Nobody ever visits Houjie without making a pit stop at Irene’s bar. For over six years, one of Houjie’s hotspots was located behind the Hyatt hotel on the upper west side of the township. This year, the Hyatt changed its name to the Harriway and Irene’s simultaneously relocated.
Have no fear, it only moved 200 metres up the road and is now situated just behind the Sheraton Hotel. In fact, if you bear right and right again coming out of the Sheraton (with the HJ International hotel directly behind you), Irene’s is now the first place you see and probably hear. The original bar was unquestionably a success, hosting themed nights, along with a weekly quiz and regular acoustic sessions. Because of this, there was always a slight feeling that the venue wasn’t quite big enough for what was going down.
Many a night would entail a struggle finding a seat and the joint was always a tad cramped. The bar now has heaps more space, with an upstairs private area. Although the new Irene’s has already had a soft opening, the official launch party is scheduled for the end of May. The lovely Irene is generally found meandering through the place, offering a dazzling smile and rapport at whatever table she settles. The other half of the operation is her hubby Marcus: a patriotic Kiwi, pretty much guaranteed to be surrounded by a group of guys at any given time. Marcus is also well-known for having played countless gigs with local rock band, Revolution.
When I recently asked Marcus about what the move meant for the bar he explained, “We may have changed the location, but we have tried to make the changes evolutional, rather than revolutional. Our DNA is still the same.”
For me, that sentence encapsulates Irene’s: a lively and welcoming sports and music spot with cold beer and pub grub on hand. While not exactly a restaurant, Irene’s does frequently serve home-style cooking for their trivia nights and sports events. Their pork sandwich on the snack menu is a favorite of mine.
The new open-plan design cuts the claustrophobia and I’m happy to report that they brought some of the log tables from the original bar to keep the same mood as their original location.
At first, I admit the new space seemed a touch strange and unfamiliar—almost as if it wasn’t Irene’s—but when the hosts started working the crowd and the booze started flowing, I realized I was truly back in the place I have long come to know and love.
Find the bar here.