Saturday, October 19, 2013

[Review] Cocktails at House, Leeson Street, Dublin 2

Because I work in the vicinity of Harcourt Street, I think that I  have been dragged to most of the depressing bars and venues that litter the area around Harcourt Street and Leeson Street. Many of them are grim places with bad, loud music, forced jollity and the reek of desperation. I was intrigued when word started to filter through on Twitter that the venue formerly known as Kobra had been redesigned as House, a new "leisure option" including a greenhouse type location and wine room.

The first thing I noticed upon entering was the smell of a real fire, burning in the fireplace to the left. The entrance opens up into a wooden floored bar area, before transitioning to a conservatory and finally opening out onto the large garden area. The hostess offered to set me up a small foldaway table at the very beginning of the garden area, but the wafts of cigarette smoke were off-putting, so I took another table, tucked against the wall in the conservatory. 

On first acquaintance, I very much liked the decor. It was bright and airy with apparently mismatched (yet carefully  matched) tables and comfortable chairs and lots of verdant greenery. It promised a different kind of nighttime work bar and I especially liked the cocktail menu which was bound in heavy dark leather, embossed with the House logo.
The conservatory area at House
My first cocktail choice was the Fiorello, a mix of Cointreau, pisco, agave and fresh thyme (€11.50).  Served short over chipped ice, it was a good choice for the first Friday evening drink. I've seen thyme starting to appear on cocktail menus recently and this was an excellent example of how to use it. 

The second cocktail of the evening was the Mariposa, a richly coloured drink made with lime, passion fruit, Aperol, rum and topped with champage, served in a coupe (€9.50). I had chosen this because of the Aperol and rum base, but I should have remembered that I don't terribly enjoy the sweetness of passion fruit juice. This is definitely a drink for the more sweet toothed drinkers. 
The Fiorello cocktail
The Mariposa
My last cocktail of the evening was the classic Last Word (€11.50). This mix of Chartreuse, gin and Maraschino came served atop a coaster formed from a folded paperback novel page. I sincerely hope that no decent book was sacrificed in its making, but I would nominate Fifty Shade of Grey or any Mills & Boon novel as fair game. Alongside our last drink, we shared an antipasto plate of reasonable meats and cheeses (€16.00) and excellent sweet potato fries with a punchy aioli (€5.00). 
The Last Word with its 'novel' coaster
As the evening wore on, it darkened outside and the atmosphere inside the conservatory area became more intimate and cosy. This would have been great for cocktail drinking except for the that the music volume was turned up and the vibe was regressing back into the horrible Celtic Tiger bar that I thought it had escaped. This was disappointing to me as the cocktails at House are well-made with a well thought out menu. But the level of the cocktails just didn't suit the atmosphere of the bar.
The nighttime conservatory at House
I have been told that there are other rooms, including a wine room, in House which may be better suited to relaxing back and drinking some serious drinks. But I do believe that you shouldn't have to escape to a special room when enjoying drinks that cost around the €10 mark. House strikes me as a great concept, which is well presented and packaged. However, I feel that it needs to escape the ghost of earlier venues and do something different, instead of merely looking different. My recommendation, go early in the evening, enjoy a drink or two and depart before the cattle-like crowds arrive.

UPDATE (December 22nd, 2013): I recently went for lunch at House, where I ordered the burger.  To be honest, I don't know why I keep playing Russian roulette when it comes to burgers. I should stick to the good places.

What I received was truly an insult to the meat that went into it. It was everything that could be wrong with a burger. Mealy grey mince, over processed with all texture removed. Given the time between ordering and arriving, there was no possibility that this burger was cooked to order, which means that burgers are sitting pre-cooked in the kitchen.

Why go to the effort of dressing up like a supermodel when you're wearing tatty grey underwear underneath?

House, Leeson Street, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 905 9090
Twitter: @HouseDublin2

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