The humble Irish pub has been dying in front of our eyes over the last decade. Publicans blame it on the smoking ban, tougher drink driving rules, the recession, VAT and any other handy excuse they can think of. Those factors along with a shift in Irish culture certainly played a part but I also think really shit service and a poor experience contributed. We've all be served by the surly barman who grunts at you for having the cheek to ask him for a coffee or a glass of wine. We've eaten grey "roast beef" and spuds that are peeled in Dundalk in a machine and thrown in the fryer and labeled "roasties" once too often. Pubs are dying because of their own shit product offering and the fact that people can find better ways to spend a crisp 50 Euro note these days.
Because publicans had it so easy for a couple of decades many were so stuck in their ways that they resisted the need to change and their places are empty or have even folded. On the flip side there are a bunch of smart new publicans coming through that know there is still a market with plenty of people who want to drink and they've changed the experience completely. One example of this is Old Spot on Bath avenue. It is the brainchild of the brothers behind Juniors and Paulie's and they've teamed up the lads from The Bath down the road. They more or less own the entire road now and are clearly tapping into all the young professionals from Google and other tech companies living nearby.
Old Spot is a gastro pub. Not just a pub that have hired a chef, dickied up the menu and lashed a few craft beers behind the bar but a proper Gastro pub. The place has been kitted out beautifully and couldn't be much different from the old pub that used to be here which was a relic of a bygone era with lads smelling of dirty underwear sipping pints at chasers from 11 in the morning. There is plenty of drink served here but it is all about the food. When I arrived I heard they'd gotten the chef from the Butcher's Grill so I knew it would be good without even tasting anything.
I started with a lamb chop salad. Highly unusual to see chops as a starter but it was savage. I could easily have been sitting ing a Michelin starred restaurant eating this with the light curry flavours and tasty yoghurt. Next up was the real reason I was here. The piece de resistance. Crispy pork belly with mashed roasted veg, gravy and real roast potatoes cooked in goose fat. Fuck me this was good. Same ingredients that any other pub are delivered but cooked to perfection. The crackling on the pork was so crispy and sharp it could be used as a weapon to slice someone's throat on Love Hate. This was cooking of the highest level with no bullshit and served by true professionals. As I ate my meal and watched the team purr into action around me I couldn't help but think how far we've come from the barman watching the horse racing and practically ignoring all his customers.
I wrapped up with a lemon posset with homemade biscotti. It was zingy and pretty decent but truth be told I'd eaten too much meat to enjoy it. The only slight criticism I'd have was the espresso. It was more Americano size than the short sharp shot I was after but I'll let them off on that one.