Secret Bar at Kinara Kitchen

Interior Towards Patio
Interior Towards Patio

One of my favorite nights in New York City was one of my last. I was just about to move to Dublin and I wanted to go out somewhere I’d never been. Two of my closest friends made dinner reservations in Chinatown for dumplings. We ate our fill, and as we got back outside, one of my friends said, “time for a nightcap.”

We walked down two blocks towards the bridge. The streets are darker but busier. More people in less space. Buildings are lower; we could see the sky. Around a little corner there was a small nondescript door at the side of an old four story walk-up. She pushed it in. We walked down a narrow hallway and came out into a fantastic, warm, candlelit room; all golden and red and wood. There was a bar along the back wall, the bar tenders were in white shirts and bow ties. Tons of glass bottles, looking like they were filled with magic potions, lined the mirrored wall behind the bar.

Secret bars are wonderful. They add an element of mystery and excitement to an evening. It is fun to feel like you are one of a select group who knows about a place and are enjoying it with similarly lucky people.

I had heard that Kinara Kitchen in Ranelagh had a secret bar above the restaurant. We never had an occasion to go. On a calm Sunday evening, we decided it was time for a fancy cocktail. And it was time to finally try this secret bar.

Velvet Walls
Velvet Walls

There is a separate entrance to the bar than to the restaurant. You ring a bell as though you are going to visit a friend in the flat upstairs. The door opens and you are in a storage stairwell. It doesn’t feel that secret or fancy. This is good. Keeps people’s expectations lower.

At the top of the stairs you find the bar. It’s dark and red and glowy. There are fancy cocktail accessories along the bar including an Absinth samovar (if that is what it is called), lots of fresh citrus and mint, and all types of cocktail glassware.

Absinth Samovar
Absinth Samovar

We were the only ones there! Bonus! We snuggled in to the booth along the far wall. Because we were the only clientele, the bar tender spoiled us.

“Don’t worry about the menu,” says he, “tell me what type of alcohol you like and some flavors you like, and I’ll make you something.”

“Ok!” I reply, “how about spiced rum? And . . . citrus? Orange? I like a Negroni, so something along those lines?”

“Yes, madam, right away.”

C decided to order something from the menu. There is a Triple Bourbon Old Fashioned which was too hard to pass up.

While we waited, I took a little tour of the roof patio. There are booths that have cheeky quotes about various stages of cocktail bliss. There is enough room for at least thirty people to enjoy themselves comfortably outside. However, thirty people seems a lot for a “secret bar.”

Patio Booths
Patio Booths

The cocktails arrived and did not disappoint. I highly recommend being the sole customers at a bar where the bar tender loves his job. Between sips (and to slow us down), we munched on homemade Bombay mix. This is not your crumbly, messy, Spar version; this mix is tangy, spicy and crunchy. Perfect for cocktail hour.

photo 4 (3)
His
photo 3 (4)
Hers

Here are my only issues: the bowls of Bombay mix are pretty small and I don’t know what my drink was called; I can never have it again.

Homemade Bombay Mix
Homemade Bombay Mix

But perhaps that is what it is all about? Wanting more? A secret bar should be like a magic moment in time. A once off. Like that summer night in NYC, those moments stay in the memory longer.

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Secret Bar at Kinara Kitchen

Horseshoe Bar at The Shelbourne

Georgian Decor, Red Coziness, and the Classic Bar in The Horsehoe
Georgian Decor, Red Coziness, and the Classic Bar in The Horsehoe

By the time my 21st birthday rolled around, I had been living in Ireland for 7 months. In those 7 months I had never crossed the threshold of the Shelbourne Hotel. My parents flew over from the States to celebrate with me, to meet my new friends from Trinity, and get a sense of my life in Dublin. They stayed at The Shelbourne and suggested hosting a little drinks party with my friends in the famed Horseshoe Bar.

My father and I stopped in an evening earlier to ask if we could reserve a few booths in the back corner. The bar tender told us that this would not be possible, as it is such a popular bar and the hour we requested (5.30pm), was a busy one. I watched in amazement as my father pulled out one crisp $100 bill, and handed it to the bar tender and said politely, “well, just see what you can do.” I had never seen anything like that without a box of popcorn in a movie theatre. All I could do was follow my father out of the bar in stunned silence. The next evening there were two booths reserved in the back.

That night is still legendary among my friends group. For one thing, we 20 and 21 year olds had never spent a huge amount of time in fancy bars. For another, having parents pay for drinks (or someone else’s parents) when you are that age is better than Christmas. My parents and I had to leave the party to get to a play, but the party went on at the Horseshoe for hours.

Since that long ago evening of merriment I have not been back to the Horseshoe. The Shelbourne was bought by a global hotel company, was renovated inside, cleaned up outside, and is now, as ever, a posh place to have a drink of any kind. When friends suggested we go for a drink before another friend’s wedding on Friday, the Horseshoe was named as the spot.

Interior. Claimed the very same booth as on my 21st.
Interior. Claimed the very same booth as on my 21st.

The hotel lobby is a bit flashier than it was twelve years ago, and it was bustling on Friday afternoon. But The Horseshoe is exactly the same as I remember. Dark, red, wood, brass, and bow-tied bar tenders to mix the drinks. The two bar tenders who were there on Friday were far too young to have been the lucky recipient of my father’s bribery.

I was handed a menu that was about 10-12 pages long. Most of the pages were filled with cocktail options. Apparently the Shelbourne participates in “cocktail challenges” and a few of their in house concoctions have won international acclaim. In our little group we managed to try three of those five “famous” cocktails. They were all delicious, but I think the Number 27, the most successful of all, wins. Sometimes all those people can’t be wrong.

Suffice it to say, we did NOT order the Shelbourne Jewel
Suffice it to say, we did NOT order the Shelbourne Jewel

The wine list includes hilarious descriptions of the wines on offer. Can a wine be voluptuous? Head to the Shelbourne to find out.

It's a Rosé, in case you do want the "voluptuous" wine.
It’s a Rosé, in case you do want the “voluptuous” wine.

Yes, the Horseshoe is a bit over-the-top. Expect to throw away 15-20 euro. Not many local Dubliner’s spend time in there. But it has an old-Dublin charm and is absolutely the place to go to celebrate with the ones you love. Oh, and there are free nuts.

Horseshoe Bar at The Shelbourne