Doyle’s Corner: Phibsborough Road

“Once you have palm trees in a pub you may as well just forget about it”

… so were the choice of words deemed appropriate by Pintman №2 after he’d finished surveying his surroundings. We’d just sat down to our inaugural pint in the relatively recently refurbished Doyle’s Corner in Phibsborough and as I informed Pintman №2 that I was intending to utilise his opinions on the pub’s horticultural inclinations by way of a direct quote he found himself impeded in his response by Pintman №3 who, himself, threw his tuppence in by suggesting that I make sure to mention them “Eddie Rocket chairs there as well”. “Hold on and I have a look meself”, says I.

First things first, the lounge in Doyles Corner is a plush affair. With its goldened lettered signage, its Gatsby-esque bar and its chandelier lighting, there can be no denying that it is an aesthetically pleasing space. But a drinking experience, fancy surroundings do not make. Having spent all of about five minutes in these opulent surroundings I found that I’d invoked a deep-set fear in myself – the type of fear that your granny might have instilled in you when you were under the age of five and dared touch some ornament or another on a shelf in her ‘good room’. It’s that same fear that might stop you from touching museum exhibits or that keeps you quiet at funerals, which is all good and well in its own place – except for the fact that it’s not exactly a state of mind that’s conducive to comfort. And as we sat on high stools in the lounge of this boozer battling the aroma of chicken wings in an attempt to quantify the quality of our pints – comfort was not a quality that was coming to mind.

It was just when I’d about made up my mind on the place when Pintman №2 and №3 came to suggest that we relocate to the bar. ‘There’s a bar?, I wondered before being reliably informed by my companions that indeed there was and that the entrance to such was located just behind the abovementioned offending palm tree. So, feeling like three early Amazonian explorers, minus the machetes, we passed through the impeding tropical flora where we emerged from the overgrowth to find surroundings far more tempered to our expectations, a proverbial oasis of calm.

Looking like something that we can only imagine some worn-in boozers around the city might have looked like at their outset – The bar in Doyle’s Corner hits the eye with a degree of freshness. Characterised by the light-toned wooden seats and walls, the bar’s use of alcoves add a good degree of comfort – while their separation with glass aids not to compress the perceived size of the space. Walls are mainly decorated with glass-cased taxidermy such as birds and fish and the odd framed graphic here and there too. A fireplace which houses an iron woodburner sits toward the front of the room, the functionality of which we never established as it was lamentably left off the time of our visit. Overall though, we found the bar to be a nice space and would have to tip our hat to the designer for having bucked the trend and avoided installing that pre-worn “old-pub” effect so commonly seen in new premises these days.

Pint-wise, the pub fared relatively well for somewhere next door to the likes of The Hut. At an even fiver, it was drunk with no complaint made regarding its quality.

It’s funny though, if this had been our local which had made way for such a fit-out, this blurb may well have been of an entirely different tone. Unfortunately, none of us ever darkened the door of this pub in any of its former guises so we can only report on what we know. And that is that if you’re in the market for a chicken-wing joint with instgrammable decor, the lounge in Doyle’s Corner may just be for you. But, if like us, you just want to gather a few friends into an alcove, sup on a few pints and have a chat, you’d better move on through the jungle and head into the bar.

The Hut: Phibsborough Road.

It’s probably fair enough on our part to assume that the word ‘hut’, when considered by all those included in the English-speaking world, will elicit images of rudimentary structures of mud, straw and/or bamboo in the mind’s eye of most. But today, ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you about a tiny subset of that aforementioned lingual population who, upon hearing the word ‘hut’, will come to think not of favelas or muddy of Maasai camps but will instead conjure up the thought of craic and creamy pints amidst perfectly retained Victorian grandeur. Yes, that’s right – ask anybody of a certain vintage upon the streets of Phibsborough what the word ‘hut’ means to them and they will almost certainly set out immediately to put you in the know about Phibsborough’s most beloved pub – The Hut.

