House is big. Those Georgian houses in Leeson Street were built big to begin with, and House combines two of them. That changes the feel of the interior enormously. I lived for eight years in Herbert Street in a similar house, and the over-riding sensation was that the size of House was from top to bottom. It wasn't the width that impressed.
However, if you double up everything, from the entrance hall to rooms now on either side, and you have a double width garden, you have a very big space to play with. And it's that sense of space that's the first thing that greets you as you enter House. The first thing you encounter is a room full of comfortable sofas and armchairs where you can sit and have a drink. Farther back you find other spaces for sitting, and farther back again you'll find the garden and restaurant.
The restaurant is in the roofed- over garden, and next to it is the garden proper, where you'll see a couple of venerable olive trees as well as an orange and a lemon tree, which appear to be thriving despite our northerly location.
A couple of years ago I reviewed The Gourmet Food Parlour in Dun Laoghaire – a tapas bar that now has a few outlets around the city. They do good tapas and they're responsible for the food in House.
In February I was present for a dinner to launch the Travel Department's offerings for 2014, and that was my first experience of House. I decided then to come back for a review, and this week I did just that, accompanied by Marian Kenny and her two sons, Max and Alex.
We had several options of where to eat, but Marian likes the occasional cigarette, so we sat in the smoking area of the garden, under a lemon tree. For the first hour, we got live jazz, which I really liked. Turns out the jazz is a Thursday thing, every week in the garden from 6 to 9pm.
The nice thing about tapas is, you can order lots of different things just to get a taste of each. We ended up ordering 12 different tapas, which at three each didn't seem excessive. However, take it from me, even with two young men with young men's appetites, we couldn't eat all the food that arrived.
We were happy for our choices to arrive in whatever order they were cooked, and what we got were onion rings, ham croquettes, beef sliders, fried chorizo slices, deep-fried mushrooms, marinated lamb, patatas bravas, a chicken Waldorf salad, steak crostini, meatballs, chicken skewers and prawns pil pil.
A couple of these were truly spectacularly good, especially the marinated lamb. I must have been accompanied by Ms Kenny for a lot of meals now, but I've never heard her enthuse the way she did over the lamb dish. Here we are a week or so later and she's still talking about it. "Are you going to mention the lamb when you write the review?" Yes, dear, I will. I mean, I have. There. Max and Alex were impressed with the sliders: three mini-burgers with sweet peppers and Cashel Blue cheese, and also with the chicken skewers, which had pancetta and sweet pepper cream. I found myself favouring the Waldorf salad and the fried chorizo – a dish I always enjoy.
There's a long drinks menu, on which, unusually, the spirits outnumber the wines. You can get a glass of house wine for €6.50, or if money's no object you can buy a bottle of Roederer Cristal for €400. In between there's a fair selection with a higher-than-usual mark-up, but then you need to pay something towards your surroundings.
I liked House. The service was excellent, and our bill was €128.80, which for four people is pretty good considering it included three beers, soft drinks, tea and coffee.