Saturday 21 April 2018

Barfly: The Exchequer

The Exchequer, 3-5 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2
The Exchequer, 3-5 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2
Ed Power

Ed Power

Yes, Virginia, there is a blackboard. One of the curious, unspoken rules of metropolitan publand is that the more upmarket the establishment, the greater the likelihood that the menu will be written up in slapdash chalk (the better way to convey the rootsy authenticity of the experience that awaits).

Other cliches enthusiastically embraced by The Exchequer include bespoke cocktail selections, decor that leans towards vintage without losing its footing and tipping into full-blown tattiness (it can be a fine line). Oh, and staff who are much better looking than you.

Rather than throwaway gestures, such accoutrements are part of a grander project -- to introduce a proper "gastropub" to central Dublin. You would imagine such a niche was already adequately filled. Actually, the city is lacking in watering holes that combine the low-down aesthetic of a decent bar with the agreeable pretentiousness of a mid-ranged restaurant. Four years ago, The Exchequer's Peter Rock and Ian Tucker spotted a gap and dashed through like Drico sprinting towards the try line (the owners went to a rugby school, and The Exchequer is popular with members of the Ireland team).

Stepping across the threshold, the first thing that strikes you is the gussied-up classiness. Several distinct looks seem to have been blended, a potentially disastrous step that could have left The Exchequer all tarted-up with nowhere to go (hello, Dylan Hotel, and your ridiculous couches).

There's a droll wink towards Celtic Tiger minimalism, what with the funny, swerved ceiling and the furniture's expensive gleam. The lighting is dim -- aesthetically pleasing if a bit confusing if it's sunny outside (okay, so what are the odds, really?). The decor, meanwhile, is stripped down with a vengeance -- were it not for all the people chomping lunch and slurping pints, you could be in the reception area of a Scandinavian health club (we mean this in a good way).

Let's gloss over the boring foodie stuff, shall we? As an avowed non-gourmande, Barfly isn't well positioned to pass judgement on the gastronomic element of The Exchequer experience, beyond confirming service is crisp and attentive and the dishes are extremely adequate in both presentation and substance.

Happily, they take liquid sustenance almost as seriously as the culinary variety. With an entirely straight face, the drinks menu is described as the "Ledger of Liquor" (sounds like something you'd find behind the bar at Hogwarts). Said ledger is unquestionably voluminous, with a decent beer line-up.

In all honestly, though, it's not as extensive as what you'll find in several nearby hostelries. In essence, if your idea of "craft brew" encompasses Tiger Beer and Paulaner, you will be open-jawed with astonishment. Otherwise, the line-up is respectable, not synapse-frying.

Of course, any bar with an in-house "mixologist" is going to put a strong emphasis on cocktails, and that is true of The Exchequer (winner of Best Cocktail at the Irish Restaurant Awards two years running). Conveyed in cutesy faux-handwriting, offerings run to 11 pages and include in-house interpretations of the Long Island ice tea and the Margarita.

There's also a strange obsession with the undead: one concoction is called the Corpse Reviver (for when your hangover is so bad it feels you've just risen from an open grave); the Zombie is a mix of rum, absinthe and pineapple juice.

I'm not sure it's potent enough to wake the dead, but after two or three you'll certainly have a spring in your step.

THE EXCHEQUER 3-5 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2 01-670-6787

Irish Independent

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