the man replied that he “sells newspapers and cigarettes and stuff”. My dad was an accountant but also had a factory down on Westland Row. He said “yeah, I might be interested but I better mention it to the wife!” So he went home and sure enough, the next day he met him and got the lease off him. We’ve had it ever since!
Dublin.ie: Was it a big part of your life growing up?
Ned: I spent a lot of time here as a child. I used to come in and out with my mother in the Morris Minor. If I behaved myself I’d get a bar of chocolate. Or I’d hang around in the front sometimes people would buy me something. I’ve a lot of memories here.
Dublin.ie: When did you take it over?
Ned: One day my mum wasn’t feeling great and she asked me would I come in and give her a hand. I was only a kid at the time and I came in and just ate all the chocolates, lemon cake and crisps. I was as sick as a dog when I got home. I cleaned the place out! She wasn’t impressed with me so she didn’t have me back. I was into mechanics and stuff. Then when I was 21 or 22 she asked me to come back in to give her a hand and I’ve been here ever since!
Dublin.ie: How do you find business here lately?
Ned: A Starbucks has opened up down the way and a few other places that have started doing coffees, breakfast and takeaways. There’s a lot of competition. It’s gotten a lot quieter here since they have opened. It’s a pity because it was busy for a long time. It’s heart-breaking watching the amount of people walking down the canal, they just go straight on. They’re like shoals of fish, in thousands. It’s tough to get them to come over.
So maybe next time you’re passing along, take the opportunity to break away from the shoal. Like we said, the coffee’s excellent.