Brannigan’s: Cathedral St.

Sitting in the shadows of the Pro-Cathedral and just off the main thoroughfare of O’Connell St. lies a boozer by the name of Brannigan’s. The pub which is named after an infamous Dublin Gard who would offer his detainees the option of duking it out in lieu of traditional state-sanctioned justice, is one which evaded us for many years. I should in this instance start by commending Brannigan’s on their website, which gives a great history of the pub and its surrounding locality, and is well worth a read. Over the years we’d been in a mere handful of times and we recently ventured in to remind ourselves of what the pub was like.

A more effulgent shop compared to most of its contemporaries, the pub is no standard fare when it comes to drinking establishments across the city. Large gothic arches overhang the open space which provides a good mixture of high and low seating. The seating itself is upholstered in vibrant stripes which complement the light coloured walls nicely. Flourishes of darker tones of wood add reminders of more prevailing décor throughout and overall we couldn’t argue with the pub’s aesthetic. The most notable feature of the pub, to us anyway, was the cumulation of portraits across the walls. Well executed and striking painted and drawn images of famous faces provide fodder on subjects aplenty, from history to literature to sport and to music, all bases are covered.

We last wandered in of a Saturday afternoon when the bar was busy, a steady stream of young sportswear buyers presumably replaced the steady stream of old dears from the nearby branch of Boyers which had been repurposed as a sports megastore. We ordered out usual jars of stout from the bar which was well decorated with surrendered foreign denominations. We were returned a few well poured pints which were sank with zero complaints. We stayed for a few pints and conversed on subjects stemming from the aforementioned portraits along with discussing the stairs down to the gents which seemed to have been left out of the latest refurbishment.

We’d certainly return to Brannigan’s at a moment’s notice. It’s a nice boozer with an easy going pace about itself. Well recommended.

Devitt’s: Camden St.

I wonder if you’ve ever found yourself, at some stage in your life, completely contradicting values that you hold dear for no other good reason than gut reaction? This happened to us a number of weeks ago when we wandered into the newly refurbished and newly managed Devitt’s of Camden St which has instiled in us a sense of ambivalence that no other pub ever has.

 

 

Devitt’s, as we knew it, was a family run GAA pub which offered the normality of a local atmosphere amidst the madness of an ever trendier Camden St. Aesthetically traditional, it was just another decent Dublin boozer – wooden flooring and carpet sectionalised areas for high and low seating while dividers aplenty broke up the bar and created nooks and crannies. It was a pub that was aging nicely and the pick of Camden St. in our humble opinion.

During 2017 we heard through various channels that the pub had been sold to a group and that the new owners were quick to put their money where their mouth is, deciding to finance a full refurbishment – news which we had received with much trepidation. Now this is where the contradictions start, so please bear with us. The new fit out is fine – The exterior is immaculate; it would be easily argued that the façade of Devitt’s is the now finest pub frontage from The Grand Canal to Dame St. The interior is, for all intents and purposes, also fine– dark wood, wooden floor, drinking paraphernalia along the walls, it’s everything we look for and if it were a brand new pub that had been installed into a bare shell it would be fine. But it just didn’t sit right with us.

We’ve been pondering this for the last few weeks and our reasoning for not taking to this particular renovation is loosely described in the following sentiment. Essentially Devitts’ new proprietors have thrown the baby out with the bathwater, they’ve literally taken an actual real life old Irish pub and replaced it with a fit out that’s designed to look like an actual real life old Irish pub. They’ve gutted authentic worn in fixtures and fittings and replaced them with faux, pre-worn flatpack versions of themselves. It’s simply an act that we can neither abide nor understand. Imagine if The Stags Head or The Long Hall went for a psychedelic vibe in the 1960s, or went all disco ball in the 70s. What a disaster that would have been.

But what’s done is done and when we arrived we had to reluctantly admit that the new owner’s investment was evidently paying off. An ironic version of a Ronan Keating tune was being blasted out by an energetic duo to a willing crowd which was comprised of a younger demographic than one would have associated with Devitt’s previously. G&T bowls aplenty glistened in the shimmer of Christmas lighting and the overall atmosphere in the pub sounded akin to that one would hear upon passing a temple bar pub on a Saturday afternoon. This wasn’t exactly to our taste.

Determined to not be the grumpy aul bastards in the corner we did decide to focus on the positives. First of all the pint – well poured and very well priced given the location, we couldn’t fault Devitt’s one iota here and can only urge they keep up the good work in this regard. Secondly we had to commend the inclusion of the pub’s GAA heritage within the décor, in particular the maintaining of the beloved porcelain GAA player figurines that any former patrons of Devitt’s will likely remember with much fondness.

