J.W Sweetman

What makes a pub a pub? Some are easier classified than others – Mulligan’s, The Palace, Bowe’s: all exemplary specimens. But one tends to stumble upon grey areas when looking at more modern establishments.

We’ve touched on hotel bars in a previous post and we all agree that the bog standard Jury’s or Hilton bar isn’t a pub. But what about when it comes to trendy nightlife spots? You know the type – loud tunes, pricey gargle and scantily clad young-wans all over the shop. What classification are these places worthy of amongst the city’s licensed premises? It was in these wonderings that we definited a rule, and for posterity’s sake it’s only appropriate to word it in a manner befitting of a Leaving Certificate mathematics text book.

Dublin By Pub’s theorem states that a premises which holds a license to serve intoxicating liquor for consumption may only be classified as a public house in the event that said premises be available to accommodate a funeral gathering from the earliest time at which it is legally allowed to begin service at.

So if I can’t come in and cry about me dead granny over a pint at an ungodly hour, it’s not a pub! Anyway, I’ve really went off on a tangent here, and with good reason. You might pass Sweetmans of a Saturday night and mistake it for the aforementioned trendy spots given the loud tunes and large crowd, but you would be mistaken for doing so.

Sprawled over 4 floors, this pub is one which has often been the saving grace of manys the night when the two sexes found themselves at loggerheads over where to go. Offering dance worthy music and old school pints overlooking the Liffey all under the one roof: Sweetmans is a pub which caters for all. The wooden clad interior of the pub is in harmony with the old quayside building it dwells within.

The beer is an good mix of craft (the house porter being a personal favourite) and mainstream which further ads to the global appeal factor. The crowd is a healthy mix of Dublin footfall.

Sweetman’s is certainly one the most globally appealing choice of shops in town. We spent Paddy’s Day just gone here and couldn’t but recommend it for a group night on the lock.,

​The Dawson Lounge: Dawson St.

The Dawson Lounge is a pub in the city which is the envy of many, or at least a few others. This bar is the official holder of a coveted title which some of its competitors have bestowed upon themselves – and just like that cheeky last pint the narky barman begrudgingly sold you a half past last call – there may only be one.

The smallest pub in Dublin: The Lotts and The Confession Box may have vied for this title but you can take it on good authority from this claustrophobic and spatially unaware writer that The Dawson Lounge is the most diminutive of all the boozers in the capital. Passers-by need only observe the simple door with a tiny sign atop –which makes up the pubs frontage – in order to recognise that no pub comes tinier than this.
To enter this boozer one must follow in the footsteps of artists such as The Jam and Jamiroquai and Go Underground. Once of a subterranean disposition, punters have a limited choice of seats, if any choice at all. The lighting is as dim as you’d expect a windowless space to be. Dark wooden tones with deep reds make up the overall hue of the pub. Tasteful down-lit paintings occupy select wall space within the pub and overall it’s a pleasant looking room.

We found the WC to be a bit of a talking point too. We particularly liked the engineering of the cubicle door which is cleverly cut down the middle so that it can navigate its clearing without obstruction. The bar too makes good use of limited space, it being tucked neatly and efficiently into a small corner of the room. The pint we’ve always found to be of a high standard and the staff to be a good bunch too.

Overall we’re fairly keen on this shop. It’s good and cosy when you can catch a seat and it’s an experience having a scoop in such a small pub. It’s also the only bar of all those on Dawson St that’s worth drinking in.

Peter’s Pub: Johnson Place

Remember back in school and there was always one classmate who had it all. Y’know the type – they’d arrive in at the start of the year having rambled 40 seconds down the road from their nearby palace, as you sat exhausted from your 5 mile hike. They’d regale the scores of friends, all gathered round, with wondrous tales from their epic summer in Disneyland – while you tried to extol the virtues of Tramore to anyone cared enough to listen. They’d take their pristine, polythene covered books from a new branded schoolbag as you wrestled with the wallpaper clad monstrosities in your generic bargain store sack…. You get the idea.
And all in all you never exactly disliked this particular classmate, it’s just that you knew they didn’t appreciate all that they had. Peter’s evokes this same feeling
Peter’s pub sits idyllically along a picturesque vista at the end of South William St. It’s exterior is fairly plain which tallies with its interior which is also without frills giving that it’s another telly-less of the capital’s boozers. On paper it should be up with the top pubs in town. It isn’t.
The interior of the bar is uncomplicated. White walls offset any darkness of wooden fixtures. The seating is upholstered in an unusual shade of blue. In total it’s not harsh on the eyes, although some of the lads did find the white to be a touch austere and the lighting to be too bright.
Now, the craic! To convey the extent of how craicless this place was upon our visit, one should think of an atmosphere so sterile that you could manufacture pharmaceuticals in it. Grim! But not to worry, surely the pint will make up for all these misgivings I hear you wonder. No such luck. Previous readers will know about our grievances when it comes to paying over €5 for a jar of stout, and yes – we’re begrudgingly coming to realise that a 5 quid note just won’t cut it in many central establishments but to pay €5.(fucking)40 for a bitter, almost headless pint of slop is near on unforgivable.
Peter’s is a tough one to take. If it was a kip one could simply write it off and forget about it. But to see so much potential so fully wasted is almost torturous.

