Clarke’s Phibsborough House: Phibsborough Road

Whenever we’re about to set off to check out a pub that we’ve never been in before, I’ll usually check it out online. Just a quick search on Google will usually put me on the right track with regard to directions and the like. It’ll also save us the inconvenience of making our way out to a pub that won’t be open for another few hours, or worse still – one that has shut up shop entirely.

So when we set out for Clarke’s Phibsborough House, these same usual rituals were observed, and in observing them I couldn’t help but notice a headline that cropped it in close proximity to all the requisite information which was initially sought. The headline which referred to an incident in the pub some years back read “Bar manager had ear lobe bitten off in fight, court told”, and having read it I thought I’d not divulge it to my drinking companions.

It was shortly after Christmas of 2018 that we did eventually make it into Clarke’s. Pintman №2 and I were in first with Pintman №3 following in shortly afterwards. We found the place to be sparsely populated with the entire patronage sitting along the extensive u-shaped bar. We decided to buck the trend and opt for a low table which bordered the left side of the bar – and indeed the entire pub follows a similar layout with high stools being used solely at the bar and lower seating elsewhere. The decoration was standard enough with antiquated household items making up much of the ornamentation– phones, radios, clocks and sewing machines aplenty littered the shelf space while the usual array of old drink adverts and local history took pride of place in the picture frames about the place.

Being settled and more comfortable I eventually decided to disclose the aforementioned news article I had heretofore chosen to censor from my friends. In doing so, I managed to attract the attention of a man nearby who decided to interject and tell us that he’d been present during the event in question. Probing him further, we came to learn that the incident, in his opinion, was a case of a diligent barman falling afoul of some toe-rag while trying to keep his customers safe. Wondering about the outcome of the trial we asked him whether the attacker ended up being incarcerated – ‘Well I’ll put it to ye this way lads’, he said – ‘ ‘E got 3 ‘ears that fella… And the poor aul barman got one and a half’

The pint in Clarke’s was ok. Costing €4.70, it was neither astounding nor distressing and was certainly better than that on offer for a full 90 cent more across the road. Our only gripe about the place was the jaxx which was in dire need of a bit of a makeover. Other than that we couldn’t complain about this boozer too much. A grand spot where staff will risk life and limb for customers’ safety. And you couldn’t really ask for more than that!

O Donoghue’s: Suffolk St.

Fair play to the gaffer. Most of you probably didn’t know that Dublin By Pub is sponsored by my employers, I mean – how could you, when they don’t even know themselves? But I would like to take this opportunity to thank my superiors for having not copped that I’ve spent the last day and a half conducting frantic research on the topic of the public house in situ at No. 15 Suffolk Street, Dublin from my desk. In work. On company time. Honestly, I’d name them for the bit of advertising here if I didn’t think that it’d get me sacked.

Now I’d love to sit here and tell you that this abovementioned research bore fruit other than my continuing gladness that I decided to make this page an anonymous entity, but unfortunately my limited research has gotten the better of me here – there are just too many loose ends. But on the topic of the history of the pub pictured, I do know the following:

  • It was once known as Slattery’s and was so at the turn of the 20th century, and indeed it’s mentioned in Ulysses as such.
  • The next record of the pub I found was an advert in a copy of a student paper – The Trinity News. Dated in 1962, the paper carries an advert for 15 Suffolk Street which gives three separate names and states: “MOYLANS late O’Donoghues |The Grafton | Stockists of The Choicest and Best Wines and Liqueurs”.
  • After that, I found a pub crawl feature in the same publication from 1970, some eight or so years later. Here the pub is referred to as Slattery’s as well as The Suffolk House and is described in the article as “many things to many men and the few insane though sober females that lurk here regularly”.
  • Before its current incarnation, the pub was named The Thing Mote, after the same type of Viking structure which sat in the Suffolk street district back when Dublin was just a nipper.

I’ll leave it you yourself to cobble together the history of this boozer, I think in the meantime I need to register with The National Library or put out an appeal for someone to lend me a complete set of Dublin directories for the last hundred or so years. Anyway, on with the pub in its current guise.

