Something big must be happening at Tom Bergin’s, right? After all, the restaurant, which has been closed for a rare Irish rehab since July, did the unthinkable and missed Saint Patrick’s Day last month, the Irish pub equivalent to showing up sober at missing your own wedding. Today, The L.A. Times reveals just what exactly the new owners, Dominick’s/Little Dom’s chef Brandon Boudet and partner Warner Ebbink, have in store for the 63-year-old Guinness-and-Irish coffee-serving classic.
The initial changes made were vital upgrades to the bar’s tap system and kitchen, which hadn’t been touched up much since the early seventies. The duo has also refreshed the bar’s backroom, giving it a touch of taste by hanging old Bergin’s menus and prints of racing horses on the walls. The u-shaped bar in the front has also been given a new sheen through a copper top.
But in the end, the changes are mostly minimal and cosmetic, rather than revolutionary, a good thing for L.A. history and the fuzzy memories of everyone whose cherished a dram here. Perhaps best exemplifying the new owners’ attentive focus on the nostalgia for the place, these partners painstakingly removed the bar’s mass of individual paper shamrocks, purchased by patrons for charity, which were then given a cleaning and reapplied after the walls were repainted. Ebbink even says, “I spent a lot of time sitting in every seat here and thinking about how this place feels.”
The good news is that the preservation didn’t extend to Boudet’s revamped menu, even if we fear those kind-of-good-when-you’re-wasted corned beef and cabbage spring rolls might not make the final cut. The chef, though he has no fighting Irish in him, is turning his talents towards crafting a menu of contemporary Irish food, hopefully giving L.A. its first taste of what’s coming out of the forward, locally-driven cosmopolitan kitchens of Belfast and Dublin these days. And maybe, what with the opening of The Pikey, the coming of a Gordon Ramsay local, and the continued success of Waterloo & City, we’re in for a full-scale Anglo/Celt takeback of the gastro-pub scene.
Boudet plans frequent market trips to fuel a menu of cottage pie croquettes, fried Cooleeney cheese, smoked trout with red Ogo seaweed, and a traditional breakfast of blood puddings, sausage, and soda bread with rashers. Cocktails will be handled by L.A.’s expert drinks duo, Marcos Tello and Aidan Demarest, with a focus on whiskey and beer. So far, it sounds like no one dares touch the Irish coffee recipe, though. But Bergin’s fans will find out later this month, when it reemerges with what sounds like a glowing refresh that adheres to the same strengths that made it a classic all along.