The Bank on College Green is now a bar and restaurant, but in 1892 it was the Dublin branch of the Allied Irish Bank. It’s also the best place in town to go for home-made seafood chowder in beautiful surroundings.
THE BANK is an award-winning bar and restaurant in the centre of the city, with log fires in winter, a very good wine list and an amazing Irish chef who produces everything from home-made brown bread to superb soup. I visited with an old friend from Elle magazine, Alicia Fulton. We ordered local oysters, hearty seafood chowder, a glass of wine and a bill arrived, which we thought was great for an award-winning restaurant. As you can see below, it really was once a grand banking hall, designed to impress Irish customers.
GOTHIC BEAUTY IN OLD DUBLIN
The old Allied Irish Bank, once the Belfast Bank (hence the BB initials in the stunning stained glass) was created in red sandstone, by the famous Irish architect William Henry Lynn.
Lynn specialised in Gothic buildings all over the country. The Bank is actually Ruskinian Venetian Gothic and has tiled floors, winding staircases and enormous chandeliers overhead. The new owners have turned it into an impressive place to dine, with local Irish history on display downstairs. If you have a small group, there is also a private dining room for six people if you want to close the door for a special occasion. The Bank is neither fussy nor formal, and it’s as relaxed as anywhere in Dublin.
Alicia and I dined with her children Leo and Miles upstairs on the balcony (ask for a table here when you book) and had a spectacular view of the entire restaurant. Rumour has it the balcony used to give bank officials a bird’s-eye view of the place, so they could observe their customers. The indoor potted palms are an authentic Victorian detail that probably wasn’t here in the old days, but I loved them – along with the bronzes on the walls, celebrating Irish legends, from freedom fighters to sports journalists. It looks and feels like a restaurant created by passionate locals, which is a lovely thing to find these days.
The menu is proudly Irish and the food is sourced fresh, locally, so it’s hard to resist half-a-dozen oysters. We were also very happy to be served complimentary pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, with Irish lemon curd.
BOOK AHEAD FOR THE BEST TABLE
If you want a table by the blazing log fire in winter, or you’d like the view from the balcony, it’s best to reserve a seat because this award-winning restaurant and bar is very popular. I can see why. The service is fast and friendly and it’s one of the rare restaurants where you can hear yourself talk, but also feel that the conversation is private. There is a hint of classical music in the background, but otherwise the atmosphere is peaceful, unhurried and very welcoming. The stunning stained glass ceilings let all the light in, even on a grey day – it’s a wonderful place to stop for lunch and stop the clock.