A small to medium sized boozer, O’Donoghues is widest at the front with the pub closing in at acute angles toward its rear wall. A raised section is installed at the end of the space and is more often than not used as a stage. Seating is minimal – when unused by performers, the raised section makes use of traditional low tables and stools while the unraised section exclusively contains high seating along the ledges and few high tables.

Now I’ve often decried the layout of this boozer, and Pintman №2 and №3 will argue that I’m just being too picky when I reckon that the Feng Shui of the pub just isn’t right and that the lighting is just a bit too low – and to be fair to them I probably am. The lads reckon that the craic we’ve had in here over the years supersedes any negative impact to be garnered from bad table placement and overused dimmer switches – and they’re probably right there again because we’ve had some serious craic in here.

Our experiences of the pub, having been entirely of the after-dark variety, may be different to others – but to us, this is no pub for a quiet chat. This is our go-to boozer for singing your head off whilst wedged into a crowd of strangers. The crowd is a healthy mix of tourists, dubs and countrymen & women and is usually busy enough. Service is generally well equipped to deal with the crowds and none of us has ever had cause to query or return any pints we’ve had there. Upon our last visit at the end of 2018 we parted with the sum of €5.50 for a pint which is unfortunately in line with the higher prices typical of the locality.

Recently the pub has been in the media over its involvement in litigation regarding financial matters. The content of the article is so full of technical financial shite-talk that a layperson, such as me, couldn’t decipher what in the name of lantern jaysis is going on – but it didn’t sound too good. So, who knows? We could see another name on the front of 15 Suffolk St in the months and years to come. And let’s just pray, that whatever happens, it’s that of a publican.

Doheny & Nesbitt’s: Baggot St.

In the month of September, with all the usual talk of Indian Summers abound, I’d happened to find myself becoming dizzy in a well-known Baggot Street pub. This particular spell of pub-housed dizziness was comparatively unusual as it wasn’t one which had been brought about by the effect of alcohol, but instead had been borne from a rush of blood to the head. Witness to this was my drinking companion – Pintman №2, who upon his return from the bar had found me with my head beneath the couch in one of the three snugs in Doheny & Nesbitt’s, immediately inquired as to what I was doing. Attempting to quell his curiosity I promptly responded by telling him that I was looking for money. Unsatisfied with this answer, he probed me further – “Why?”, he asked. “The IMF”, I responded.

This only served to heighten his curiosity.

Now far be it from us to talk politics here on Dublin By Pub– after all, to do so is to be in direct contravention of one of the great unwritten rules of the Irish pub – No Politics. I’ve often heard my grandfather – a man who is only a few short years younger than the state – recall how speaking politics in a boozer was a bar-able offence. ‘You have to remember how vicious the civil war was’ he’d say, ‘Brothers shooting at brothers. That was all still fresh in everybody’s minds. People would be liable to kill each other talking about that sort of stuff. Especially if there was drink taken.’


Doheny & Nesbitt’s lives outside the jurisdiction of this unwritten rule. Frequently regarded as the foremost political pub in Dublin, I needed not fear any expulsion when it came time for me to explain to Pintman №2 who Christine Le Garde was. Having told him to have a look at ‘the aulone’ in the picture behind us, which had been taken in the same snug we were sitting in, I explained that she was head honcho numero-uno over at the IMF, and therefore would be just the woman to drop a quid or two down the couch. Unfortunately there was ne’er a coin nor a promissory note to be found – so we moved our chat swiftly along from economic geopolitics to the more comfortable topics lads down the local who bear resemblance to minor celebrities, the price of a pint and other such related topics.

There can be no denying that Doheny & Nesbitt’s is an institution. But given that it’s often referred to as The Doheny & Nesbitt’s School of Economics – it’s a pub that I came to approach with a degree of wariness. You might forgive this embittered, would-be tradesman but over time the word ‘economics’ and its variants are ones I’ve come to develop a natural disdain for. You see, phraseology pertaining to economics have an ability to render their audience angry or bored, or both when mentioned in the media. ‘Economics’ is a harbinger of doom – a real ‘Brexit’ of its time, utterances of it immediately conjure up thoughts of dole queues, austerity and overdrawing credit cards with pints of Tuborg on Sunday nights. Ok, that last one wasn’t so bad, but still.

