Back in 2014, the inimitable and ground-breaking Dublin folk discombobulaters, Lankum, in their song Cold Old Fire prophetically sang of how they:

look for signs that Dublin’s heart’s still beating,
That concrete and glass and peelers and mass, they haven’t stopped the people from screaming.

When it came toward the latter half of 2021, some 7 years later, you could say that Lankum needed not to look for those signs anymore. On an early Saturday afternoon, arriving up at Smithfield Square, even the most optimistic of those intending to attend could not have imagined the vista that would greet them, as it did us when we emerged from the winding alleyway concealing the entrance to the Jameson Distillery.

The Battle for The Cobblestone: Revisited

With placards, loudhailers, musical instruments, cameras and other such paraphernalia, the thousands had assembled to make a stand. To send a message to the powers that be that we weren’t going to sit down and allow them to pave over one of our most beloved of Irish cultural institutes – The Cobblestone Pub.

Now, the story of the protests and planning battle that ensued when there was a proposed redevelopment of The Cobblestone in 2021 is, at this stage, a well-told story. The purpose of this particular blog post is not to add anything new to that narrative, but I had been looking through our archive of photos the other day and noticed that I had taken more photos of the initial protest than I initially thought.

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So, on foot of that, I decided I’d put together a post for the website, just to briefly tell the story of the protest that I attended and just a brief timeline of the planning battle thereafter. But it’s all just a vehicle to share some of those images, which are a mix of digital and black-and-white film.

In October 2021 the news came in the form of a small piece of paper that had been affixed to the front of the pub. Some crowd called Marron Estates were applying for planning permission to hotelify The Cobblestone. It was to be built upon and the actual pub portion of the premises dissected into a fraction of its current guise.

Action was swift. A protest, the protest depicted in these images, was called for the very next Saturday, and despite the short notice and the fact that society hadn’t exactly returned to full, post-pandemic normalcy yet, the turnout was far in excess of what most had anticipated.

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Being no stranger to the odd protest, before this, I can say with absolute certainty that this one felt very different. Perhaps it was because it wasn’t anything to do with the money in the protestors’ pockets, or because it had a ratio of one traditional musician to every 2 persons in attendance. But there was a great sense of camaraderie in the air amongst all that marched.

The protest started in Smithfield Square, where members of the Mulligan family (Tom Mulligan being the publican who holds the lease for the pub) and friends carried a coffin with RIP Dublin and RIP Culture daubed on either side. They took this from the pub and into the centre of the square. Some short speeches were delivered, and the procession began its slow and steady circuitous march toward Wood Quay, the main offices of Dublin City Council being the end point of the march.

From Smithfield, we emerged onto the quays from Lincoln Lane and made toward the Ha’penny Bridge, where we stopped shortly at Merchant’s Arch, which only the week prior, had been earmarked for destruction by hotel. It was during this stoppage that an American tourist’s curiosity got the better of her and she asked my partner and I what we were marching for. When we told her it was to keep a pub from closing, she seemed to leave with more questions than she had arrived to us with.

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We shortly arrived at Wood Quay after that, where some tunes and dancing broke out near the entrance to the building. As the bulk of protestors arrived, a more structured gathering formed outside the building and around the steps up to it. Then some of the organisers, marchers and some of the Mulligan family made some further short, yet emotional, speeches. And then we all had a sing-song and a session. And went for a few pints afterwards. Naturally.

A deadline of early November was identified as that by which the public could submit objections to the request for planning permission. Another protest was to follow and a well-organised online campaign to advise people on how to submit objections seemed to be omnipresent online in the time leading up to the deadline.

When the deadline did pass, it was reported that a massive figure of almost 700 people had lodged an objection. Thankfully DCC listened to the weight of objection and opted to refuse the planning permission.

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This was then to be appealed by Marron Estates in December of 2021 before them ultimately withdrawing that appeal in May of the following year.

While the future of the pub does remain somewhat unsure, we have collectively been breathing something of a sigh of relief since the withdrawal of that appeal. The whole saga does, however, remind us to be ever-presently grateful for the fantastic pubs that remain dotted around our city. The Cobblestone is still welcoming musicians in every night of the week and allowing them to ply their trade. So make no excuses for getting in there as soon as you can.

