To the casual observer, this multi-level Irish pub in the Financial District might not stand out as particularly unique besides the upscale finish. It gets a plentiful smattering of tourists and loud banking conversations just like any other bar in the area. What does make it stand out is the people who own it, and the backstory, something discovered only after seeing them named "World's Best Bar" by a competition I do not follow.
What is most interesting about the two owner-operators is their desire to combine a mixture of two famous Belfast drinking establishments. They worked together in The Merchant Hotel, another recipient of many cocktail awards located in the northern Irish capital. Normally I would stay away from an award winning cocktail bar, but the real charm of this place is in the combination of these ideas with the corner pubs that the owners miss the most. In an interview I watched, two hometown pubs were cited and immediately made me want to hop the Atlantic and get back to Belfast, one of my favorite cities in Europe.
The touches are subtle and certainly not in your face, but someone traveling to New York from Belfast could certainly see the differences that the rest of us might not, most likely the intention. Famous Irish, and especially Northern Irish adorn the walls with all the normal bric-a-brac that charms a good Irish pub.
Wanting to stay more on the pub side of the bill of fare, we chose our meals accordingly and sat downstairs in the taproom. The beer battered cod is expertly fried for the crispy fish and chips ($18, above), and is served with a great condiment plate that includes tartar sauce and mushy peas, something you very rarely see on this side of the Atlantic. If you have never had the chance to try this thick green side, this plate is worth it just for that.
Eaten alone, the fish would have been extremely satisfying, but was somewhat overshadowed at our meal by the show-stopping lamb shepherd's pie ($17, below), served in a small but deep cast iron skillet that only reveals the potatoes when arriving.
These potatoes are served as more of a puree than a mash, while the lamb underneath is slightly curried and crazy gorgeous. Both of our faces lit up on first bite, surprised that the hearty staple could be made so well. Not leaving pub roots out, small peas and carrots inhabit the dish just as they should.
I will not be making a habit of nightlife or even pub recommendations, but this little gem at the southern tip of Manhattan is certainly a trip to another world, and a completely underrated city.