But I digress. Because the good thing about perceived statuses or supposed institutions is that they don’t really exist if you don’t subscribe to them. Now don’t get me wrong, if I’d have been in the boozer when the recession-era government were scooping with the troika I’d likely be barred for life – but once you’re plonked into one of the snugs in here with a pint of plain in front of you, you can allow the pub to be whatever you want.

For us, we want to allow to be a Victorian gem, and indeed it is. Listed in Kevin C Kearns’ ‘Dublin Pub Life and Lore’ as being one of Dublin’s original Victorian pubs, the pub is said to be trading since the 1840s. Its interior is satisfactorily reminiscent of other such pubs – the front section being narrow and split by towering ornate carved dividers. Containing no less than three medium-sized snugs, the pub affords multitudes of space for covert conversation while mirrors branded with the name of beer and whiskey companies, old and new, are plentiful throughout the ground floor, maybe more so than any other Dublin pub.  These make the pub a far brighter affair than its dark wooden fixtures would normally allow. Beyond the front (and presumably original) bar, the space opens up at the back, lighter woods, higher ceilings and natural light bring an airier feel compared to the front bar. We noticed some painted bodhráns depicting other pubs in the Mangan group which we agreed was a nice touch.

Interiors aside, we also need to mention the exterior which is beautifully kept. A traditionally hand painted sign is always better than a fabricated one and this particular sign is up there amongst the best. The pint is good but, in our opinion, does suffer from being so close to Toner’s which offers one of the best scoops in the city. Prices are a bit of an issue too (as is the case in most pubs up around here) – Christine Le Garde will have no issue picking up the tab after an evening of lowering porter into herself, but more meagrely waged persons such as ourselves and yourselves will need to keep an eye on the bank balance and hope that pubs of this ilk could adopt The Gravediggers’ attitude of pricing domestic-produced libations in a manner proportional to miles travelled.

You will enjoy a pint in here, especially with that added comfort of history that you get from older pubs. And if you’re looking for somewhere where you can safely bandy about phrases like ‘blue-shirt’, ‘brown-enveloper’ and ‘tribunal-fiend’ while sipping on a pint, look no further.

The Dominick Inn: Dominick St.

What is it about these places and karaoke?

Such was the question that I posed to Pintman №2 as we took our first tentative sups in The Dominick Inn. He attempted a response but found himself interrupted by the howls of a rotund wrinkled grandmother pitching noisily across the room. This interruption led me to become transfixed by the woman’s jewellery – generations of it, gold and cheap looking – hanging from her sweaty frame, it tended to reverberate in a more and more hypnotic manner with every thunderous stomp she made in her enthusiastic yet poor attempt to emulate Tina Turner. “I couldn’t tell ya”, Pintman №2 finally responded – having timed his response to the verses of the song.

By ‘these places’, we refer to boozers that are a bit rough around the edges – a statement we make without judgement – because pubs like this one are usually just normal community boozers – we’re well aware of that. These sort of pubs have no frills and no gimmicks, but are, undeniably, also that bit coarser in décor and atmosphere than most others we normally tend to write about.

The thing is though, we’re quite fond of pubs of this ilk – the drink tends to be cheap, the characters plentiful and the opportunities to send Pintman №3 up to deliver his famed Elvis impersonation are many. In his absence this time around, we’d come to discuss as to whether our ease in these type of pubs is a direct attribute afforded to us from having spent more time than we care to admit drinking into the wee hours in Northside Shopping Centre’s former premiere after-hours spot – The Blacker (aka Liz Delaney’s aka Dusk aka Club Hamunaptra). It was in this sawdust peppered den of iniquity that we served our time and developed the requisite skill-set for conducting oneself in establishments of such notoriety. Some even served tougher apprenticeships than others – with one of the troupe being spontaneously put into a state of semi-consciousness via the means of a choke-hold one evening. His crime? Whispering sweet nothings into the ear of a young lady who, as it turned out, was probably not single after all.

Now we can’t promise it, but we’d be confident enough that you won’t be choked out in the Dominick Inn.