​The Glimmer Man: Stoneybatter

Being well-watered with pints and reinvigorated from the jolt of life a few new recruits bring to a session, we approached The Glimmer Man hungry for a bit of craic. We hadn’t had much of an experience in the pub we’d been to prior so we needed this pub to light a brighter spark. Arriving into the bar we were met by a group of disapproving locals who greeted us by flinging open a door that they were sat next to. They then kindly informed us that “de lounge’s in there lads”, to which we took umbrage.

 

We rebutted to their directions with pint-loudened indignation and enquired after them as to why we weren’t worthy of drinking in the bar. Sizing us up their spokesperson decided that a t-shirt one of us had worn on the day was the suitable reason for our disqualification. The t-shirt in question was a WWE t-shirt which read “JUST BRING IT” in bold white font. (We’ve mentioned the genesis of shirt in our Red Parrot & Delahunty’s posts previously). Anyway, suffice it to say that this t-shirt wasn’t being worn by choice.

As we digested the reason for our disbarment, one of us spotted that another of the locals was wearing a t-shirt which read “Last Night a BJ Saved My Life”. As we all debated the merits of which t-shirt was more ridiculous the two owners of the offending garments decided that a trade was in order. With the swap complete hilarity ensued and peace resumed in the valley once more.


Accepted into the fold, we sat nearby the locals and tucked into some well poured pints. The Glimmer Man is a great looking pub. The Bar’s stained glass windows and high ceilings give the place a refreshingly roomy feel. We found the chairs in the bar to be a bit mismatched to the overall look though.

The lounge is another world altogether. One could spend days wandering around the space taking in all the paraphernalia which litters the pub. Dropping in for a look at Charlie Haughey and Maggie Thatcher hanging out in a bed affixed to the ceiling is nearly reason enough for a visit alone. We’ll definitely be back to have a closer look at the lounge.

The Glimmer Man is one of the highlights of the Stoneybatter drinking scene. Well recommended.

Clarke’s City Arms: Prussia St.

With its gothic doors, hanging baskets and polished panel windows all facing the uninspiring scene painted by the carpark across the road – Clarkes City Arms is a pub which sits charmingly enough on Prussia St.

Standing in the vicinity of this boozer I can’t say that my own mind came to conjure up visions of landmark Dublin history but as it happens, the address of the pub is one which is quite the hallowed plot in terms of iconic historical Dubliners.

55 Prussia St is the former address of the City Arms Hotel – a hotel which was frequented by one James Joyce who did the premises the service of mentioning it a number of times in his novel – Ulysses. Along with being catalogued in what is arguably the most famous Irish novel of all time, this address is also historically enriched with regard to Dublin’s drinking culture. The building which was to become the aforementioned hotel began life as an estate owned by the family Jameson, of international whiskey renown.

We were in Clarke’s of a Saturday afternoon and suffice it to say that we’re not threatening to dethrone James Joyce any time soon. Much as we might have tried we were scarce to find too much inspiration upon our visit. The jaded aesthetic consisting of carpet and wood panelling combo was about as stale as the atmosphere at the time. Perhaps we arrived in the downtime but it was fierce quiet for us.

With a mind to not being entirely negative we hasten to add that Clarke’s has great potential. A bit of a shine and a polish to bring out the charm of the bar certainly wouldn’t go amiss. It would certainly be a great service to great pint that pours here, to the capable staff that pours it and to Joyce and the Jamesons and all.

Kavanagh’s: Aughrim St.

It’s gas the things you pick up when you’re trying to add some substance to these DBP posts. I say this having spent the previous twenty minutes googling what the correct architectural term for that cone shaped window-box type structure on the corner of the pub in the picture is – all in the hope that I could start this post some sort of semi-intelligent sounding blurb. Anyhow the structure is called a turret and suffice it to say that we haven’t encountered too many of them on our travels before. As we approached Kavanagh’s we wondered whether the interior of the pub would live up to the expectation set by the striking exterior and in the author’s opinion it most certainly did.

