Urchin at the Cliff Townhouse is like a white and pastel coloured Summer hangout. Serving seafood and cocktails to a backdrop of cool tunes. I had missed the opening night but the lovely PR team behind it sent me a voucher to try out some cocktails and small plates as a guest. Design wise personally I think it is a breath of fresh air. It’s like stepping into a holiday. Despite being in the basement of Cliff Townhouse its bright and airy and had I woken up there, I’d expect the sea to be right outside my door. Urchin is modern and fresh among the endless list of bars/pubs/restaurants which are all starting to feel like they are wearing a design uniform.
It has clever branding and practical yet quirky design features. A menu board sporting magnetic letters, so simple but never seen. Hooks on the back of chairs to hold your menus. A chandelier made of cards and pegs and coloured bar stools and banquet seating to contrast the otherwise white surrounds. Its well thought out and it feels informal and inviting. (scroll down a little for more information)
Now while surrounds may make you walk through the door it will be the food, drink and service which make you stay and indeed come back. So how well does Urchin stack up against its rivals in Dublin. First I should point out again I was a guest but the review is wrapped in honesty and topped with balance just as it should be. I’ve also been back for cocktails at my own expense so there is that balance I mentioned.
The Drinks at Urchin
Drinks wise they have a mix of cocktails, beers, wines and spirits. On my first visit I stuck to cocktails which range in price from about €13 upwards. I wouldn’t consider them over priced in comparison with the rest of the Dublin cocktail bars. Personally I thought they were excellent. The team at Cliff Townhouse have won awards for their cocktails so they have the accolades to back up what they are serving.
A particular favourite they are serving off menu is the Ferrero Rocher cocktail. Literally like drinking an actual Ferrero Rocher, it comes served with one clipped to the stem of the glass. Pure indulgence it has to be said. I doubt I would be able to drink more than two or three in a row. Other cocktails which we tried out included the Spychee and the Skyscraper all of which were enjoyable but perhaps there was a hint too much sweetness.
The Food at Urchin
The menu as the name would suggest is seafood led so if seafood is not your thing then I’d suggest perhaps sticking to the cocktails. There are of course worse things to stick to. The majority of the dishes are more bite size/canapés in size or serving. I wouldn’t necessarily say its a menu that provides a substantial dinner, more a bite to eat (literally) along with your drinks and chats. The dishes are also a little more unusual than you will find on most menus. Dundalk Razor clam served with seaweed salad, pomegranate and lemon emulsion (€4). It’s an Instagram dream the way it is presented and I’ve spotted similar shots to mine doing the rounds.
Also on the menu, octopus served with potato, green cabbage and paprika (€4). Sea urchin with celery, preserved tomato and “cocktail” hollandaise (€8). To balance out the seafood offerings you will also find Irish pork served in a lettuce leaf with mushroom, yogurt and seafood crunch (€5). The pork was sensational and my guest practically inhaled the organic duck liver encased in a Choux bun (€4). Price wise you would not be long racking up a hefty bill between two people if you arrived famished.
Urchin is something different in a busy Dublin dining scene. The food is innovative and presented beautifully and I suspect it will garner a loyal following. It won’t be to everyone’s taste and that is perfectly fine. The cocktails will appeal to a wider audience. On my return visit (paid for) the sun was shining and the outside terrace was packed with a buzzing after work crowd. Overall I say well done to the team at Urchin for creating something a little daring and I wish them every success.
You will find Urchin in the basement area of Cliff Townhouse at 22 St. Stephens Green.