I regard Hang Dai, Dublin’s answer to Mission Chinese Food, less as a restaurant than a party where food could break out any moment. It’s not the kind of joint that encourages restraint or contemplation of any kind. It is a sci-fi fever dream with a fuck-off sound system. It’s the staff canteen at Westworld where the chef spikes everyone for shit and giggles. I’m still not entirely sure that their duck broth isn’t seasoned with meth, such is its moreishness. The place is a hangover waiting to happen. The kind of hangover that might necessitate a call to the Samaritans. Good news then that owners Karl and Will have opened a new bar upstairs. It’s called Gold Bar and it’s exactly as it should be.
The vibe is just the right side of sleazy Oriental, with intricate lattice work on the walls and reflective copper slats on the ceiling. The lighting is forgiving. There’s room for about twenty consenting adults to get tight. The soundsystem, again designed by Cork-based audio-sorcerer Toby Hatchett, does that trick of being too loud until you sit down. The speakers look like something from Deckard’s crib. The playlist is killer, ranging from raucous honky-tonk to delirious surf-pop. Most of the playlist is obscure enough to baffle Shazam. I like that. There’s also an excellent heated outdoor terrace for smoking tabs. It hangs out over the front of the restaurant and is one of the best in town. The regular crew is about to scatter to the four winds – Mike is bound for the Far East, Andy to the Middle East, me and Red are off for our annual dose of the Lower East Side. It feels like the ideal spot to tie one on before we split. We are later joined by the lovely Ms Greene and her charming father Eugene. They have clearly enjoyed themselves downstairs.
Despite the name, this is the least precious cocktail bar you’ve never been to. The stiffs behind 9 Below should come in here to experience what an actual bar is for. There are eight cocktails on the list, you call your number and takes your chances. These are not the raised pinkie confections you find at the higher (and viciously expensive) end of the racket and that’s reflected in the €11 pricing. These are glasses of ‘why the fuck not.’ You know that you’ve had a drink when you put one down. We drink all of them except number 1, which contains Bristol Cream, yogurt (sic) and rose water. It may drink better than it sounds. I kick off with a number 3 which has Gin, Elderflower and Suze, a Swiss bitters. I have no idea where the effervescence comes from but it works. We also like the Six, which leads with the smokey assault of Mezcal, moves through Amaro and finishes with Lustau Vermouth. It is served in a black metal goblet that is more pimp-cup than Pimm’s. The overall winner is the number 4, heavy with Agricole, a rough cane-sugar rum. Nobody can quite agree on why they like it but life is like that.
The place is in full flight at this stage and I can tell that hair will be let down to Rapunzel-like levels in this room. We round out the night with a few rounds of those fire-hydrant-sized bottles of Tsing Tao. It’s kinda tasteless but gets you where you want to go. I guess that’s the point. I can’t think of a better place to get properly Shanghaied.
Words: Conor Stevens
Photo: Killian Broderick
Gold Bar @Hang Dai
20 Camden Street Lower
01 545 8888