Sitting directly across from City Hall on the corner of the historic promenade of Dame Street and the equally historic Crane Lane, The Oak is a pub I must start by admitting to you that I’ve never spent an awful lot of time in. Nowadays I’m reasonably happy enough to admit that the reasons for this are probably a bit nuanced and snobbish, but way back when I was a young naive pintboy in training the cause of this was far more primal.
I can tell you now, with all these years of hindsight under my belt, that my reticence toward frequenting this particular bar back then was a textbook case of ‘once bitten, twice shy’. You see, I was at that impressionable stage of life where one finds themselves at a crossroads, that delicate hour where it becomes time to take up the mantle laid by generations gone before. It was time to start drinking pints of stout.
So with cautious abandon, I began dipping my toe in the proverbial dark ruby sea and set about acquiring a taste for this seemingly unassailable brew. But alas when I chose The Oak as my dispenser of same I found myself to fall afoul of the dreaded ‘bad pint’.
It’s all good and well nowadays with scores of vans servicing the pubs of the city with regard to their stout-pouring apparatus, but before this was widespread practice a bad pint wasn’t one where the taste was a little off, or the head was too thin. A bad pint back then was something that attacked you with a severity synonymous to that of salmonella. I dare say that this unlucky order may well have set my acclimatisation to Guinness off course by a good 12 months or so.
The Oak, in its current guise is a far larger premises than it originally once was given that it is now comprised of the original pub and the adjoining building which sits on the corner of Parliament and Dame St. This larger part of the complex was previously called Thomas Read’s, a name it took from its neighbour (which was once of Dublin’s oldest shops) and was accessible from the original pub for as long as this author’s memory will stretch. This section is fairly plush and continental and isn’t really of concern to us in this article. The main bar, the original Oak is the space in particular to which we refer here. Having been tarted up in recent years with some new fittings, furniture and a good dollop of red velvet, the bar is looking a good bit more upscale than it once did. What remains as part of the bar though are the Oak panels which gave it its name. These unassuming pieces of wood, believe it or not, have probably crossed the Atlantic more times than you’ve crossed O Connell Street given that they were installed in the bar after being salvaged from the ocean liner The RMS Mauretania after it was decommissioned in 1934.
Thankfully nowadays the pint is much improved from that which I tried to cut my teeth with back in the day. Not the greatest in the area but not the worst either. Unfortunately, none of us happens to remember the price tag on the pint in there. The last time I ventured into the place was in the wee hours a Christmas or two ago and with a sheet or two toward the gales. I’m not ashamed to admit that my only abiding memory of this evening was of talking to an Irish celebrity gardener who was far gone in G&Ts and speaking exclusively in posh, soutside-sounding mumbles about rare geraniums and the like.
It’s not a pub we could fault too greatly though. Its newfound grandeur might unconsciously send us looking for somewhere a bit more threadbare, and its proximity to The Lord Edward certainly leaves it the less of our concern on the often, but it’s definitely not somewhere we’d advise you avoid.