London is in comedown mode after the biggest party in its history appears to be coming to an end. And, as most of the planet will have seen in the opening and closing ceremonies now, what a party it was.
The games were rightly the focus of everyone’s attention. However, there have also been numerous cool events all over London at the Olympics national houses. Somewhat unfortunately, the ambitious Africa Village Olympic showcase had to close its doors a day early due to unpaid debt. Equally calamitously, another major Olympic national house, New Zealand’s Kiwi House, made the headlines for all the wrong reasons when a rogue exploding barbecue gas canister forced 300 people to evacuate the premises and almost burned the house to the ground.
These setbacks were never going to prevent me from checking out what had to be the best craic in town, since no-one but no-one parties like the Irish. The Irish House on Pentonville Road is just a five minute walk away from the Javelin. The whole of the King’s Cross area has been theme-parked for the Olympics, which is kind of a big deal when you realise that even ten years ago it was best known for kerb-crawlers and crack dealers. The new St Pancras station is maybe the biggest conservation and regeneration success story of London transport’s last decade. Inside, there’s the mighty Javelin, a preposterously effective high speed train which can propel you from Kings Cross to the Olympic venue in just seven minutes. For Londoners used to simply exiting the subway at Covent Garden taking three times longer than that, it’s a bit of a novelty.
The Irish House has been housed in the Big Chill, a cavernous three storey venue that rolls together the vibe of many different kinds of experiences into one. On arrival all guests are presented with an Irish flag, wristband, and a sort of slap on green bracelet, which the attractive Irish hostess gamely demonstrated on all of us.
In keeping with the Irish theme, the stage at the Big Chill hosted Kal Lavelle, Ed Sheeran’s recent support act, a U2 tribute band (of course…) and Paddy Keenan, the famous Irish uilleann piper, amongst many other great musicians. There are flatscreens everywhere to allow punters to cheer on Irish Olympians, and a very welcome full Irish breakfast on offer as well as other delicacies like potato pancakes.
Upstairs it just gets better, with a stunningly decorated, more formal lounge, and a very witty, “upside down” room, which is difficult to do justice to in photographs. In addition to having all its furniture glued or nailed to the ceiling, it even has wallpaper facing the wrong way up. Given the unusually fantastic weather, the most happening spot of all has been the gorgeous roof garden. There’s giant jenga, a full cinema screen showing the games, and of course, yet another bar well-stocked with Irish whiskies and other regional alcoholic delights.
Offering free admission during the day and a very family-friendly ambience, the venue takes on a more adult, club-like atmosphere in the evening, with an admission charge which did nothing to stop it being absolutely rammed nightly. Forget shamrocks and leprechauns, though: it’s a stylish, urbane and fiercely proud take on Irish culture that makes constant reference to the Olympics without overstatement.
Visiting the Irish House reminded me of what a sensational venue the Big Chill is the rest of time, and festivities continue with the Big Chill House residency through August and hip hop legend DJ Khalil. Later in the autumn there’s a compelling line-up for when the nights start drawing in, and a nostalgic tot of whiskey to toast the former Irish House will be more welcome than ever.Share This: