In an era when pubs and restaurants seem to rise and fall in the blink of an eye, the Camden Exchange in Dublin 2 had a rather long gestation period before it opened its doors a few weeks ago.
Located on the increasingly lively Camden Street, the new pub/restaurant was developed on the site of an old warehouse where the exterior shots of RTE series Raw were once shot. Seeing as it was only the exteriors that were shot here, there was no suitable infrastructure in place when they arrived, meaning the Camden Exchange had to build and licence itself from the ground up.
But despite not offering an infrastructural leg up to the new proprietors, the Raw series had a crucial impact on the fate of the new venue. Manager Vincent Smith recalls the day a ‘For Sale’ sign in the window of the location caught the attention of the future owners of Camden Exchange.
After establishing contact with the building’s owner they found the space was not actually for sale. “They were shooting a scene for Raw and the restaurant was for sale in the series. It was a prop ‘For Sale’ sign,” recalls Vincent. “He said it’s not actually for sale – we said we’re just looking for premises at the moment. And he said well come down, we’ll have a chat. That was three years ago.”
The long drawn out task of converting a new space into a place people would like to come to eat and drink gave the owners plenty of time to consider every aspect of their presentation. Of particular interest is the menu, which identifies each of its mains by the animal that provides the main mean; cow (beef brisket), fish (hake goujons), pig (rolled pork belly) etc. The mains are selling for €8 each and the Share N’Graze starters are selling for €6 each or €15 for three.
The new premises also has a strong ethos (“Industrial chic” as Vincent describes it), that incorporates much of the infrastructure of the space’s previous life as a bank – the tile floors, brick walls and even an old bank vault – into the fabric of the new pub.
Sitting beside the old Citroen van which now acts as the serving point from the kitchen to the seating area, it’s obvious that Camden Exchange is successfully walking that narrow line where the industrial look is sufficiently warm to make it a comfortable place to relax.
[pull_quote_center]…he said well come down, we’ll have a chat. That was three years ago.[/pull_quote_center]
Even with a new close by Wetherspoons on the horizon, promising to bring cheap drink to the street, Vincent couldn’t be happier to be managing a pub and restaurant on Camden Street. “There had been other places on Harcourt street that had been selling cheap drink for a long time as well. I know there’s a hotel going in above [the new Wetherspoons] as well, so that’s more traffic. But I think anything that develops the street is a plus. Especially that building that they’re developing. It’s been derelict for a long time, so it’ll tie up the street quite well. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out, but I can only see it benefiting everybody really.”
Despite the strong focus on food, the beer selection is one of the more diverse on the street this side of Against the Grain. They have a number of Irish beers on tap and some guest taps which they plan to rotate in hopes of keeping up with what’s being produced here and abroad.
With all these qualities, the Camden Exchange is shaping up to be a welcome addition to a street which is finally getting the rejuvenation it requires.
For more information on Camden Exchange Dublin, visit their Facebook page.