Regarding the interior of the pub, there wasn’t a whole lot to write home about. The seating and tables comprised of traditional stuff mixed in with the odd sofa here and there – the arrangement of these was somewhat haphazard. The physical bar itself was noted as being a nicely crafted bit of woodwork but was at odds with the rest of the room’s sterile aesthetic with the hard flooring and flashing LED lights making for an uncomfortable sensory experience overall.

While the senses of sight and sound mightn’t have been well served on this occasion, we can gladly report that the sense of taste didn’t fair too badly from the experience. The pint, which was priced south of the €5 mark, was a good one and deemed to be of a high standard by all around the table at the time.

And so it was as the wailing tone-deaf strains of a merry youngone attempting her best ‘Maniac 2000’ rang out through the pub we glanced at one another and decided that we’d leave the second round for another time.

You won’t find The Dominick Inn in any guide books any time soon, but that’s ok. The locals enjoy it and so did we. And you should look not one millimetre further if you’re after a few decent pints in unpretentious surroundings that won’t break the bank or even if you just want to knock out a few bars of ‘Killing Me Softly’.

T O’Brennan’s: Upper Dominick St.

Mainly for the fear of joining that easily-offended, ever-moaning subset of the public who believe in the one true lord and saviour – Joe Duffy, we decided we wouldn’t. But when we first visited T O’Brennan’s we had considered lodging a complaint about some of their signage with the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland.

If you ever find yourself in or around the area within which this pub is situated, we strongly urge you to go and check it out – Its renovated facade is a thing of wonder. Harkening back to humbler times, its perfectly-rejuvenated red brick and carefully restored signage really is a feast for the eyes, especially when you consider how the building looked only a few years ago (pictured, cr: Google).

 

When we approached T O’Brennan’s for the first time with the intention of entering and having a drink, we were feeling all the better of about four or five pints of your ordinary, run of the mill, nitrogenated, Dublin brewed, draught-stout. And having found ourselves in this particular drinking rhythm – our intention, though unspoken at the time, was to carry on consuming this very same beverage. So when we drew closer to the pub and observed a large oval-shaped sign bearing the brand name of our preferred purveyor of stout, we figured that we had no cause to suspect that we would encounter any interruption to the drinking pattern we had established on this sunny summer’s evening. But when we came to order a few pints here, suffice it to say that we were a little disappointed.

The sign which we mention above (pictured, cr: Google) is placed upon the west-facing end of the building at ground level and is one which replicates an old Guinness bottle label. Prior to the 1960s, it was common practice for Guinness to be bottled by the seller rather than the brewer – bottles which would be kept and reused in-house would be adorned with labels supplied to the publican by Guinness, these would generally include the name of the pub, or its owner, or both.

Thinking about the sign in the last while, we’d thought that maybe the new owners had revived a name which was previously attributed to the pub and that the sign depicted one of these old labels. After a bit of digging, we found that the building was in use as a public house during the ‘bottling era’ but couldn’t seem to come across anything mentioning the current name. Then we struck gold. We found an image of an actual label used by the publican, Patrick Leavey, who was the man behind the taps in the pub way back when. And wouldn’t it be fitting enough that we found it on The Beer Nut’s Twitter feed, The Beer Nut is an extremely knowledgeable beer blogger (check out the blog here!) whom we once had the pleasure of having a few pints with… inside the walls of St. James’ Gate! We’ve shamelessly knicked the image in question (pictured), and we’re pretty satisfied that this is the one that the sign is likely based upon.

When we finally did temper our expectations for what we could drink in here and decided against making a complaint to the ASAI we opted for two pints of Porterhouse stout. Pintman №2, a man whose tongue’s ability for mockery and mimicry far outweighs its capacity for discerning the flavour profiles of malt or roasted barley, denounced his beverage as being too ‘coffee-ish’ – a complaint he makes about every craft stout he encounters. I eventually came around to enjoy the drink after my taste-buds managed to acclimatise themselves.