In our departure from the pub we couldn’t help but ponder the future for the humble family run Dublin boozer. With way that economics seem to work in Ireland, the sad likelihood is that more and more cherished family run pubs will fall afoul of wealthy groups and chains. We’d like to take this opportunity to issue a warning to these buyers. Pubs are our culture! Sterilising and homogenising them, depending on the flavour of the moment, for the purpose of profit will only ultimately run them into the ground. Then they will render no use – economically or culturally. Look at the most popular of the pubs in Dublin. All of them are dozens or even decades old with only minor aesthetic change throughout the years.

So if you do buy an aging pub, hold off on that big refurbishment, a return on investment is only a century or two away.

Shanahan’s The Coombe

It’s fair to say that we’re fond of drinking in The Liberties, we find that having a pint there tends to make us suburban dwellers feel more authentically Dublin. That said, we’re no experts, and a while back when we had finished up a few pints in Fallon’s and were considering our next course of action one of the lads suggested that we tip down to Shanahan’s for a look. The only response I could muster to this suggestion was to wonder aloud as to where in the name of jaysis that could be.

 

 

This is a case in point about why Ireland and Dublin are a wandering pub lover’s paradise. The haphazard, ad-hoc street layout afforded to our home soil gives rise to little hidden nooks and crannies that could only be dreamt of in the symmetrical gridded streets of the USA. Following the trail of The Coombe we tipped on down toward Shanahan’s.

The pub is unassumingly situated amidst residential properties of varying types, a plain red facade fronts the pub which is of a small to medium size. We headed towards the raised section at the back and were greeted by a very welcoming barman who quickly furnished us with three top notch pints, even delivering them to our table.

The fit out of the pub was traditional yet the furniture looked relatively modern – it being in a fairly clean shape. The locals were in good form and left us to it when our conversation became a bit heated with the drink after we disregarded one of the golden rules of drinking and steered the conversation toward a political nature.

Once we had all settled down and had managed to find common ground again we agreed that we’d happily return to the pub, as we left and were bade a farewell by the friendly barman we vowed to do so before the year expired.

Tommy O Gara’s: Stoneybatter

One of the best things about Dublin city from the perspective of three trainee pintmen is the layout of pubs across the city. The convenient proliferation of drinking establishments along single avenues is an aspect of the city that facilitates fantastic sessions.

 

 

We’re often confused when people pay outside entities to organise pub crawls for them. I mean, it’s not exactly open heart surgery. Here’s the secret to a good pub crawl – pick a street with 5 or more boozers and drink your way from one end to another. Right!? You all owe me a tenner.

We undertook one such crawl during the summer and it has swiftly become the crawl we find ourselves recommending the most: The Stoneybatter Mile – Hanlon’s to the Cobblestone. This is a crawl that caters for all demographics, it has the traditional, the quirky and the crafty, then comes Tommy O Gara’s.

We almost immediately agreed that this boozer was alike a country pub that had been scooped from its foundations beyond the pale and planted square in the centre of Stoneybatter. The aesthetic is a common one seen throughout the country – mild wooden tones meld with carpet upon entrance as the space opens up to embrace tiled flooring toward the back of the bar. We recognised straight away that this was a solid GAA pub, not only from the ephemera across the walls but also due to the prominence given to the Leinster Semi Final between Kilkenny and Wexford which left soccer fans to seek the clashing international fixtures elsewhere.

Sitting toward the back at one of the type of tables you might recall from The Snapper (those with an additional tier to in order to facilitate the storage of more pints) we devoured three well-crafted pints and took in the hurling. As the match drew to a close, the lads, being better versed in the topic of popular competitive sports than I, deemed the pub to be the best spot for a match in Stoneybatter. Me, I’d happily return to watch flies race if needs must.

O Gara’s is a good no-nonsense pub, and a fine antithesis to the notions of a Stoneybatter that seems to be ever-gentrifying .

Briody’s: Marlborough St.

It’s funny how places can become romanticized in your head sometimes. Take Marlborough St for example – the street which is freshly paved with new tram tracks and ready to welcome the Luas, and all the rejuvenation that it brings, is one which relatively few Dubliners will have many romantic ideas about. The stretch of the street which Briody’s lies upon (as it’s recalled in my head) wasn’t much to look at, and if it weren’t for Dublin Bus carrying hordes of commuters into the area it surely would have been a no-go area.

 

 

Nonetheless, Marlborough St. is one of the city’s avenues I recall with fondness, this is due in no small part to my upbringing in a carless family in northeast of the city. As the street served as a terminus for many northside bus routes, it became the starting point for all of my journeys into the city centre – good, bad and indifferent. Essentially this street was my proverbial wardrobe into Narnia… sorry, I did say romanticised.

Amidst all the busses, the commuters, the addicts and the roadworks alike sits Briody’s – a small and unassuming pub with a green façade. Setting foot in the pub, you immediately feel like you are on familiar territory. Just like wandering into your grannies, you know you’re in good hands. The interior is typical of a good local boozer; tiled flooring greets feet upon entrance before a pristine carpet overtakes the rest of the floor space. Lighter wooden tones are well complimented with beige embossed wallpaper. The seating proved to be tremendously cosy in its simplicity while classic drink brands and sport are the themes exhibited in frames upon the wall. We took a particular shine to a bittersweet portrait of Paul McGrath seen in his heyday sitting at an unidentified bar holding a creamy pint aloft. Speaking of creamy pints, we found no fault whatsoever in the pints pouring at Briody’s, they tick all the right boxes insofar that they were delicious, served in a tulip glass and well under a fiver.

Overall we enjoyed the casualness of this pub, we noted that there seemed to be plenty of characters in amongst the bar and we vowed to return and try our hand at integrating into the fold. It was also nice to take in some of the history of the building which was proudly displayed upon the wall. This informed patrons that the building was dishing out pints under the name of the Olympic Tavern during the Rising in 1916 – a full hundred and one years ago. Here’s to the next hundred and one.

L. Mulligan Grocer: Stoneybatter.

We’ve been thinking for a while now on what we’d say when we penned our thoughts on L Mulligan Grocer. After some discussion we loosely came to agree that the pub – which is a mainstay of a gentrified Stoneybatter, is one which must firstly be commended. The reason we commend this pub is down to the fact that its owner’s have managed to transform an old school Dublin boozer into a modern gastropub while retaining all the glorious features of said old-school boozer. And judging by the crowd when we arrived of a summer’s afternoon – they’ve managed to make a success of it.

 

 

Alas though it’s not all plain sailing as far as this piece goes. I knew there was trouble ahead when we arrived into the pub and found our way to the bar to order. Now there are a few statements that the lads don’t want to hear in the middle of a session, I mean statements that would be deemed less favourable than news of impending nuclear war. Unfortunately the barman was to utter one of these statements – ‘No Guinness here lads’.

Now anyone familiar with DBP will know the diversity of opinions on crafty options amongst us, me being in favour. But deny the lads a pint of Guinness mid crawl is akin to substituting a toddler’s lollipop for a plate of sprouts. We propped up the bar and tucked into a few very good, yet controversial pints of Porterhouse stout.

The interior of the pub is A1. Tiled and wood flooring lies underfoot, an antique scales sits proudly at the end of the bar. The bar, running the considerable length of the pub is flanked with dinner tables and boasts a wide assortment of options on tap and on cask. The space behind is decorated traditionally hosting antique mirrors and vast selection of whiskey. Where the bar ends the space opens up in volume and in light.

As it would turn out, we didn’t agree on the experience here. L. Mulligan’s, as we did agree, is a fantastic restaurant – the food looked pretty good. But we, seeking the type of rowdy ale house atmosphere we so dearly love weren’t to find it a good suss this time around. And that’s fine. We may head back at a later hour and see if we can find it more pub than restaurant next time around.

The Cobblestone: King St.

Brendan Behan famously once described himself as a drinker with writing problems – this is something that one would assume that the person who set out to describe The Cobblestone was well aware of. Labelling itself as a drinking pub with a music problem, it’s a pub that’s described more succinctly and acurrately than most others in the city are.

 

The Cobblestone is located in the historic district of Smithfield on the outskirts of the northside of the city centre. It endeared itself to us when it threw a party to celebrate the death of Maggie Thatcher when she finally decided to take her throne in hell. It’s not an ornate, museum-worthy Victorian time capsule like many of the pubs we’ve posted previously. It’s rough and it’s ready. It has a grand lick of paint and pictures of musicians aplenty across the walls. The jaxx is without any charm and one of poorer across the city.

But considerations of the aesthetic kind are irrelevant when it comes to The Cobblestone because this is a pub that does what no other (or very few others) do in Dublin. The cobblestone purveys unadulterated, unamplified, and un-templebar-ified trad every night of the week. You can saunter in there on a random Tuesday night and hear what we here at DBP consider to be the sound of Ireland.

Now there’s plenty of nominees for what constitutes itself as the quintessential sound of the island of Ireland. Some will argue it to be the roar of Croke Park on All-Ireland day. Some might deem it to be the tolling of an angelus bell. But we believe the sound of Ireland to be one that resonates within the walls of The Cobblestone. What could sound more characteristically Irish than the tortured moan of the uillean pipes drowning in a cacophony of boisterous conversation as a Guinness tap hisses throughout.

The pint was always a good one when we’ve visited in the past and we’re shamefully well overdue for a visit currently so we can’t comment on price. It’s the goto trad pub in Dublin and we can only hasten that you nip in to hear the sound of Ireland someday soon.