Amongst the wooden Victorian grandeur of the bar fitted in The Palace on Dublin’s Fleet Street there sits a glass case that houses the bust of a stern and sullen faced man surrounded by a number of aged and rare looking bottles of liquor. On the glass cover of this cabinet a sign reads: “A bird is known by its song, a man by his conversation.” The sign which sits behind a bar that has hosted conversations since 1848 is one that we would argue is well placed.
One of the jewels in the crown of Dublin’s landscape of Victorian heritage, The Palace is a pub that fits snugly into the “what can we say that hasn’t already been said” bracket of boozers. Known for its links to the fields of literature and journalism it’s a bar where the images of famous figures that adorn its walls are not mere lip service to an established aesthetic but are actual portraits of former patrons. Having been described as a “most wonderful temple of art” by Patrick Kavanagh way back when – and sitting upon the fringe of the tourist district of temple bar, the pub could definitely be described as a gem, but most certainly not a hidden one.
On occasion, we’ve referred to this boozer as being, from our perspective, a victim of its own popularity – the occasion usually being weekend nights when we couldn’t get in the door, but this is no negative critique. When we’re in here it’s usually at an earlier hour and when the pub can be admired in its full glory. Brandishing all the hallmarks of a Victorian city pub it proudly contains a small snug at the front of the space complete with access to the bar. The bar itself runs the length of the narrow pub’s main space being segmented every few metres with wooden dividers. Alike many other aged pubs in town – it then opens up toward the back allowing the room for lower seating and is illuminated by a large skylight above.
The pint here is up with the best pours in the city, we’ve yet to even encounter a mediocre one upon any visit we’ve had. There’s a hefty emphasis placed on whiskey here too, the pub having their own name brand of whiskey for sale amidst their otherwise impressive collection. We’d also have to give an honourable mention to the whiskey bar upstairs in the pub which is a fierce cosy little enclave to enjoy a dram in.
The Palace Bar is one of a number of pubs in the country that could be not be described without reference to Dublin. It is a pub that is idiosyncratic of the capital city of this country and is another bar that is a living example of why pub architecture should be preserved and maintained rather than being bulldozed to make way for trendy fit-outs. We’d only be too happy to recommend anyone to give it a try, just be sure to get in before the crowds.
We get some odd correspondence from time to time here at Dublin By Pub – as the community of people that follow us has grown on Instagram so too has the volume of stuff that comes into our inbox. Most of what we receive is quite positive – we’re always delighted to talk shop with people who do inbox us and we’ve had plenty that have taken the time to share some fantastic stories and memories with us over the last while. Invariably too we get some spam and some odd requests also. One thing we regularly get (and happily welcome) is people who get on looking for recommendations on what pubs to visit when they land in Dublin. Sometimes though, someone asks a question that you never thought you’d ever be asked in life – One such question recently came in the form of this: Where do I bring me granny for a pint?
Now far be it from us to suggest that our country does not contain grandmothers who would love nothing more than a few games of pool as they hammer a rake load of Jägerbombs into themselves over a bit of Metallica in Fibbers, but when a question alike the one above is asked of me, I can’t but help to refer to clichéd stereotype. So with images of woolen clad, mass hungry coronation street aficionados in mind I could think of but one pub to recommend that this person bring their dear old Nana – Madigan’s of Abbey St.
We don’t want to in anyway delegitimise Madigan’s by any means here, this is a true, out and out Dublin pub. But given that it’s a stone’s throw from the since closed Clery’s and lies in close proximity to many public transport links as well as being practically next door to Dublin’s premier purveyor of texts and tat relating to the catholic church – we’d argue that it’s a perfect spot for granny.
The pub is one of three Madigan boozers which all sit within walking distance from each other on Dublin’s north side. We’ve only ever seem to find ourselves in this pub before the fall of darkness for some reason, and in our heads it’s certainly remained as an afternoon sort of pub. The most notable aspect of pub that deserves comment upon is its appearance, there isn’t even the slightest of cases to be made on the issue of this not being an attractive looking space. The pub’s aesthetic is well curated and is a brighter and more polished one than that of those which trade nearby. Bright floor tiles and cream hued walls illuminate the pub amply, dark wooden dividers contrast the brighter colours and are utilised to section off different seating areas – one of which contains a fireplace. The bar sits to the left of the room toward the back but you’d nearly miss it given the atrium that sits at the very rear of the room. Panelled entirely in backlit stained glass depicting colourful shrubbery – this atrium, which houses low and cosy seating, is a feature that it is without doubt the main talking point of the pub’s design.
We haven’t been in here in well over a year but the pint is remembered as being an acceptable one, because let’s face it – you never forget a bad one. We’re certainly overdue a visit by now and must report back on how the place sits in 2018.
Now! Who wants to lend us their granny?
Last month Pintman №2 and I were delighted to be in the awesome surroundings of The Open Gate Brewery as we made DublinByPub’s first tentative steps onto an aural platform.
As part of their Open Gate Series, we joined the sound gang of lads from The Fine Ale Countdown podcast.
We had a good chat with the lads about all things pints and pubs and no doubt we managed to fit in a fair bit of nonsense too. Search it out on your podcast app of choice or follow this link to have a listen .
We’d like to thank The Fine Ale Countdown lads for having us on, and a big thanks to Alan and all the lads at the OGB who looked after us while we were in. You can read up on our thoughts on The Open Gate Brewery (which are based on a previous visit) Here.
“Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination”… so sang Gene Wilder when he played Willy Wonka in the on-screen adaptation of Rohl Dahl’s most famous book. The song is one that you might hear from time to time as an adult and find yourself kicked by the boot of nostalgia right back to the dreamy state of childishness where you were innocent or naive enough to believe that such places as Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory might exist.
Unfortunately life gets its hands on us all, and by the time you get around to our age you come to realise that chocolate factories are in fact cold humourless industrialised complexes filled with hardy workers operating noisy machinery and ne’er an Oompa Loompa in sight. You even know by now that if Willy Wonka’s factory was actually a reality it would be burdened with litigation and health warnings and such…. It’s tough being an adult.
But fear not ye dejected grown-ups, we here at Dublin By Pub have found a space that will fill that Wonka shaped void that plagues your soul so! And it’s happens to be right here in Dublin. The Open Gate Brewery is a space within the confines of St James’ Gate Brewery where magic happens. There’s no confectionary and no little orange lads singing songs which, to be fair, wouldn’t really be that much craic when it came down to it. What they do have instead is something far more exciting – gallons upon gallons of beer!
We will acknowledge that this spot isn’t really a pub – but given that it’s contained within the complex that supplies pints to the vast majority of pubs that we visit, and also given the fact that we’ve contradicted ourselves umpteen times previously on DBP we’re going to make an exception. A working brewery, you could think of this space as Guinness’s very own Frankenstein’s Lab where teams of brewers are given free rein to cook up whatever conceivable form of beer takes their fancy. The gates of this brewery are then opened weekly on the evenings of Thursday, Friday and Saturday – allowing the public sample the brewers’ wares.
I think we might have mentioned in one previous post or another that Pintman №2 is a bit of purist when it comes to drink. It’s not often that you’ll find this man with anything other than a pint of Guinness in his claw, so you can imagine my surprise when himself and myself managed to try each of the 10 or so beers listed on the large board behind the bar on our first visit into the OGB a number of months ago. The setup is handy enough, you can have any of the beers listed outright or you can get a set of samples. The staff were sound and guided us through the options with a good degree of knowledge and friendliness, they explained that most of the taps change as new experimental brews come on stream and older ones dry up. Once we’d finished with all the seasonal beer, Pintman №2 and I knew that there was only one show in left in town, and let us just say how weird of a thing it is to order a pint from within the confines of the belly of the beast – expectations run as high as they possibly can.
Thankfully there’s no sting in the tail here – these pints were perfect down to the last drop: the temperature, the head, and the pour – all spot on. The only criticism we had was that they were served in a new style glass rather than a tulip glass. We debated as to whether we’d reasonably be allowed to take points off Guinness for the way they serve their flagship beer in their own brewery as we drank a few more that evening. I’m not sure if we managed to come to a conclusion in the end.
The Open Gate Brewery is good craic. It’s not a pub in our definition of the term but it is a good precursor to the pub and should accommodate beer thirsty palates of all types.
Full disclosure folks: we’ve since visited here on the invitation of The Open Gate Brewery and the lads from The Fine Ale Countdown and were very kindly looked after on that occasion. The piece above is based upon an initial and impartial visit, as all the rest of our posts are.