Alike many of the pubs we’ve been posting about lately –Kavanagh’s boasts bespoke wooden panelling. This partitions the bar into two main sections: a smaller snug area beyond the threshold and the larger bar en masse. The generous allocation of window space coupled with the large light speckled tiles (which some of the lads weren’t too fond of due to their resemblance to those in their secondary school) make the bar a far brighter space than the lounge.

The main talking point of the interior of the pub however was something which was as unique to the Dublin pub experience as the turret on the outside is. A colourful panoramic mural depicting a Spanish themed matador scene spans the considerably long wall space atop the bar. When enquiring about it we were reliably informed by the barwoman that it (painted by local art students years ago) is thought to depict the tale of an affair if read in one way but can been interpreted in different ways depending on how it’s read. She then went on to tell us how the aforementioned controversial floor tiles matched those in the local church too.

We propped up against the bar in the larger section of the room and found ourselves on the receiving end of three creamy pints. The bar was empty enough but we enjoyed a bit of neighbourly rivalry between a few of the locals one being an Englishman who was taking a bit of a slagging upon a Scottish equalizer in the ongoing world cup qualifier. Top pub, we’d return in an instant.

The Flowing Tide: Abbey St.

Sitting on the intersection of Marlborough and Abbey Street, a stone’s throw away from the famed abbey theatre sits a pub named The Flowing Tide. The pub occupies a space upon a bustling streetscape between the wider city centre and umpteen bus termini leaving it to act as a conduit to the tide of commuters, shoppers and addicts going about their daily routines.

In all of the years and years I spent passing by this pub on my way to and from town I had never set foot in it until relatively recently. The reason for this is one I never quite figured out. It may have been some sort of subconscious allegiance to the nearby Sean O Casey’s – which was my father’s town local. Whatever the reason, a precedence had been set and I was to spend years ignoring The Flowing Tide, and what a silly ignorance that was.

When we first set out to check out The Flowing Tide we all had our reservations, the local ne’er-do-wells that tend to frequent Abbey St led us to believe that this pub would be one that continued the theme from outside within the pub. How utterly wrong we were. First of all the lighting. Other pubs take note – the lighting here is the optimum amount of light one should strive to illuminate their bar with. Bright enough to read the paper and dim enough to mask the quarter pint of porter you’ve spilled down your front in excitement.

The overall appearance of the pub is kind to the eyes. The exposed brickwork toward the end of the bar tallies well with the wooden floors and the cream walls elsewhere. Celtic knot work adorns spots across the walls and serves to break the mundanity of the cream hue nicely. The stained glass windows aafford the pub a more spiritual edge while pictures across the walls are varied and encompass plenty of nods to the abbey scattered throughout.

The pint we’ve always found to be of a high standard and have yet to have a bad one. There’s toasties made with batch bread on the go too if you’re so inclined.

Overall The Flowing Tide is a diamond in the rough. A characterful boozer pouring good pints and only a stone’s throw from the bus stop. Why would you wait for a bus anywhere else.

​The Ginger Man: Fenian St.

Once upon a December “morning” we were seeking the cure from the previous night’s damage, having mustered up just enough adrenalin to dress and wash we caught a train toward town and set out to find a suitable boozer. Adding urgency to this quest was December’s icy bite which was penetrating our layers with ease. Having disembarked at Pearse station we, for reasons forgotten now, forewent the standard procedure of ducking into the first pub that met our eyeline. Standing on a traffic island at the top of Westland Row we found ourselves met with two clichéd choices: left or right. Upon this occasion we chose left and happened upon The Ginger Man which beaconed upon December’s dreary dusk as if a hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Now, The Gingerman is fine spot all year round, but Christmas time is when this pub is at its best. Festooned in more sparkling bric-a-brack than you could shake a Christmas tree at the pub is a treat to any festive set of eyes. Each Christmas sees the ceiling affixed with a forest of twigs which act as a frame to support the hanging of baubles, fairy-lights, mistletoe, angels, stars and anything else of the festive variety you can think of.

The pub – a namesake of J. P. Donleavy’s magnum opus, is said to be a favourite spot of another famous gingerman: one Enda Kenny – something we won’t hold against them. It’s an interestingly put together pub insofar that one of the most identifying features visitors are met with  is gothic wooden panelling which sits on the back wall of the bar. The bar itself is curved along its span gives it an interesting edge (pun intentional). The seating is standard stuff, small stools with built in benching which warrants no complaints. The pint is great, a few very creamy scoops were imbibed upon a recent visit which was in keeping with the memory of prior pints. There’s a good mix of craft stuff and more mainstream brews on the go too, they even do a few house beers too.

We’re quite fond of the gingerman overall. It’s a dependable shop for a decent pint and a definite must for a few cosy Christmas pints when the time comes around.