As I write we have been experiencing something of a strawberry Spring. Winter has stormed out of the room only to repeatedly burst back in to bellow “and one more thing…”. April has been cruel indeed. Nevertheless, by the time you read this, or don’t, it’s not unreasonable to assume that the time for outdoor drinking will be upon us. To put this in context, I’m not predicting balmy twenty-degree evenings, or even orange warnings for fake tan, merely a relaxation of the dank and dismal grip that we’ve been enduring of late. It may not be raining and cold. Given the relentlessly depressing nature of our weather it is probably churlish to point out that we do not have a superabundance of spots that reward the alfresco alcohol experience. The terrace at the back of the IFI is always overlooked in this respect. Most regular folks tend to hit and run, perhaps enjoying a pre-or-post film glass of something. I imagine that this is the point of the place but I’ve found over the years that this space can repay the patient tippler with singular pleasures.
This weather never been a consideration for my enjoyment of the space, even in the face of common sense. During my time trading at the Temple Bar Food Market (as a gentleman fishmonger) we would always finish up here to piss and moan, quite literally. Those days are sadly behind me, there are more unpleasant things to wash one’s hands of. Nevertheless, the IFI Gastronomic Council (of which I am a founding member) has been meeting here in weekly session for over a decade now. In all weathers. On more than one occasion hot water bottles, flasks and even balaclavas have been deployed to counter gelid conditions. Turns out that drinks don’t really taste of anything when the ambient temperature is minus nine.
We had no such concerns on a recent drizzly Saturday evening. Our council quorum comprised Comic Book Guy, Stoney Paul, Sweet William and my good self. Mary from Dunloe would swing by later to gripe about the quality of tonic water in her gin. Contrary to unpopular belief, the terrace is not a BYOB affair. The kids who congeal in the square every week, as the market folds, have yet to receive the memo. Their repeated attempts to flout this seemingly apparent statute punctuate my every visit and never fail to provide some entertainment. I’ve even heard some protest that certain of their ‘rights’ are being infringed as they are ushered out of this private space, bottles and cans clanking, by the long suffering security guys. They should totally take to Facebook to vent their witless outrage and probably do. On this occasion they seem too caned to fight for their right to party. Pity.
We begin with a round of Pastis, in this case Pernod adulterated with ice water. One would of course prefer Ricard but it’s a nice way to start and gets us through the sole item on the council agenda – ‘Why eggs are so hot right now’. We generally stick to pints here but tonight we throw out the script because we’re spending Stefan’s money. Stoney Paul loses the run of himself and orders an espresso martini, the rest of us make do with some well made Aperol spritzes. The BYOB table is now populated by a woman self-consciously reading a book and a chap furiously scribbling in his Moleskine. You get a lot of that hereabouts.
Service is generally cheery but on less clement evenings the servers are less inclined to venture out for orders. I can’t really blame them. There are things to eat too, should you require them. The menu has recently been revamped and I’m hearing good things. I can vouch for the fish and chips. Certain elements could be helped – the awning at the back (end of the space) has been non-functional for about two years, ditto the heater at the front. The new chairs will make your ass feel as if it is being griddled. People have been known to use copies of this august journal to protect their flanks. If that burning orb in the firmament does make itself known get a crew together and try it out for size. I may be there but don’t let that put you off.
*I just took a break from writing this to meet an old friend, only to find that the outdoor space at Pinxto’s is now a non-smoking space. The place is now dead to me. We repaired instead to the very subject of this ‘review’ and enjoyed a slightly too cold cheese board and a couple of decent pours of wine. A very seviceable Picpoul and a Gamay that would give Beaujolais a good name if I could only remember it.
Words: Conor Stevens
Photo: Killian Broderick
The Terrace @ The Irish Film Institute
Meeting House Square