We’re embedding the full gallery of images we have from the protest, below. They’re in a Flickr album that you can scroll through using the arrows on the left and the right.

Could we also suggest, for a better and more fully rounded, telling of the story of the battle for The Cobblestone, that you check out this excellent documentary – Athbhaile -The Cobblestone. And also have a look at Luke McManus’ masterpiece: North Circular.

As of this moment, I’ve a list of about twelve pubs that I need to get written up for the blog and I really shouldn’t be writing this thing. But for some reason, probably because I’m afraid of forgetting it, I’ve decided that I’m going to forego normal programming and commit this one to paper.

An Afternoon in The Palace Bar

It was midweek. Springtime. I had leave to take, so a day off work was required. And while a day off work is a fine thing, it wasn’t that which made it one of these days – that was down to a combination of factors. First of all, everyone was accounted for. All my nearest and dearest were away, in work, or otherwise engaged. I had no favours to do or errands to run. The calendar was entirely empty.

The other piece of the puzzle was in my pocket – for you’re never truly free when there are pennies to be counted and set against bills, rent and whatever else. For reasons unremembered to me now, I was as flush as I’d be all year on that particular afternoon. It might have been one of those months that had an extra payday or something, but for the first time that year, I possessed actual tangible and disposable income and was able to saunter into the city centre at my leisure and peruse and purchase from shops that I had been begrudgingly storming past on numerous occasions prior.

Of course, sauntering about town, taking in a museum, or a gallery and a few shops is thirsty aul work. So, it wasn’t too long before a pint was on the cards. With tiring legs passed beyond the bustle of College Green, plans for pints moved out of their conceptual stage toward something more realistic. Passing under the portico of Grattan’s parliament – I came to stand at Pat Ingoldsby’s patch on Westmoreland Steet and realised, as I’m sure many have before me, that I was headed directly for The Palace Bar.

Before much longer, I was sitting with a pint and a toastie in the back room of the pub, thumbing through a paper, or a book or inspecting a record I’d bought. Whatever it was I was doing, I cannot be certain because I’d quickly become distracted by all that was going on around me. At first, I’d been taken aback by two considerably sized oil portraits which had been newly hung since my last visit to the pub. Painted in what this art novice would call reminiscent of a Jack B. Yeats style, they depict two of the pub’s most notable former patrons – Patrick Kavanagh and Flann O’Brien. A man was sitting under the paintings, and I was enjoying the repartee between himself and Willie, an owner of the pub, as they chatted away.

Shortly after, a few more customers had trickled into the pub and Willie returned behind the bar to serve them. At this point, I noted a gathering of middle-aged to elderly men chatting amongst themselves in the corner. I attempted, futilely, to return to my book or my paper but couldn’t help but earwig in on the conversation between the table when I hear one respond to another:

Jesus, ye went to a Beckett play. You’re a brave man.

You see, I could sympathise with this – I’d recently been to that same Beckett play, and having understood none of the first twenty minutes, found myself denied readmittance for the interval-less remainder on my way back from the toilet. Nonetheless, the lads continued. The talk turned to GAA – hurling mostly. Refrains of ‘it’s a different game these days’ could be heard after chat about a red card – with one of the men declaring that a ‘bang of a hurley was a mark of endearment in our time’.

There’s more entertainment to come when one of the group of men gets up to retrieve a fresh round for the table. While waiting for these to settle he strikes up a conversation with the man who had been speaking to Willie earlier. As they speak, in tones gentler to those at the other table, I come to suspect, through the snippets I hear and the body language between the two, that they are discussing the two portraits. This, I have confirmed when the man responsible for the round returns to his table and informs all at it that ‘that man there… he painted the two of those’.

Portraits in The Palace

They all began to converse, then. ‘Well, this fella is Woody Allen and there’s Harrison Ford beside him’, said the supposed artist, jovially, in a thick southern accent. ‘West Kerry,’ he answers proudly when asked of where he comes from by one of the men. Though he does qualify this by stating that he lived in Dublin for years at one time. ‘Ah sure you’re a dub then’ proclaims another of the men. The artist gives his name as Liam O Neill, which I can’t help but Google to find out that this man is the real deal. A phenomenally accomplished painter. And him sat there, unassuming, and modest, right in front of me like some sort of 21st-century Kernoff.

