There is decorative cucumber in our Mediterranean sharing platter that stands for more than it thinks it does. At least, if cucumbers could think that is. There is the murmuring, or even clattering of unnecessary live music vibrating through the floors into the soles of my feet that has more in common with cucumber than it ever thought. At least, if this music thought at all, that is.
The Taphouse has taken the place of Russell’s at the LUAS station end of Ranelagh. Perhaps moreso than other suburbs, Ranelagh’s pub market is particularly competitive. Differentiating itself from local rivals McSorley’s, Birchall’s, Humphrey’s and Smyth’s, The Taphouse has moved away from traditional signage and décor and rejuvenated itself as a gastro-pub that feels almost completely like a restaurant upon entry. Along with the darkened exterior windows, the interior is mood-lit and comprises mostly small tables with couples or groups of couples dining. Despite not being thronged, it’s not as easy to find a place to sit as you’d like, constantly aware that our party of three is out of sorts squeezing in a couple of roasters between more intimate affairs.
While Taphouse does offer a fairly wide variety of beers – predominantly the staples of Irish craft market – there’s fewer on offer on tap than would have been expect, given how firmly nailed to the mast their craft beer colours are and given what the name implies. For example, O’Hara’s Red Ale (hardly the most exotic of requests) isn’t on tap where it is in Smyth’s up the road. On the other hand, Taphouse is marketing heavily the fact that you can order smaller orders (a 400ml Munique glass) for a per mililitre price, if the imperial pint is a bit too much like hard work for a “hoppier” European megabrew, which is both a nice touch and logical move.
I’m torn between whether the head-first dive in gastro territory, the white butcher tiles and the wholehearted embrace of craft beer is a brave new path in a suburban setting or a fairly standard, obvious move. Whatever is to be said about it, there are large positives; it is certainly a distinct improvement over what was there before, the beer, craft or non-craft was decent (standard of Guinness went uncommented on – a good thing) and our nibbles were very tasty, cucumber not withstanding. But other elements stuck in my craw. The bizarre addition of live music was indicative of an attempt to please too many masters, a sop towards the everyman pub away from the gastro sophisticats. The walls were semi-lined with books of a bizarre unwanted type (Skipping The Details: Memoirs of Charles Symington and The Odyssey: A Moderns Sequel) surrounding a large (if unused) flat screen, indicative of the tokenistic nature of many of the bar’s accoutrements. As Taphouse works out its early-days kinks, one hopes it has the courage of its convictions rather than blanding itself in all directions.
Words: Ian Lamont