Having spent a worthwhile thirty-five minutes devouring all information that Google will provide us with on this pub it seems only appropriate that we follow suit from those who have penned their own thoughts on The Hut before us by first mentioning the name. Some say that it’s derived from hut-like structures which once provided shelter for the inhabitants of Phibsborough. Others (namely those allied to the local LOI team – Bohemians) say the name is taken from hut-like dressing rooms which used to be in situ in nearby ground, Dalymount Park. Us, we happen to think the name could be rooted in Latin given that the word ‘tavern’ is derived from the Latin word ‘taberna’ which translates to, yep you guessed it, ‘hut’.

Regardless of the provenance of the pub’s name, there is certainly no ambiguity to be encountered when it comes to its standing as one of the remaining authentic Victorian Dublin Pubs. A longer room than its well-kept façade might suggest, it ticks all the boxes regarding features of such pubs from that period – wooden dividers and partitions, stone and wooden bar-tops, gas lamps, grocer’s drawers, and my personal favourite – cask-heads incorporated into the structure of the bar – all of them well-kept and authentic; affording the pub ample parity with any of the more central and well-known Victorian watering holes dotted around the capital.

We managed to collectively get up to Phibsborough for a pint over the last few months with the full DublinByPub contingent in tow. Arriving into The Hut a few hours following nightfall (and with about 4 or 5 pints sunk too) we, or should I say our dark-adjusted and somewhat intemperate eyes, immediately found our one and only complaint with the place – the brightness. It’s needlessly bright in the evening. We wondered if it was a safety feature – one to give the cohort of Mountjoy screws, who supposedly drink in the pub, every opportunity to spot a potential aggrieved former inmate.

Seeking refuge in the more softly illuminated environs of the snug we sat down to three pints of plain and remarked on how expansive the carpeted room was. Possibly the largest snug in Dublin, we wondered? The pint itself I remember as being the best of the immediate locality – well poured and served through the hatch of the snug it was enjoyed by all around the table with no complaint about taste or about price, coming in south of a fiver. Happy drinkers all around.

We might, if we could, go back to those thirty-five minutes of research we mentioned earlier. It was in an Irish Times article written on the subject of The Hut some years back that we happened upon an interesting quote from one of the pub’s owners – Joe Mohan. In it, he describes his position as owner of the pub, as being one which makes him responsible to ‘just mind the place’. This quote resonated with us for a few reasons, but mainly due to the fact that it was reminiscent of a sort of caretaker sentiment that we’d heard over and over again from various barmen and pub owners alike. These are people who are at the helm of the likes of The Gravedigger’s, The Swan, Fallon’s, The Long Hall… we could go on. Do you reckon that it may just be coincidence that all of these pubs just so happen to be up there with the most renowned and regarded in all of Dublin? Because we certainly don’t!

If you happen to wind up upon the streets of Phibsborough and you find that that persistent thirst just won’t relent, we can only suggest that you drop into John and see how good a job he’s doing of minding The Hut. Maybe even ask him to dim the lights a bit for us too, will ye?

Nice one!

The Long Stone: Townsend St.

The Long Stone we hardly knew ye.

You stood proudly on Townsend Street for over 200 years and now they’ve decided to knock you down. We never even took our chance to photograph you while you were open and now it’s too late. Soon you’ll follow your neighbour – Ned into the dusty abyss and take your rightful place in Valhalla, and all we can do to console ourselves is to think of cliches – you really don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

We went to visit you on your last day and came to realise what fools we have been not to have spent more time drinking within your confines. We were like flies scutting along the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel – ignorant of the beauty upon which we were standing.

It’s true that I’ve said things in the past that you mightn’t have liked. I was no fan of the hot nut machine that sat atop your front bar and bathed all around it in an uncomfortable fiery hue. I certainly bemoaned the price of your drink on more than one occasion, but none of that matters now.

How we wish you were still open. How we wish we could saunter into the back bar and sit at the mouth of a 10ft sculpture of Odin’s head and gaze upon your bespoke wooden features, your slate flooring, your ancient hanging banners.

But we can’t visit you anymore. The newspapers say that a wrecking ball is due on-site in January, They’ll probably build a hotel on the ground upon which you currently stand. Tourists might come to stay and they’ll ask if there are any good pubs around. No, we’ll respond… Just hotels.

Rest in peace, The Long Stone. We’ll miss you.