Joe Macken has always shown himself to be the master of invention and reinvention in the food and drink game in the city. An early advocate of the pop-up (Crackbird) and an adopter of social media (tweet seats), Macken strides between his places with a genial gusto; his grey locks trailing his fresh thoughts. He’s also adroit to know when a business is flagging or simply crowded out in the competition and value stakes. Hence he has reopened his Skinflint pizza place on Dame Street as his second Hey Donna swopping carbs for kebabs and more healthier options.
Another change has taken place at his Jo’Burger base on Castle Market where he has converted the first floor into Bar Giuseppe – a casual wine and cocktail bar.
Of course, it is replete with his hallmark quirks and idiosyncrasies. Remember Joe was the man who briefly popularised drinking out of jam-jars and placing cutlery in tin cans!
Firstly, the wine menu is a little ambiguous upon first look. It’s not laid out by reds, white or regions but is coupled under moods enunciated by song titles and lyrics. You can play the guessing game as you survey what is on offer under ‘vers. 1.9, rappers delight, dead leaves on the dirty ground, acid jazz, turn on the bright lights, I’d be safe and warm, if I was in LA’.
Our informed host Callum translates this as “bubbles, autumn with a footstool in summer, big bright reds, big bright whites and winter wines.” Whites are denoted by the hat symbol. Needless to say, this will cause curious joy and nauseous revulsion among different folk. But it’s a conversation starter and Macken has always wanted his spaces to be conducive to free-flow.
Once one drills into the wines, a few things become apparent. Firstly, they are biodynamic and therefore, more clued into principles of sustainability. Secondly, there is an undeniable quality and breadth of regions encompassed. You can have an Orange (a Rkatsiteli from the Pheasant Tears vineyard in Georgia, €51) or a mid-ruby red (Krasna Hora Cuvee Bernety from the Czech Republic, €46) as well as representation from Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, italy, USA, South Africa and Australia. The third matter to note is the price range which is certainly on the high side by the bottle averaging €51 across 24 bottles (€26-€98) with only five under €40. You are paying for wine of distinction but it may dissuade thoughts on having a second one mid-week. However, when it comes to wine by the glass this is more attractive fare with loads of entertaining and enthralling options to choose from between €9 & €13. They even poured us a glass of the fantastic beaujolais (€47) so there is some wriggle room.
On the food bites side, there’s a delicious selection which won’t satiate hunger pangs but will compliment what you’re swirling. There’s a mortadella toastie (€8), four slices of rare beef and mustard (€9) and patron peppers (€5). And cheese puffs (€1) for your mate who is still apopletic.
This is where you go to chat instead of get trashed. This is a stop off moment from the rush outside. There’s a soothing pink on the walls and attentive, well-informed, staff. Some of Joe’s Snapchat gen staff have often been accused of treating work as an inconvenience to their lifestyle and projected attitude. This is certainly not the case here.
And so to the gripe – some of the decor. In places, it feels rushed and ill-considered. There’s nice high stools pitched beside low and somewhat uncomfortable seating where you are literally leaning into a piece of random art of highly dubious distinction. If you are spending this level of money, you really want to be have the option to enjoy it over time.
There’s a dead fern wreath over a fireplace and wicker tables beside designer plastic seats. A flower is stuck into a wine bottle like a task undertaken by someone on The Apprentice. This is so easily rectifiable but feels too higgledy-piggledy right now to lure one into staying for a few hours rather than a few sloshes. A cosy sofa wouldn’t go amiss and I hope the fireplace can throw some licks of heat out rather than being ornamental. Bar Giuseppe stands a good chance of finding its feet and clientele once it invests a little more consideration into its surrounds to aid the wine in coaxing out our emotional well-being.
Words: Michael McDermott
Photo: Killian Broderick
4/5 Castle Market (above Jo’Burger)