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Sunday 18 February 2018

The new order: hipster chic and crafty drinking

A handful of key players from the worlds of sport, business and fashion are driving new trends in socialising, writes Niamh Horan

Ana Belén Gallego (left) & Aoife Cawley drink at the Bath Bar on Bath Avenue, Dublin
Ana Belén Gallego (left) & Aoife Cawley drink at the Bath Bar on Bath Avenue, Dublin
From Left: Brian O'Malley, brothers Paulie & Barry McNerney and Stephen Cooney, co-owners of The Old Spot
Leinster rugby stars Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip, Dave Kearney and Rob Kearney, co-owners of The Bridge 1859 in Ballsbridge
Bear Restaurant
The Dean Hotel
The Exchequer
Form School
Paulie's Pizza
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

It's a golden triangle of hipsterdom where they chomp artisan burgers, swig craft beer and let their hair down in cool NYC style bars. And it's dominated by a group of ambitious thirty-somethings who have grabbed post-recession Ireland by the scruff of the neck.

Stretching from Ballsbridge to Harcourt Street, across to South William Street and back into Dublin 4, financially savvy rugby players, driven young businessmen and a coterie of health conscious models are in the vanguard of changing tastes.

Think more authentic and less gloss.

Gone is the VIP, red-rope culture of Celtic Tiger Dublin - crisp white table cloths, snooty waiters, champagne and pricey menus. In its place, a counter-culture has sprung up. A low-key cooler vibe is being embraced.

Pubs have dark corners again - an antidote to the excesses of celtic tiger Dublin.

Now drinks are taken on sawmill style bars rather than under the bling of a giant chandelier. Waiters sport full bushy beards, tattoos and skinny jeans and food is sourced locally, big portioned and nutrition-focused to stay in-step with a new band of health-conscious foodies.

A handful of key players from the world of sport, business and fashion are the main drivers.

In the rugby set, brothers Rob and Dave Kearney [now known as 'the Kearnashians'], former Leinster star Eoin O'Malley, Irish players Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien, Gordon D'Arcy and former captain Brian O'Driscoll are investing in the new edgier Dublin.

Paddy McKillen Jnr (son of businessman Paddy Mckillen Snr) is throwing open the doors of new joints in the golden triangle at lightning speed. Meanwhile, the model set are also making their mark in the world of commerce. They are getting involved in ventures of their own and driving the health-conscious trend via social media - instagraming what they are eating and where.

In Ballsbridge, the Kearney brothers, Heaslip and O'Brien are involved in The Bridge Bar. Behind the counter there are craft whiskies, gins and poitin by Glendalough Distillery - a venture in which Brian O'Driscoll has invested €60,000.

It was a smart move. The brand has grown 200pc year on year. O'Driscoll and the four thirty-somethings who founded the enterprise are now selling in 17 countries.

Co-owner Gary McLoughlin explains: "in our former jobs as drinks analysts and working on advertising for a whiskey company we saw the trend in craft beverages was only going in one direction. People want local and artisan food and alcohol is no different. So now for example, we have four different gins, one for every season and we go out and forage for what's in season at that time - whether it be yellow gorse flower or dandelion. Then we distil and bottle it ourselves. That's the trend we are looking at now."

A stone's throw away, around Bath Avenue many of the entrepreneurs have teamed up for joint ventures. Brian O'Malley co-owns the Bath Pub with Stephen Cooney (they also own the Leopardstown Inn in Stillorgan), while Brian is also co-owner of Sam's Bar on Dawson Street and Solas on Wexford Street. Brian's brother Eoin is running both bars.

Also on Bath Avenue, Brian and Stephen have expanded to The Old Spot, which they co-own with brothers Paul and Barry McNerney. These same brothers own both the nearby Juniors restaurant and Paulies Pizza place. The brothers are now opening a new upmarket supermarket which will also cater to artisan tastes with locally sourced food.

Around Harcourt Street Paddy McKillen Jnr. Is rapidly expanding his empire which includes the Dean hotel and Sophie's Bar - which stretches on towards South William Street. His interests now span no less than 17 properties, which include craft cocktail and food bars (Peruke and Periwig, Vintage Cocktail Club, The Liquor Rooms), low key bars that serve the latest craft beers (The Garage Bar), music venue The Workman's Club and Mary's Bar & Hardware, an old school country pub in the heart of Dublin.

He has interests in the cool NYC style nightclub Everleigh Garden and a swathe of restaurants (Sophie's, Cleaver East, Wagamama, Captain America's and Bison Bar and BBQ) as well as Dublin's newest hotel, the Dean.

It all comes under the umbrella of his company 'Press Up Entertainment' and is separate from the properties he is developing under the development firm Oakmount. The firm has recently completed and sold three townhouses designed by architect firm Odos on Percy Lane and is now working on a development in Percy Place which will be launched in September.

It will include 12 apartments, three floors of office space, a restaurant and a cafe. McKillen Jnr also has a number of other projects in the pipeline set for launch in the coming months.

In the midst of it all you have Jamie Heaslip, who co-owns the old-school grill Bear on South William Street with Joe Macken, while Gordon D'Arcy co-owns The Exchequer Bar on Exchequer Street (and its sister premises in Ranelagh). D'Arcy has also invested in the health- conscious craze along with his wife, model and fitness expert Aoife, by opening a reformer Pilates studio - which also specialises in yoga and ballet barre classes - on Grattan Street in Dublin 2.

And Mrs D'Arcy isn't the only model making waves. Roz Purcell has collaborated with Mooch Fro-Yo on Dawson Street while Daniella Moyles has joined up with Yogism in George's Street Arcade to supply Dublin with an all day breakfast menu.

As Niall Harbison, tech entrepreneur and founder of Lovin' Dublin, which spots trends in Dublin, explains: "Gone are the days where the only way to meet your mates was over a pint. The rugby lads have led this new trend that it's OK to have a coffee or brunch with the lads, while the models have put clean eating with big portions and tasty food on the map. And none of us really gave a damn about the value of money during the good time. Now everyone wants good quality without paying through the nose."

Businessman Brian O'Malley says: "I think the customer is a lot more sophisticated and better travelled these days, particularly in our area that is often referred to as 'Google town'. In order to stay competitive pubs have to offer a more diverse range of products."

"We are always looking to introduce something innovative and different that will catch the customers eye. For example we do jugs of Pimms full of fresh fruit in the Bath Pub and we brew our own ginger beer in the Old Spot and we sell gin and tonic ice pops in Sams!"

"Food has also become a hugely important factor. Pubs are now expected to produce the same quality of food as restaurants. Our aim in the Old Spot is to blend the two worlds. We have created an atmosphere where people can have good craic just sitting at the bar drinking pints, and also people can come for the food and not feel the need to get stuck into drink," said Mr O'Malley.

Sunday Independent

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