Liam receives due praise from all and they come to discuss his subjects – on Flann O’Brien, one of them muses that ‘he was the only man sacked from the Civil Service… He was found working’. They go on in a similar vein and as one of them finishes reciting a John B. Keane poem, I finish my pint and make my exit.

I’m not sure exactly what compounded me to write this, as I alluded to at the outset – I’ve loads more pubs that I should be writing. I suppose the experience has just sat with me over the last few months. It was like something out of time. A moment where I fancied myself a voyeur to a sort of intelligentsia you don’t encounter too often in contemporary Dublin. Everything they said seemed to be gold. I imagined myself, in that short time, an abstract part of this irregular set of regulars – someone who was no stranger to bringing disrespect to a respectable hour by bathing it in intoxicating liquor. Unfortunately, though I was back at my desk, sober as a judge at that same hour, the next day. What’s rare truly is wonderful.  

Christmas – it comes earlier and earlier each year. And arriving earlier alongside it is that time-honoured tradition that me and mine call CCP season. CCPs, not to be confused with The Chinese Communist Party are Cosy Christmas Pints. Though sharing many similarities to normal pints, Cosy Christmas Pints have several unique defining characteristics which set them apart. These are as follows: 

  • CCPs should always occur within eyeshot of twinkling Christmas lights. Along with just generally looking well, twinkling Christmas lights take on a dream-like quality as the intake of pints increases.  
  • CCPs may often be disguised as shopping: “I went in to do a bit of present shopping, but the shops were mad.” 
  • Warm drinks often accompany CCPs. Hot whiskies, hot ports, Irish coffees – whatever you’re having yourself; It’s freezing out there.  
  • CCPs are not confined to the weekend. Catching up for a pint is inestimably more acceptable on a school night in the run-up to the big day. Sure, it’s Christmas time. We’re on the wind down in work anyways.  

So, with the above in mind, we wanted to just throw out our top five Christmassy Dublin pubs for 2022. Pubs that really suit the CCP season and are always worth a look around this time of year. 

J O’Connell: 

Starting with what is maybe a less obvious one – J O’Connell’s makes it into our list for somewhat personal reasons. We tend to find we always get up to Portobello in the run-up to Christmas for a look at the pub and we’re not exactly sure why. It might be that the pub’s name is identical to the one featured in the Guinness Christmas ad, or maybe it’s the glossy green and red interior design. Most likely it’s just the fact that O’Connell’s is just an out-and-out great pub.  

Top 5 Christmas Pubs 2022

The Gingerman. 

Named after author J.P Donleavy’s magnum opus – The Gingerman – I often wondered why the pub doesn’t seasonally rename itself for another of Donleavy’s books – the one that inspired Shane McGowan when he came to title what would come to be his most famous song – A Fairytale of New York. It would be an apt name, given that the place gets what can easily be described as the most intensive Christmas makeover in the city centre each year. 

Gingerman

The Oval. 

The Oval don’t go anywhere near as heavy on the decoration as The Gingerman but they make the cut due to their proximity to ground zero of Christmas Shopping mecca. When you’re wading through the street sellers on Henry Street as they bellow their wares into your ear or as you sit in a queue of dozens for some trendy outlet in Arnotts, you know that you could be sat in The Oval with a pint and a Hot Whiskey quicker than you could say ‘Can I get a gift receipt with that’.  

Oval

The Hole in The Wall. 

We’re often at pains to remind people that this is a blog primarily focused on pubs in Dublin City Centre, but it would be remiss of us to not include The Hole in the Wall, the Phoenix Park-adjacent pub, which is the longest in Ireland, festoons its entire length in Christmas bric-a-brac every year. It really is a sight to behold. 

Hole In The Wall

The Bankers 

The Bankers makes our list for something similar of a reason as The Oval does – call it the Southside Oval: it being on the fringes of the Grafton St shopping area (note: we didn’t say Grafton Quarter). Honestly, though, there is little else in the city around this time of year that’s cosier than being sat, at ease, in the window of The Bankers peering through the lights in the window at all the stressed-out shoppers, weighed down by bags as they hurry to and fro up and down Trinity Street and Dame Lane. All while you’re safe in the knowledge that you won’t have to worry about any of this until the 24th. Besides, what sort of a druncle would you be if you arrived up with the actual gift. They’ll have more craic going in to buy it with the voucher in January themselves anyway. 

Bankers

That’s our Christmas pub list for 2022, anyway. Do leave a comment and let us know if you plan to visit any on the list, or if we missed any.

We do hope you get into the pubs and experience them for yourselves. Honourable mentions for The Palace and The Strawberry Hall (which is incredibly Christmassy, but just a disaster for us non-drivers on the east side of the city to get out to).

Wishing you all a wonderful and safe CCP season ahead folks. Remember to keep enough money for the presents and do try and add your bartender into the odd round too, they do a fine job keeping us all well-oiled throughout it all.

The news came through in the same way that news like this often does – via rumour and hearsay. A friend of a friend’s workmate was “in there the other night and the barman said it’s closing in a week, getting turned into a hotel.”

I know now that I’ve let might have let stewardship of this blog go to my head – because I was far too quick to disregard this rumour when it had come through to me from Pintman №6. Too small for a hotel, I thought. I’d have heard it before now, I reasoned. But will and reason were forces not strong enough to detract from the truth of the issue – it eventually came through too many channels to be denied. The pub actually was closing. And it was closing soon. That Thursday to be precise. There was no way we were missing that.

The Last Night in The Flowing Tide

There was just one problem, though – that curse of the drinking class, as Oscar would put it. Work. Not only was I due in the office on this particular day, but I was also already predisposed to a leaving doo that evening as well. Plans of being in the pub early were all but gone.

On the day itself, we had a number of different ears and eyes on the ground. Some would be dropping in on their lunch, or on their way through town elsewhere. Some were to be on the high stool shortly after it was permissible to clock out of their job. All reportage alluded to a bittersweet atmosphere and a brisk trade. Bits of information periodically trickled through as the day elapsed:

  • None of the current staff would be retained.
  • It was not bought for conversion to a hotel.
  • It would remain a pub.
  • It had been bought by the owners of The Kings Inn.

In time, this would all prove to be correct information but was all conjecture at this moment in time.

When at last I did get to turn the harp (turn the harp?) and make haste toward the pub, I had to battle my way to the further end of it, such was the swell of drinkers who had amassed to bid the place farewell. Wasting no time, I joined the three-deep bar and called for a pint which was dispatched with the usual skill and professionalism as would be expected in The Flowing Tide.

Joining Pintman №2, I find him cornered by a towering man. Pink in the face and as bald as a boiled egg, the man had the facial features of a baby and the slurred speech to go along with it. Pintman №2, the bigger admirer of general chaos out of the two of us, was delighted with this man’s company – joyous as he joked and equally so as he’d abruptly threaten us in a manner befitting Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. Personally, I couldn’t wait to escape the giant baby and it wasn’t difficult to do so in the end. The last I saw of him was an hour or two later as all six foot seven of him was being admonished by a comparatively diminutive barman for eating too much of another customer’s cake, which was being distributed around the adjoining table.

Thereafter, we had a changing of the guards – Pintman №2 departed and I was joined by Pintman №6. He and I managed to nab an actual seat and proceeded to reminisce about the pub over a few pints. We recalled the big days and nights we’d had there: Paddy’s Days, Christmas Eves, and En-route to a wedding-days amongst them. Toasted, too, were the not-so-big visits – nondescript afterwork drinks and umpteen instances of seeking space offering better shelter to wait out the bus than that constructed by CIE.

We took time to gaze upon the fittings and furnishings for the last time, also. The Abbey posters, the Smirnoff mirror, the painting of Sackville Street with the misproportioned Nelson’s Pillar, and the chalkboard advertising the WiFi password, (Neptune, a callback to the name given to the pub’s former downstairs venue). While we half-jokingly conspired to maybe bring home a keepsake of our own, we delighted in old staff and old regulars being invited in behind the bar to have their photo taken with the barmen fulfilling their final shift.

