The new year sees the beautiful and resilient Lilliput Stores returned to its original location at 5 Rosemount Terrace, on Arbour Hill in Stoneybatter. It is arguably the most perfectly formed neighbourhood grocery shop on the island, regardless of the fact that I am biased. Lilliput Stores is extremely close to my heart as it is the shop front of the building in which Wildflour’s production bakery is based, and it is also owned and run by two of my closest friends, Brendan O’Mahony and Aoife Cronin.
This morning, Lilliput Stores reopened its doors again after an electrical fire in May destroyed the shop. They’ve had a long slog returning the shop not just to its former glory but to an even more lovely space, turning a catastrophic turn of events into an opportunity to create something better. The morning after the fire, despite the shock and exhaustion from the dramatic events of the night before, the team at Lilliput were dogged; a new site was hurriedly secured for a temporary ‘pop-up’ and within a matter of days the vacant unit next door, recently vacated by The Joinery, became the temporary home of what they cheekily dubbed LilliPOP.
The new shop is light and elegant, flanked with marble tiles and monochrome mosaic, hand crafted wooden counters and floor to ceiling shelves teeming with delights, from house-made hummus and pestos to buffalo yoghurt from Macroom in Cork, porcini powder, hand-tempered chocolate from Bean and Goose in Wexford, brown bags of coffee beans roasted by Ariosa in Meath and floury round sourdough loaves from Arun Bakery just down the road. It is an antidote to the soulless supermarkets and over-priced ‘foodie’ shops, it instead stands proud as a bastion of the community, allowing locals to get all their staples for a family meal, from the convenience cook to the most discerning and adventurous, as well as offering sandwiches and coffee, all at an affordable price and invitingly casual atmosphere. It is elegant and yet delightfully down-to-earth, tempered by a ramshackle charm. It is rarely without a gaggle of neighbourhood dogs tied up outside waiting patiently for their owners who enter cheerfully nodding their coffee order: “the usual”.
I first met Brendan, its owner, a few years ago when I started out with my market stall at Glasnevin’s Honest2Goodness market. Charming and bumbling, dashing and gangly, hot-headed and fiercely kind, Brendan has food markets in his blood and has been working on them for most of his life. He immediately became my mentor, as he does to many young food businesses who pique his interest. He is generous with his time and his expertise and this was how I came to open my production bakery in the upstairs of the building behind Lilliput. While Lilliput Stores sells beautiful food to the local community, its reach is far wider, as it is also part of the Lilliput Trading Co. (previously The Real Olive Company, Dublin), which sources and wholesales some of the finest olive oil, olives, farmhouse cheeses and charcuterie to the restaurants of Dublin. Beneath my bakery are hundreds of bottles of top grade olive oil imported directly from Italy, Greece and Spain destined for the unassuming shelves of Lilliput Stores or the machismo kitchens of Michelin starred restaurants.
The Lilliput Trading Co. are a motley crew of fascinating people: Peter one of its delivery drivers is also an extraordinarily talented carpenter, who made all of the counters and shelving in the new Lilliput with his own hands, two other drivers: a theatre director and an artist; Les who mans the coffee machine in the shop is an esteemed artist who is responsible for the frequenly changing window art installations that became synonymous with the old Lilliput Stores, and which I look forward to seeing again now the shop has reopened; Aoife, the face of Lilliput Stores, adored by anyone that meets her, the axis around which the hurly-burly of Lilliput orbits, which she oversees endearingly and with aplomb.
I love sharing a building with the Lilliput team and I am incredibly proud to sell my cakes through their shop. It is where I walk to with my neighbour to get my morning coffee, where I tie up my headstrong labradors on a Sunday morning while I buy a croissant and a newspaper, it’s where I meet my brides to discuss their wedding cakes and where I use as a collection point for cake orders. At a time when most of our options are chain stores or contrived concept shops, Lilliput instead offers authenticity, decency and community.
Words and Photography by Kate Packwood