A more colourful Clanbrassil Street

Swathe Shanmugaraj writes about how the face of a local Dublin 8 street has changed over the years.

Clanbrassil Street is a perfect reflection of what one might be able to expect from the diverse community now living in Dublin 8. Stretching from New Street to the Robert Emmet Bridge on the Grand Canal, this street has a significant impact on the development of an atypical community.

Historically it was known as the hub for the Jewish community in Dublin due to the large numbers of Jews that moved here in the late 19th century. The majority of the community members were those who fled Lithuania in the early 1870s and who found a place to settle off Lower Clanbrassil Street.

An excerpt in The Irish Times that was published on 27 June 1984, written by Katrina Goldstone, recalls a story from Baila Erlich. She used to run one of two shops that used to be on Clanbrassil Street at a time when there were over 20 of those. In the article, she talks about how their lifestyle used to be.

“People were wonderful in those days. They had great willpower. Whatever there was, herrings, potato, you shared it . . . There were singsongs on Saturday night, Hebrew lessons on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays and the tennis club in Parkmore Drive.”

Over 30 years later, the remnants of that Jewish history that are still in Dublin 8 are now in the form of museums and cafés such as the Bretzel, a kosher café that has been running since the 1870s.

“There is a good variety of people from all around the world. But, yes, I think the majority are Irish women”

Today, Clanbrassil Street seems to be rich with multiculturally influenced businesses throughout the entire street. Just taking a stroll down it from the Robert Emmet Bridge, one will be able to find cuisines from many countries in the form of eateries, cafés and even speciality grocery stores.

Gaillot et Gray, a French-influenced bakery and café, is run by a couple who have found Clanbrassil Street the perfect spot for their business. They began their business at a tough stage of the recession and started small.

“Both my husband and I were made redundant in 2009. We started our pizza business in a food truck which is a renovated vintage Citroen HY,” said Emma, one half of the Gaillot et Gray duo. Their business did well enough to be upgraded from truck to café, and after much consideration it was an easy choice to shift their business to Clanbrassil Street.

“We wanted our business in this area as it’s close to home and our children’s school, making work-life balance a bit easier,” she said. Their business ever since has been booming, with much praise in evidence up on Gaillot et Gray’s Facebook page.

“Amazing pizza, salad and wine combined with a lovely atmosphere – Gaillot et Gray is one of those places that you have to return to once you have been,” said one user, Helen O’Leary Kennedy. “It’s been great,” said Emma, commenting on their booming business since opening up in Clanbrassil Street.

Her humble response is nothing compared to the numerous accolades Gaillot et Gray has gathered, such as being on Hot Press’s list of best restaurants 2017, as well as numerous mentions in other publications’ lists of best restaurants.

As well as Gaillot et Gray, another eatery that brings another part of the world to Dublin 8 on Clanbrassil Street is Jolin’s Vietnamese Coffee Shop that has been running for two years.

It is not only the eateries that reflect the multicultural scene portrayed on Clanbrassil Street but the many service business too.

Thea of Thea’s Beauty Studio is one of the few beauty salons run by a non-Irish citizen but does come from Europe. Thea hails from central Europe and has been here for some time. “I am from Croatia and I am running my business for two years now,” she explained Thea.

She also commented on the various people that enjoy her services. “There is a good variety of people from all around the world. But, yes, I think the majority are Irish women,” she said.

The assortment of businesses, services and eateries on Clanbrassil Street brings a little something for everyone. For this reporter, who comes from the multiracial, multicultural background of living in Malaysia for most of her life, Clanbrassil Street’s changes have their perks.

Just taking a stroll, one finds familiar-looking Indian clothing stores that sell traditional Indian clothing, a Vietnamese restaurant that had pho that tasted so similar to Chinese fish ball soup – a moment of comfort – as well as a couple of South Asian grocery stores that sold items from home which meant she could still get a little taste of home if she wanted to.

In a way, anybody from around the world can find some sort of comfort on Clanbrassil Street from the positive attributes it has gained throughout the years.

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