And as we took this all in, we decided that it would be too much to hang around until such a time that the lights were flashed, and the last shout was given. There was too much of a finality to that.

Flowing Tide

Flowing Tide

And walking out onto Abbey Street, we find a city that carries on. Taxi, bus and tram whirr by on schedule. Workmen go about their nightshift tasks. Passengers hurry for last buses. Late awesome light of a clear evening in July dies, unnoticed, in the sky above. And an institute below it, already clad in scaffolding, does likewise.

Postscript

So, the pub did close. And the crowd that owns the Kings Inn did buy it. And, while we’re most certainly sad that the old guard have gone, we’re more than happy that the new owners didn’t overhaul the pub too drastically. A sensible renovation occurred over the rest of the summer and the pub reopened in October. Here’s to plenty more craic in The Flowing Tide

Flowing Tide

For an hour and a half, I drank liquor so rare

You’d swear it was made by the gods in the air

Out of nectars and honey, and lotuses fair.

And it freshly came over the border.

When I came to write this little blog post, it was entirely appropriate that I had the above-quoted lines of The Mary Wallopers’ “The Night the Guards Raided Owney’s” jangling around in my head. For it was only a short while before, that I was in the very privileged place to get the chance to taste some liquor so rare, courtesy of Michael and all our pals over at Last Drop Distillers.

They had dropped us a line to let us know about three different expressions of a 50-year-old Glenrothes Single Malt Scotch that they’d persuaded three Dublin publicans to part with their cash for – and install behind each of their respective bars. And it just so happens that these three pubs are all great.

If you haven’t heard of The Last Drop Distillers, they are an arm of the Sazerac company and are a relatively new outfit concerned with finding rare and unique spirits and bringing them to market, regardless of how limited a supply of the spirit remains – hence the name. They also happen to be headed up by some Drinks industry legends – you can read more about them here.

The Whiskies/Pubs:

So, these three very special whiskies are available in the these three excellent Dublin pubs that are listed below.

The Bankers:

Last Drop

Banker's

First up is The Bankers – situated in the historic financial district of Dublin City and a mere Stone’s throw from the inventor of the Coffey Still’s alma mater – The Bankers have added the 1968 expression of The Glenrothes Single Malt to their impressive already-impressive collection.

The Ferryman:

Ferryman

Last Drop

I’ve always maintained that The Ferryman could be considered the last true Docker’s pub. Nowadays, as it quenches the thirst of dockers of the silicon variety on John Rogerson’s Quay it’s ideally placed to enjoy a whisky as old as the 1969 Glenrothes Single Malt and imagine the hustle of the bustle of incoming and outgoing trade on the quayside in years gone by.

The Palace

Some new (very old) whiskies in three Dublin Pubs.

Palace 1

What can one say about The Palace Bar that hasn’t already been said? Home to the cream of the country’s literary crop, The Palace was already legendary when the 1970 Glenrothes Single Malt which now sits behind its bar was casked. As one of the city’s best-known whiskey bars, it’s an ideal place to enjoy a dram, especially one as special as this.

Conclusion

On the whiskies: though these are all the same liquid, time and cask and that mysterious magic that happens, therein, have rendered them entirely unique to one another – the 1969 was juicier on the palate than the 68, which had more peat behind it – while the 1970 had maltiness in spades. I’m certainly not someone with as advanced a palate as most in the whiskey community in this country, but when you taste a whisky as extraordinary as this, you can quantifiably taste an intensity that sets them apart from most other whiskies you might have tasted prior.

It goes without saying that these will be expensive drops – I’m not even sure what price the pubs will set for them. Suffice it to say that they’ll be very easy to spot in your online banking on a Monday morning.

But this is a pub blog and whisky is certainly an important aspect of Dublin pub and drinks culture – even the pricy stuff.

And, who knows, that scratch card from your granny or a longshot Cheltenham tip could come in some day and you’ll want to treat yourself to something really special, and it is nice to know that the option is most definitely there.

