Dublin is plentiful when it comes to good-looking new hotels but the feeling can often be their bars and restaurants are there to serve the incoming one-visit tourist, with locals often choosing to find that stand-alone cocktail bar instead. Recently opened, The Grafton Hotel no doubt fits the bill for its slick decor and incredible features (the place is actually stunning!) but the question is – does it have that substance that some of these new multi-story inner-city modern palaces are missing?
Bartley’s Bar & Restaurant is the centre focus for food and drinks at The Grafton and we decided to investigate this week with a keen eye on their recently launched cocktail menu.
Named after one of Dublin’s first cosmopolitan and forward-thinking pubs in Bartley Dunne’s, who were the tenants of the current hotel site between the 60’s & ’90s. On its website “Bartley’s promises to honour its namesake with an experience that marries the sweet spots mid-way between modern and traditional.” Big boots to fill considering during the 1960s Bartley Dunne’s had carved a certain niche in Dublin that is revered to this day. A soundtrack of French jazz sensation Edith Piaf, drinks like tequila and sake years before they were available elsewhere and a customer base with many gay men in a time where homosexuality was illegal.
After a quick stop to take in the incredible lobby area, its wild shrubbery, wonderful armchairs and coffee dock, we move our way down to the bar area taking note of the different cosy booths and many different table arrangements to choose our seating from. The bar itself looks great. The ever popular copper and brass light fixtures hanging from the sprayed black ceilings works here as it does in so many places with the fresh wooden bar and hidden LEDs to brighten up certain eye-catching features. Lined with fabulous high stools this is a place you could watch the mixologist conjure up some of the special sips on offer but we are starved and we must eat, so we settle for a more formal table towards the restaurant area and start to dissect this new cocktail menu.
I am informed that the cognac rival to an Old Fashioned – old fashioned typically containing bourbon – originated in New Orleans and The Grafton Sazerac is one of Bartley’s new stars straight from the french influenced American south. This mixes both brown liquors amazingly plus Peychaud’s bitters and a dash of absinthe to add flavour to, without doubt, one of my favourite drinks of recent times. As a cognac – and cocktail – lover, I could very easily spend my evening with my now beloved Sazerac but for the good of the reader, I move on to the something that might well have described my attitude towards the end of the evening. Chancers & Charmers, a super interesting drink combining the flavour of Teelings whiskey small batch with kicks of red wine and chocolate, plus a little sharpness from the lemon juice. Widows’ Arm, is a white Negroni substituting the traditional bitter CampariandVermouth Rosso to be replaced with something a little sweeter in Lilet Blanc and Suze. The Cat’s Pjamamas is Gin based, fresh and fruity but I finish with Dunne’s Flip. At first, my eyes make that Espresso Martini connection but that is merely the Guinness inside fooling me because this drink is another bursting with different flavours including that delicious Pedro Ximenez sherry leaving me as content as the cat that got the cream.
All the aforementioned drinks were priced at €12 and the cocktail menu extends further to all the classics, low or no abv options plus your full bar with all the spirits, wines and beers one might want. Unfortunately on the evening, we were unaware Bartley’s has a bar menu for food separate to the restaurant’s own menu and we skipped right past that when ordering our dinner. A quick glance over the menu now makes me sure to return for some Crab Sliders €14, Wicklow Brie Fritters €14 and a Flamed Lemon Meringue with Champagne Sorbet to pair with another Sazerac.
Instead, I opted for Homemade Chicken Liver Pate €9, – a really decent portion for a starter – each slice of sourdough toasted was well heaped with pâté, slices of pear, cherry tomatoes, chutney, and some nicely dressed greenery before being scoffed joyfully. A great selection of salad bowls are available too with the option to add in some protein as well. Irish Sea Food Bowl €14.50 marinated octopus or prawns and mussels from the coast, with baby potatoes,sliced chicory, mixed pitted olives, salad garnish and a squeeze of lemon and dressed with truffle oil sounded great and delivered, bursting of flavours and colour.
Bartley’s may have past the test for this Dub to return but do you remember dancing in Break for The Border? Well, you won’t recognise the dancefloor when you head downstairs to The Scaredy Cat Nightclub on a Friday or Saturday night. Sophistication with groove is the vibe at Dublin’s newest late-night venue so make sure to keep your eye on @TheScaredyCatDublin on Instagram for upcoming events such as New Year’s Eve’s Masquerade ball.
Bartley’s Bar & Restaurant
The Grafton Hotel
31/32 Stephen Street Lower
01 255 2700