27, 2003 — Nestled
between Mount Bakery and the fabulous new Black Drop coffee shop
on downtown's West Champion Street, the Temple Bar is a
delightful find. Open for business since last September, this
dimly lit wine bar is ideal for an after-work drink, light meal
or late-night date spot.
I was initially drawn to the Temple Bar because of its name.
Owner Liz Dean chose the moniker in homage to the lively Temple
Bar area of Dublin, Ireland, a place I've visited and love.
But don't mistake Bellingham's version of Temple Bar for a
traditional Irish pub; the name was chosen because of the artsy
feeling Dublin's Temple Bar evoked for Dean on her two visits to
The first time I tucked into the Temple Bar was for a
Friday-night after-work drink with my husband and our friend
Kris. Since the wine bar had only been open for a short time, we
were curious to see what it was all about.
The décor is my idea of eatery nirvana. Mismatched chairs
mosey around a hodgepodge of heavy battered wood tables of
different sizes, while soaring moss-green walls are lined with
black bead-board wainscoting. Decorative touches include gilded
mirrors and lush, red velvet curtains. Candles flicker on each
table, and an organized jumble of wine bottles clutter a counter
that separates the preparation area from the seating space.
306 W. Champion St.
Hours: 4 p.m. to midnight, Tuesday through
Serving: An impressive array of wines,
cheeses, salads and light entrées served in an artsy,
Menu items sampled: Cheese and fruit plate $7
Prosciutto and provolone crostini $6
Mediterranean crostini $5
Balsamic dip $4.50
Caprese salad $5.50
Cold-smoked salmon salad $6.50
Pistachio bowl $2.50
Zinfandel/Carignan/Sangiovese "ZCS" $6
Seven Peaks Shiraz $6.50
Hot chocolate $2.50 San
Pelligrino Aranciata $2.50
Dean definitely knows her wines, and she offers an impressive
selection. When we asked for wine suggestions, she knew the
lingo and effortlessly answered our questions about a variety of
vino on the list, from the 2000 Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio to a
1999 Seven Peaks Shiraz.
We enjoyed delightful drinks and ordered a fruit plate.
Although the cheese selection was impressive, the overall
portion was paltry. We counted four slices of cheese, a couple
of apple and orange slices, a few grapes and three wedges of
crusty French bread.
The sublime cheeses included Chaource, chevre d'affinois,
tomme de chevre and Rochebaron. Daily cheeses are listed in a
flourish of cursive writing on a black board propped up on the
counter. If, like me, you aren't sure what they are, there's a
handy book on French cheeses available for thumbing through.
If it had been served on a smaller plate, we might not have
noticed how small the serving was, but on the full-sized china
plate, the empty space overwhelmed.
In the end, we laughed it off and knew it wouldn't deter us
from returning. The ambience and wine selection were both more
than enough to make me look forward to my next visit.
I returned with my friend Julie a week or so later and had an
all-around satisfying experience. We both ordered open-face,
toasted crostini sandwiches and picked away at a bowl of warm
pistachios while we sipped wine and waited for our entrées.
Julie enjoyed a prosciutto and provolone crostini with
mayonnaise and tomato, while I went with the Mediterranean
crostini, each toasted round layered with olive tapenade, fresh
mozzarella and tomato, then dusted with bits of fresh flat-leaf
parsley. Both crostini were simple, tasty affairs.
For an additional $2, I added mixed greens tossed with a
tangy vinaigrette, resulting in a filling feast.
As seems true with everything on the Temple Bar's menu, our
sandwiches paired with our wine and would have been fitting with
any of the port, sherry or beer you'll also find at the Temple
By now I was a fast fan of the Temple Bar and had spread the
word among my friends and colleagues. It didn't take much
convincing to get my friend Susan to join me for a mid-week
drink, dinner and conversation.
Even on a Wednesday night, the place was nearly full, with an
interesting array of patrons ranging from a solo laptop user in
the front window, an older couple enjoying glasses of port and
two large groups of boisterous twentysomethings and
thirtysomethings clearly enjoying after-work drinks.
One thing I'd noted on previous visits: The Temple Bar can be
a bit noisy. Blame it on the tall ceilings or the music
sometimes turned up just a notch too loud; some might find it
occasionally difficult to hold a conversation. The decibel
level, like so many things at Temple Bar, reminded me all the
more of my Dublin experiences, and I didn't find it distracting.
Susan and I ordered a handful of things to try, including
balsamic dip, caprese salad and cold-smoked salmon salad.
Susan settled on a glass of Zinfandel/Carignan/Sangiovese,
while I ordered San Pellegrino Aranciata
— not because I don't like wine, but
because I've been on a kick lately; an Italian deli near my
office sells the sparkling orange beverage, and I've become
The balsamic dip arrived first, four thick, bias-cut slices
of French bread encircling a shallow bowl of olive oil finished
with a generous dollop of balsamic vinegar settled in the
bottom. Two gigantic Medjool dates sat on the rim of the china
plate, divided with a sprig of curled parsley, alongside a small
silver serving bowl of mixed olives.
Our salads were just as fantastic as the balsamic dip. Susan
declared the caprese the best she's had in Bellingham, its
circle of small Roma tomato slices and fresh mozzarella
accompanied plentiful baby greens and a thick balsamic-based
dressing served on the side.
My salad also starred those fabulous baby greens, topped with
substantial slabs of cold-smoked salmon, two thick rings of
sweet red pepper, heaps of capers, a couple of olives and tangy
vinaigrette in an utterly delightful mingling of flavors.
Before it was time to go, I ordered a hot chocolate, as it
seemed appropriate for that rainy day. Dean served it with the
caveat that she doesn't generally make hot chocolate very sweet
and I was to let her know immediately if I wasn't satisfied. Au
contraire, it was a cheering cup of cocoa, complete with frothy
whipped cream floating on top. She checked in again a couple
minutes later, and I let her know I was pleased.
Regular readers of this column may recall my ravings about
Mount Bakery desserts last year. Yet another reason to go to
Temple Bar is its dessert offerings, brought over daily by Mount
Bakery owner Olivier Vrambout. Chocolate torte, crème brûlée,
— anything made by Vrambout is
guaranteed to satisfy.
Dean chose Temple Bar's locale with the Pickford Cinema in
mind, knowing that the movie house will eventually move to new
Bay Street digs just steps away. I can't think of a better place
to end an evening for a drink and discussing the latest foreign
film or art flick.