We had our first taste of Underbelly on Sunday. Now, before you get too jealous,it was a just a visual taste, a peek, that is; an amuse-oeil, if you will. To be plain, we were at Hay Merchant and couldn’t find a place to perch, so we walked around the building’s corner to the Underbelly wine bar, which opened last Friday, while the restaurant itself opens March 5.
Like Culturemap’s Sarah Rufca, we were hoping to get a good look at the interior, but had to settle for a glimpse from the wine bar. The bar itself is smallish and shaped like a triangle. The materials are simultaneously cool and woody, and the space felt oddly Scandinavian. And very different from Hay Merchant. In fact, walking the few steps between the two entrances, we felt like we’d entered a different world, emerging from the youthful exuberance of craft beer heaven to a sophisticated wine bar with a very polished looking clientele. (Rufca wrote Chris Shepherd devotees from Catalan were there on opening day.)
We didn’t actually consume anything at the Wine Bar—there was no room to sit there either. So we finally drove up Waugh to Rudyard’s, which had seating and comfort to spare. Happily, they’re on the Karbach bandwagon as well, so we had the Sympathy for the Devil Lager, which would be our new go-to beer even if it weren’t brewed in Houston.
It felt good to be in an old place drinking a new beer. Even if you can’t get into Hay Merchant (or “Hay Maker” as one confused seeker said the other day when he asked us for directions), you can still be served.
Every time we go to Rudz we remember what a visiting Brit journalist said when we took him there back in 1989. He was in the process of falling madly in love with Houston—a story for another time—and this love extended to Rudyard’s. “If only we had pubs like this in London,” he said, sounding overcome with envy.
That left us sputtering. “Don’t you?”
“Not like this, we don’t.” He seemed a little sad.