This is not the first time that the Hill has been subject to the famously steely gaze of the Totally Dublin bar review staff. In April 2010 one of my esteemed colleagues darkened the door of this most storied Southside suburban local. Then, as was the case for many years preceding the visit, the Hill was discussed in hushed tones punctuated by over the shoulder glances. Few establishments, certainly in suburbs so routinely prefixed with the descriptor “leafy”, carried with them such an air of “careful now” conservatism. This heebie-jeebie epidemic undoubtedly a hangover from the bars association with once regular, Martin “The General” Cahill and going even further back, due to proximity to Mount Pleasant Buildings which were used by the council as “a dumping ground for problem families” (so said the Irish Times in 1966) until they were deemed “unfit for human habitation” in the late 1970s.
For years The Hill wore this apparently unjustified veneer of unapproachability, a quality that ultimately proved their undoing, given that it’s hard to keep afloat when the uninitiated are unfairly being be warned against sticking their nose through the door under threat of having it broken. Nowadays when it comes to courting new custom, variety in drinks available at any given location has long since outstripped any collective pursuit of authenticity, performed or otherwise. And if it’s an extensive selection of drinks you crave above all else though, you could do a lot worse than The Hill’s new incarnation. With the bar manned by a few recognisable faces, previously of 57 The Headline, one of the city’s more pleasingly understated craft beer destination pubs, the array of curios both bottled and on tap is just as wide as one might hope, covering everything from from robust imperial stout to nose wrinkling sours.
Unfortunately, though somewhat unsurprisingly, the aforementioned leafy nature of the locale is reflected in the pricing structure. My companions and I were somewhat taken aback at the €6.80 we were charged for a pint of a 5% abv Firestone pale ale. Drinks clocking in at less than €6 are thin on the ground with nothing at all on offer below the crucial fiver mark.
The aesthetics of the refit leans heavily towards the studiously inoffensive. The new owners have, thankfully, elected to sidestep the street art meets your childhood bedroom schtick that plagues so many establishments that choose to showcase a wide array of beers, but in favour of what exactly? One of my companions suggests that the place gave off the impression of a holiday home, not quite entirely bare but somewhat blank, not an empty space but most certainly an unlived-in one. Considering the array of bold flavours being doled out from behind the bar, it’s a shame that the ambiance and décor feel a little pastel. One hopes with the benefit of time or a few tweaks the Hill will eventually make its mark. For the moment at least, it boasts promise of much else ahead.
1 Old Mountpleasant, Ranelagh, Dublin 6
Words: Danny Wilson
Photos: Killian Broderick