–– I’ll take a mélange, Haines said to the waitress
–– Two mélanges, Buck Mulligan said. And bring us some scones and butter and some cakes as well.
When she had gone he said, laughing:
–– We call it D. B. C. because they have damn bad cakes. – James Joyce, “Wandering Rocks”, Ulysses
I am no Joyce scholar and have under my belt two failed attempts at getting all the way to the end of that one in which he wrote about the ‘ineluctible modality of the visible’, but I am struggling to put my finger on the what it is about the nature of Joycean Dublin that Mulligan & Haines is harnessing, as their cocktail menu claims. Unless of course I am deeply mistaken about the nature of Joycean Dublin, and it was actually just a mishmash of Pinterest moodboards including reproductions of the Dutch masters’ portraits, neon signage and old Irish whiskey bottles on display behind a cage – uplit, of course.
Taking its name from stately, plump Buck Mulligan and Haines, the otherwise unnamed English student who stays with Mulligan, this Dame Street bar occupies what was once Sweeney’s Mongrel, what was once Le Cirk, and what was once, in the mists of Joycean time, the Dublin Bread Company, visited by the bar’s eponymous heroes in Wandering Rocks, Episode 10 of Ulysses.
Vaguely in keeping with that history – and a vague relationship to history seems to be central to everything about this place – Mulligan & Haines’ logo boasts “signature M&H cocktails and delicious sandwiches”. The sandwich connection stems from the premises’ former use as a bakery (sound the new Dublin bar trope klaxon) but alas these delicious sandwiches are nowhere to be found on the menus on the website or at the bar, so we will have to presume that they’re soon to come on stream.
The signature M&H cocktails claim to “take their lead from Ulysses ideals and characters – each one bolder than the next.” Curiously, the menu doesn’t list the ingredients of each cocktail, instead providing a somewhat bewildering and hyperbolic description of the sensations you might expect to endure while drinking it.
I plump, stately-ily, for The Big Buck, a “wild and unpredictable” whiskey concoction, while my companion sets his stall higher by ordering Utopia, which promises “a state of idealised perfection…. a drink of idyllic proportions.” Unfortunately, both cocktails (€9.50 each) fall well short of their lofty claims and are overpoweringly sweet to the point where I have to slip a surreptitious Rennie immediately after draining the syrupy ends at the base of the glass. Worse still, its taste is still ruling the roost gustatorily by the time I change to Guinness (€5.40), which probably tasted fine, but my mouth was in no position to tell.
This is a truly mundane bar flavoured with a dash of stolen literary valour. We’ll call it D. B. C. because they have damn bad cocktails.
Words: Ian Lamont
Photo: Killian Broderick
Mulligan & Haines
32 Dame Street