(The Transparency Bit: I received free samples of all of the whiskies mentioned above. I wasn’t asked to write this in return)

Let me start this post by assuring you that DublinByPub has not decided to pivot toward a clickbait, listicle-heavy style of content. Nor are we looking to join the small country sized amount of Guinness review pages out there. But being a website, Instagram account, twitter account, with something of a following, we’re often queried on where we believe the best pints in Dublin can be found. So hence: this post.  

Before we go any further, please let us say that we believe the finest pint for sale within the known and ever-expanding ninety-three billion lightyear-wide cosmos which we inhabit is that which pours in Kavanagh’s pub in Glasnevin (original post here). Our position on this remains unchanged. 

But for this post, we want to concern ourselves exclusively with pubs in Dublin city centre – i.e. between the canals.

I also want to say that taste is subjective. Some people eat liver with mushrooms and listen to Garth Brooks, and it’s not my or your place to pass judgement on such freaks of nature. If you don’t agree with our list, that’s ok – you can go and make your own list and post it up on the internet yourself, too.  

Anyhow, here we go – in no particular order (after the first one) here are our five best Dublin City Centre Pints.  

J.M Cleary’s: Amiens Street

A favoured haunt of Michael Collins, Cleary’s is said to have had its electricity bill taken care of by Irish Rail to balance the inconvenience of having had a railway bridge pass over its roof. Evidently, the time that would have been spent on the administrative task of paying the electric has been better spent perfecting their pint purveying abilities- they’re unrivalled between the canals, as far as we’re concerned.

(Price: €5.20 as of Summer 2022) 

Click Here for our original post on Cleary’s

Cleary

The Lord Edward: Christchurch Place

We adore and have always adored The Lord Ed. And while this has been the favourite pub in the world as far as yours truly is concerned, I had always only considered the pint to be adequate – not poor, but not even threatening for the top ten. But then something changed. Upon returning after lockdown, the quality of the pint was found to have improved exponentially. And a year or so later that level of quality remains the same.

(Price: €5.50 as of Summer 2022) 

Click Here for our original post on The Lord Edward

Lord Ed

Toner’s: Baggot Street

Famed as the only pub that WB Yeats set ever set foot in, Toner’s is sat on the well-trodden drinking trail referred to by some as The Baggot Mile. William Butler was good at the poems, but not great at the pints – so consider the likes of Ronnie Drew, Peter O’Toole and Patrick Kavanagh’s former patronage of the place as a more qualified endorsement of it. That said, it would have to lose a point or two on grounds of price, but it always feels worth the money when you’re sat in that famous snug.

(Price: €6 as of Spring 2022) 

Click Here for our original post on Toner’s

toner_col

Fallon’s: The Coombe

Sitting at the very start of the district which houses the Guinness brewery – The Liberties, Fallon’s is as fine an ambassador as you could hope for, for both the area and the brewery. One of the great historic Dublin pubs, it’s always dishing out consistently decent stout.

(Price €5.50 as of Summer 2022)

Click Here for our original post on Fallon’s

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The Piper’s Corner: Marlborough Street

We wanted to include something of a wildcard here – a pub you never hear referred to as a great Guinness pub – but anytime any of us darkens the doors of the Piper’s, we’re always served some top-class pints. And the fact that you’ll likely get a decent bit of trad to listen to while you sip only sweetens the deal.

(Price: €5.80 as of Summer 2022) 

Click Here for our original post on The Piper’s Corner

The Best 5 Pints of Guinness in Dublin City

Honourable Mentions

Some other places we’ve enjoyed some very good pints in within the canals over the last few years.

  • The Thomas House 
  • Grogans 
  • The Palace 
  • Kehoes 
  • J McNeills 
  • The King’s Inn 
  • Ryan’s (Parkgate)
  • The Old Royal Oak
  • Mulligan’s (Poolbeg) 
  • Briody’s  
  • Walsh’s (Stoneybatter) 
  • O’Connell’s (Portobello) 

Don’t Agree?

I’m sure some of you out there think we’ve gotten things totally wrong here, given that this is the internet. Do feel free to give out to us in the comments and offer your recommendations for great Guinness in Dublin City Centre.

This is a bit of an abstract post, relative to our usual content – but I thought it worth writing.

It started innocently enough in the depths of COVID lockdown. Pintman №2 gets a text in one of his WhatsApp groups