April 25, 2010
935 W. Eastland Ave.
Nashville, TN 37206
The skinny: Great experience. We’d go back for their drinks, knowing that we’re paying coinage for the urban vibe and din, as well as the cocktail know-how and history. The food is good gastro-pub affair.
At center stage in this newly renovated brick building is a large, welcoming four-sided bar. Natural wood, exposed roof beams and brick walls give the place an urban, organic feel, barely lit by ornate chandeliers. The dimmed light glimmers off the crystal prisms and the myriad of liquor bottles. The crowd–from hipsters and neighborhood folks to trans-river visitors–seemed comfortable and content in the dark milieu. (It was too dark for photos.)
Holland House is quickly gaining a reputation, as a cocktail and food establishment. It’s a venture led by folks from the now-closed Ombi (one of our old favorite haunts), Terry Raley and Laura Wilson, along with Christian Dye, who hails from Miro District and Watermark. (Go here for more of HH’s origins.)
They focus on elaborate, historical cocktails. There’s an entire menu of hand-crafted drinks that span from the late nineteenth century to the prohibition period, stateside–a period heavy on the gin, aka the “Golden Age of the American Cocktail”. The cocktail names alone are delectable: Chelsea Sidecar, Straits Sling, Rum Swizzle, Caravella Mojito, Peach Julep. All for the flat price of $10/each. Pickled ordered an enjoyable Ramos Gin Fizz and then a glass of white wine. The server was spot on with her suggestion of a sauvignon blanc, L’Arpent des Vaudons Francois Merieau. I, however, am going through a vodka phase and just wanted either a vodka martini or vodka on the rocks. Due to their allegiance to a historical period preceding the importation of vodka, their vodka selection was limited, and there was a reluctance to make a vodka martini. We respect the historical fidelity, but wonder how long it will last. The bar didn’t stock cocktail olives, so they brought some out from the kitchen. Accommodating, though they still charged me a pricey $10 for each drink. Besides a boutique-ey wine list, they also have high gravity, high octane beers.
Food-wise: The menu offers a couple of salads, some samplers and dip snacks, small plates, and featured entrees. The entrees looked a bit too meat-heavy ($12-$19)–with the exception of a local veggie plate, and no seafood. So we opted for a bunch of small plates ($8-$12), sized in between tapas and entree portions. From our most to least favorite: grilled crab sausages, house steak tartare, fish and chips, spinach and fennel salad, and the pork belly confit. We could taste all the sausages’ subtle elements, which went well together. The tartare, with a raw quail egg on top, rivaled some of the better tartare we’ve had. The fish and chips had the right crisp-, fried-, and hot-ness. The portion, however, was tiny, even for a “small plate.” The pork belly confit was an open-face BLT, the pork was overcooked–killing all tenderness and richness of pork belly. Didn’t work. Our meal for two just exceeded the Benjamin mark, plus tip.
Initially, the good folks attempted to push Nashville’s taste buds with dishes like “honeyfire” duck feet and steamed littleneck clams. But Nashville wasn’t quite open-minded enough for such gnawing. Let’s hope that all of the Holland House’s vision and artistry–from their cocktails to their food–aren’t hemmed in by our un-adventurous tastes.
Make your reservations.