7.13am – later this same morning!, Sunday 12th September, London Bridge, London, UK
Now that I’m up anyway, I’ll finish off Dublin – at The Hole In The Wall with the McCaffrey family, where we did a wine dinner last Thursday night with 65 of their customers. Now let me just explain what “The Hole” is and where you’ll find it. The Phoenix Park is 1700 acres of forest, fields, gardens and monuments just outside the Dublin city centre and was set up in the late 1600s as a deer park surrounded by a stone wall. There was an army garrison stationed here also, and in 1652 The Hole In The Wall was a two bar drinking house run by legendary Dublin publican Nancy Hand. The Hole got its name because Nancy literally had a ‘hole’ dug through the Phoenix Park boundary wall so that she could supply ‘sly grog’ to the army garrison – I suspect on a very regular basis.
The Mc Caffrey family bought The Hole in 1970, then started ‘adding on’ to the original facade and two bars by purchasing the five cottages sitting behind the pub – along the road and Phoenix Park wall . Which brings us to the current building which is like a caterpillar of sorts – the original front then 2 bars, a wine shop, then 4 sections of dining room, finishing with the kichen – and claiming the title of the longest pub in Europe. Hopefully my photo does “The Hole” justice.
It’s the sort of place that is a working museum really, as the front two bars have lovely exposed original stonework, the ceilings are old barrel staves, and there’s a couple of clocks that look as though they were salvaged from old railway stations. There are old cupboards of ancient household items, and on one wall a collection of old brass barrel spigots – I could have perched in either bar for hours quite happily.
Martin is the McCaffrey who currently runs the show and has built an extremely strong Australian section in the wine store – featuring the Barossa. Besides a lot of Yalumba, Henschke and Ben Glaetzer wines, I even spied a bottle of 2002 Rockford Basket Press Shiraz! Impressive. And here’s the good thing that the diners on the night told me – you can go and choose your bottle of wine at the shop, then go next door to the dining room and have it with your dinner – no corkage. How sensible.
We were lucky enough to have local wine journo Matthew Nugent (Irish Independent) come along and introduce us and play MC for the night, and we had a nice solid eight-wine program for the pub’s three-course dinner. My photo this time is of the starter – one of The Hole’s signature dishes – a stack of black pudding and haddock topped with a deep fried egg . I know this sounds different, but I’m here to tell you there wasn’t a crumb that went back in on the plates – but then again the wines we put on with ‘the stack’ – the 2008 Y Riesling, 2008 Y Unwooded Chardonnay and the 2007 Y Cabernet (for the black pudding) – also disappeared. So we can draw the conclusion that the starter and wines combo was a winner!
We then put on the 2008 Wild Ferment Chardonnay, the 2003 Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet and the 2007 Bush Vine Grenache on with the beef main course, which was a good way to go as most folks had a discovery session – hadn’t tried such Bordeaux-like Cabernet from Australia, nor elegant Chardonnay in that mould. So as I went around the tables there was a lot of “I didn’t realise” discussion – an excellent result in itself.
We finished off with a rich chocolate slab and ice cream, and we gave folks two wines to try. The 2006 Patchwork Shiraz and 2007 Botrytis Viognier – big luscious red or luscious honey and apricot with your chocolate?
Again folks had a lot of fun working outside their normal flavour and texture zones, and I’m fairly sure we won a few more Dublin hearts and palates for Yalumba on the night. The good news is that we’re making the ‘Yalumba visits The Hole In The Wall’ dinner an annual event so put that date in next year’s diary! Especially the piranha pack of gigglepot gals that came along with Miss Bridget – you know who you are!
So as we leave Dublin, it’s thanks very much to the Cassidy Crew who look after us in the Rep of Ireland – Amanda who puts the plans together, Keiron who holds it all together, and those critical coalface road warriors who get us into the right wine and food spots – Miss Bridget and Peter W – you’re the best and we’ll see you when the mud dries.
PS You know I always like to give folks something off the beaten track from my trips – here’s one I found on Wexford Street – a good alternative area to explore if you’re worn out by Temple Bar. It’s ‘bobo’s Gourmet Irish Burgers’ and you can’t miss it at 22 Wexford, with the cowhide covered bar stools and step up banquettes. All of their burger patties are made from Irish beef – heifer meat under 20 months old – and there’s 20 versions of the burger to work your way through – and three vegetarian numbers as well.