The Winding Stair, Dublin: The Complete Guide

A rescued independent bookshop now shares space with a modern Irish restaurant

Eggs for an Irish breakfast
••• Irish brunch at the Winding Stair.

Natalie Kennedy 

One of Dublin’s best bookshops has found new life as a modern Irish eatery on Liffey Street while managing to maintain its more literary past. Shelves of books can still be found on the ground floor at The Winding Stair, but the historic spiral staircase that gives the space its name now leads to an open plan kitchen that serves a menu focused on local foods.

Stop in to shop, sip a coffee or stay for a meal—here is your complete guide to The Winding Stair in Dublin.

History

The Winding Stair became one of Dublin’s most beloved bookshops in the 1970s and 1980s. The independent bookshop was filled with stacks of books and shelving across multiple floors, connected by a creaking staircase.

Set inside of a historic building with a classic gold and green lettered façade, the most notable feature inside was a spiral staircase dating back to the 18th century. The bookstore’s name is a play on this architectural detail, but is also a reference to a poem by W.B. Yeats, which opens with the lines:

My Soul. I summon to the winding ancient stair;
Set all your mind upon the steep ascent,
Upon the broken, crumbling battlement,
Upon the breathless starlit air,
'Upon the star that marks the hidden pole;
Fix every wandering thought upon
That quarter where all thought is done:
Who can distinguish darkness from the soul 

During the pre-internet heyday, the shop was a gathering place for book lovers of all types.

Keeping with the literary theme, a local Dublin magazine even moved into the basement. However, by 2004 The Winding Stair was facing bankruptcy and when it closed in 2005, many mourned the end of an era.

Luckily, the historic building and its famous bookshop were rescued by new owners who reopened the store on the bottom floor in 2006.

At the same time, the upper floor was converted into a restaurant that serves local, organic menu items.

The Winding Stair Bookstore  

The Winding Stair first came to life as a bookshop and it remains one of Dublin’s oldest independent bookstores.  While chain stores may prioritize best sellers, this cozy bookstore along the Liffey prefers to specialize in harder-to-find titles.

The front of the store has new books across a range of genres, including humor, fiction, works by Irish authors, and cookbooks. There is also an extensive children’s section with interesting books for the youngest readers. Wander towards the back to find a small but admirable selection of used books.

In addition to books, The Winding Stair bookstore also has artisan cards, notebooks for recording ideas, and literary magazines.

For bibliophiles who can’t wait to get home and open their new book, there is are two tables by the window which look out at the river and the foot traffic on Liffey Street. It is possible to grab a seat here and order a cup of tea or coffee. Those looking for a full menu will have to climb the spiral stairs.

The Winding Stair Restaurant

When the Winding Stair reopened in 2005, the biggest change was on the second floor.

While the books have been maintained below, the next floor has been converted into an eatery that shares a name with the original shop.

The Winding Stair restaurant serves updated takes on classics like the full Irish breakfast or freshly caught fish. Much of the food is organic, and almost all of it is local. The ingredients are so local, in fact, that you can find the name of the farm printed next to the products when they are incorporated into a dish. Because the food is made nearby, the menu changes with the seasons in order to make the most of what it is in the markets at that time of year.

The food offerings are complemented by a list of Irish craft beers and suggested wines for pairing with the meal.

The stripped wood room has been kept simple to highlight the Irish cooking coming from the open kitchen.

The classic café tables are pushed close to the windows to make the most of the lovely view of the river and Ha’Penny Bridge that sits just outside the front.

What Else to Do Nearby

The restaurant is popular for its delicious menu as well as its enviable view because the large windows overlook the Ha’Penny bridge—Dublin’s most famous pedestrian bridge.

Temple Bar, the popular district full of pubs that comes alive after dark, it located just on the other side of the river. Many of the pubs have traditional live music at night.

O’Connell Street, a busy road running through the heart of the city, is a popular area for shopping.

The Winding Stair is centrally located and due to Dublin’s compact size, it easy to reach many other of the top sights before or after a meal.