Exchequer Ranelagh

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When I lived in Dublin in 2001-2002, there wasn’t a huge selection of brunch venues. Places that were open on Sunday late morning, early afternoon would serve a version of a Full Irish and variations thereof. Occasionally you would find a dish with hollandaise sauce.

Brunch is now a common weekend meal for most Dubliners, and there are plenty of wonderful choices around town. We are spoiled for choice!

Because we are spoiled for choice is is always a bummer to stumble across a Bad Brunch. C and I were in a bit of a fix on Valentine’s day. We’d already eaten Anguier Danger donuts in bed, and were about to head out for a big walk so we needed some sustenance. We were taking the Luas from Ranelagh so we decided to pop into Exchequer on our way.

Exchequer has a post on Exchequer Street in town. They migrated out to Ranelagh over a year ago. I had never been. We had the place to ourselves, being a bit early for Dublin brunch. American brunch starts about 11.30 or so. Dublin brunch usually starts about 1/1.30. The space is vast and well laid out. We sat under the skylights in the back.

The menu was largely variations on eggs. I chose a vegetarian breakfast bruschetta and C had the meat version which was the same as mine plus black pudding and a side of bacon. Neither of us was totally satisfied.

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I had gotten excited about the roast tomatoes and black olives, but the black olives on my plate were out of a tin. The beans were also from a tin and the side salad was straight from a plastic bag of mixed baby greens. C’s bacon wasn’t cooked enough.

The prices of the dishes are equal to most brunch prices around town, but the quality was not up to scratch. This brunch might have been super in 2002, but when there are so many fantastic brunch options, there really isn’t time for canned beans and tinned olives.

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Exchequer Ranelagh

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.

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His
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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.

Secret Bar at Kinara Kitchen