Refuel: House 27 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2
House not yet a home
There are places in Dublin you go to, and places in Dublin you end up in, and we're not sure yet which category House comes under. People are very excited about it. Last Friday night there was a pull of after-work mischief from Baggot Street to the Leeson Street strip and "the new place, House". FOMO took hold and before long my sister and I were standing on fake grass by a lime tree, sipping Bombay Sapphire. Rosanna Davison was there and the next night, Keith Duffy. Yes I went two nights running, Saturday to try the food.
House is owned by Alan Clancy of nightclub 37 Dawson Street. It has a pre-crash innocence to it, an expectancy so out of place. The Tiger has come fashionably late to what used to be a hotel with a nightclub called Kobra. Stone dogs (and real bouncers) now keep guard at the grand Georgian portal and inside is endless – endless! It's beautiful anarchy, with velvety chairs, dripping chandeliers and clashing, flamboyant décors. Scandinavian woods and brickwork disappear behind feminine wallpapers and you are swept into a Gatsbyesque conservatory, to the heated outdoors strung with lightbulbs, where garden furniture, bamboo and plants lend a colonial feel. House is trying to be utterly what it is not, with inexplicable touches. I saw a knight in one corner. A huge bowl of lemons, the staff's tweed waistcoats. On that note the staff are very good.
The food, then – you almost forget. They've contracted out the kitchen to the Gourmet Food Parlour chain, whose menu aims to please everyone. With 30 small dishes, it's far too big, though I expect they're testing us out to see what works. You have the chips and buffalo chicken of a sports bar, the bruschetti of a mid-range Italian, tapas, Asian bites, Irish bits.
We asked the servers what they recommended but they hadn't tried anything. They told us what was "popular". Popular should never be a consideration, where the women wear cocktail dresses that made me and my friend Caroline look decidedly hick and unpopular, in our parkas and wool: we hadn't booked, so we had to eat outside, smoking to keep warm. The manager did offer me either a blanket, or a hug (I took the blanket – must be professional).
We chose four dishes to start with: wild mushroom risotto, walnut and gorgonzola ravioli, pork belly with quail egg and prawns in coconut batter. We'd see where our appetite took us then.
Our food came fast and piping hot but what else can I say? We were eating dinner, in a nightclub. Ravioli was creamy comfort food but with no promised walnut, and with untold heaps of cheddar. Caroline liked the mushroom risotto for its whisper of truffle oil which was the reason I did not like it – truffle oil seemed to be a way of doing us out of actual wild mushrooms. It had more cheddar. Then prawns. The coconut panko batter made up for their vacant taste but the sweet chilli sauce was the one from the bottle. Worst was last. Pork belly looked sticky and seductive but was horrid. Caroline suspected sous-vide cooking in a vac-pack had gone on as the fat, where it might have been crackling, was gelatinous. It made me want to give up meat forever and we did not want any more small dishes.
But just when we were concluding that House is not a place for savouring food but for cocktails, loud music and shenanigans, pudding came. Banoffee pie that was toffeeish and crunchy in a glass brimmed with crème fraiche, beside a cornetta and mint ice cream on a sugar-dusted slate.
Strong coffees came in dainty pink and gold cups. The team at House have what it takes, they just need to sort out the absurdly overblown menu. Then if I end up back here some idle afternoon, I'll be quite pleased.
Typical dish: Who knows yet
Recommended: Banoffee pie
The Damage: €110 including tip for four dishes, one pudding, two Forget Me Not cocktails, one bottle of Picpoul de Pinet and two espressos
On the Stereo: Disco faves
At the Table: Celtic Tiger undead