Beer & Bites not tapped out
Taphouse bar & Kitchen 60 Ranelagh road, Dublin 6
WE'RE well into it now eh? Of course, some poor souls will work up to, and even during, Christmas Day. But for many, this is the day we've been counting down to. With cumbersome nine-to-five distractions pretty much dispatched, the focus can shift to the really pressing questions of the day. Top of the list: where's the best spot to meet a bunch of friends for a Christmas get-together if you've not even so much as a restaurant booking?
Even if you could get a restaurant booking over the next few days, nobody wants to commit to being somewhere at a particular time and place.
It used to be easy. You'd just barrel into an old-fashioned boozer and order rounds of Tayto cheese'n'onion to keep the hunger at bay. But now that we're accustomed to eating out affordably, crisps and toasties don't quite cut it.
What we need is old-fashioned boozers, only better. Boozers that are clean enough for yer man's OCD girlfriend but with a decent smoking section for the single smirters; hip enough for the hipsters, unpretentious enough for the sceptics. With decent well-priced crowd-pleaser dishes alongside interesting choices for fussier friends.
Step forward Taphouse Bar & Kitchen.
Dubliners David Kelly and Ciaran Sheehan and US partner Jay Luther built their Stateside 'Rí Rá' empire via the wholesale export of Irish pubs when they were 'tout la rage' in Europe but still a novelty in the US. They sent Irish pubs packing to more than ten US states over 17 years. Now they're back and what they've brought home is arguably even better than the real thing.
The menu reads well too, with interesting ideas like roast garlic chipotle sauce and grilled lime with the house wings. It's well-priced too, from sides (€3) and bites (€6) through to small plates (€9) and sharing platters (€12).
The bar stools are wide, the banquettes smart and the corners cosy. The cheerful staff are properly trained. They can tell you about the Irish craft beers on offer, many of them available on draught, including the wonderful Metalman Pale Ale and Franciscan Well Rebel Red, as well as O'Hara's Leann Follain Stout and Galway Hooker IPA. You can buy these by the 400ml Munique glass (which keeps beer fresher than pints) or by the half-gallon refillable, take-out 'growler' jug. Spirits are infused in-house to serve as spritzers or cocktails. So far, spot on.
And the food? The Wasabi salmon arrived with a wan wasabi mayo instead of the promised wasabi and seed dusting and our sliders (aka mini-burgers, three for €10) were under-sauced. Still, the Moroccan spiced lamb slider was sweet and juicy and the pulled pork smoky. Our sharing platter of fish tacos was excellent, mouthfuls of lime-shot haddock with red pepper salsa wrapped in soft corn tortillas. The Caesar dressing on our side order of salad was punchy and the 'Dessert Pot plus Espresso' for €5 a sweet deal with which to end the meal. We ate our fill and washed it down some great beers, all for under €50. You can't say fairer than that.
If the food can stay faithful to the original vision and the staff maintain their enthusiasm and standards, this strong contender in Ranelagh's ever-growing dining scene is a sound spot in which to have old-fashioned pub grub -- only better.
Why go? For decent eats and bites washed down with great Irish craft beers
What to order? Watch out for the lunch special of 'soup and a slider' for €8
Who to bring? Your mates on a busy night, your ma on a quiet one or your workmates for a weekday lunch
How much? €47.65 for dinner for two with a couple of beers