In an increasingly homogenous world what often best defines and sets a city apart (aside from architecture, ambiance, culture and language) is its collection of one-off shops which seek to echo some aspect of that city’s uniqueness. Dublin’s much loved bookshop The Winding Stair, which sells both new and second-hand books, is a gem of a shop that manages to evoke the ghosts of Dublin’s rich literary past and yet remain grounded in the 21st Century. The bookshop is on the ground floor of a building on Ormond Quay, in the centre of Dublin; the equally well-loved Winding Stair restaurant is on an upper floor.
The warm, welcoming and eclectic decor of The Winding Stair is a far cry from the interiors of the stores of the large bookshop chains which conform to a corporate decorating template. There are makeshift shelves stuffed with books set against cream walls, pieces of Edwardian furniture, mobiles made from books and crockery, twinkling chandeliers and a striking black and white photograph of Seamus Heaney.
Best of all (aside from the books) are the two tables in the window, yes just two, where you can sit and have a coffee and cake. The window overlooks the quay; the traffic whizzing by is easily forgotten when you see the compensatory view of Dublin’s iconic Ha’penny Bridge. On a recent visit to the Winding Stairs I had a latte and a slice of delicious lemon cake (the coffee is perhaps not Dublin’s finest so if you are a fussy coffee-head it might be best to opt for a pot tea)
While I was in the shop I was very pleased to chat to the helpful bookshop manger Sarah Montague. It seems fitting that Sarah is both an art historian and a writer. She completed a draft of her first novel last year and has worked on revisions to it since then. Hopefully her book, which is a work of historical fiction, will soon be in print and available at The Winding Stair.