A small one-roomed pub, T O’Brennan’s is easily the cosiest of any craft beer pub we’ve set foot in. Its use of more traditional pub furniture sets it apart from its contemporary craft beer houses, which tend to favour furniture rooted in aesthetic over comfort each time. The decor is most certainly craft-beer centric with metal signs depicting a wide array of breweries taking up much of the wall-space, these were noted as having been effected in a more mindful manner than that of other such pubs around town. Navy blue upholstery blends nicely with the dark wooden bar and floors, while white and blue upon the top and the bottom half of the walls lightens the space well. The drink, as one would expect from a craft beer boozer, is varied and plentiful. There also seemed to be a good variety of the stronger stuff on the back of the bar, most noticeable being the gin.

On this visit, we just had the one pint and thumbed through a few books with photos of old Dublin which we found on the shelves behind us. As I perused the black and white images of poorer people of yore, I came to contextualise my first world problems with reference to the deprivation that was once commonplace in the tenements of Dublin and indeed Dominick Street. So I threw another mouthful back and listened to the bells of the passing tram wane, and as a warm summer’s breeze swept through the pub I felt contented with my lot – so much so that I turned to Pintman №2 and said – ‘It’s not so bad is it?’

– ‘It’s too coffee-ish’, he replied.

– ‘Not the gargle!! Life!’

– ‘Life!?” he wondered, ‘what are you after??’

– ‘Nevermind’

I’ll certainly darken the door of T O Brennan’s again. Pintman №2, on the other hand, might take a bit of convincing.

Peadar Brown’s: Clanbrassil St.

A couple of posts back you might remember that we were drawing parallels between pubs and books. Well, rejoice ye lovers of poorly constructed prose because here comes this poorly effected simile once again.

Pubs and books… consider, if you will, the similarities between the two – how both a pub and a book are home to many a great story, both have acted as vehicles for education and enlightenment for as long as we care to remember, and both are a source of refuge where the common man can go to escape the mundanity of ordinary everyday life.

Keeping that in mind, let us say that as we continue to wade through the convoluted task of drinking our way through the entire network of boozers in dear old dirty Dublin town, we’ve come to recognize a great many parallels between the pubs of our beloved capital city. We’ve identified things that are true of some pubs and have also come to recognize some traits that can be attributed to all pubs. It’s one of the latter of these two observations that brings us back to our initial thought – given that it’s true that of all books that they should not be judged by their covers we’d argue that the same sentiment can be applied to pubs regarding their façade.

Taking the pictured Peadar Brown’s here as an example, it’s haphazardly decorated frontage sitting amidst apartments and fast-food units just don’t really constitute the type of composition typical of the more refined imagery you’ll find adorning products upon the shelves of souvenir shops. And this is, at least for our own selfish reasons, a good thing. For if an image of Peadar Browns’ facade could convey the level of craic available inside – the place would be besieged by every imaginable incarnation of plastic paddy conceivable, and within days it would be rendered uninhabitable for discerning drinkers like you and me.

It was the weekend of the All-Ireland Football Final last year when Pintman №2 and I had fallen afoul of the ire of the man behind the taps in Fallon’s (we love you Fallon’s but good jaysus can you be a narky one.)Deciding not to tarnish our perception of the pub any further, we decided that it was high time that we ticked Peadar Brown’s off the list. Heading southward up to Clanbrassil Street we soon found ourselves at the threshold of the pub which had temporarily rebranded itself as Jim Gavin’s in tribute to the Dublin bainisteoir himself. Tentatively we crossed the threshold to find a pub that we instantly regretted having not visited sooner.

With tiles toward the front of the pub and beautifully weathered wooden boards flooring the back end, the pub is decorated traditionally throughout. The ephemera around the place is in plentiful supply and ranges from local and national history to sport to the usual knick-knacks like vintage beer and cigarette advertisements.

Amongst the more traditional décor, there is a theme to be found. Denoted by painted bodhráns, as this particular theme tends to be, we recognized a definite Republican flair to Peadar Brown’s. With portraits of the signatories of the 1916 proclamation and the prominent placement of the green Irish Republican flag over the mantle, it’s not the type of place we personally would have been advocating a visit to for any of the lads in white rugby tops that we encountered culturally appropriating African American slave song around temple bar over the weekend just gone. We’d also be wary of bringing any Rangers fans in too, we noted the pub to be a bit of a hub for Celtic fans given the couple of die-hard hoops propping up the bar early one Sunday taking in some inconsequential tie with a rival from the bottom of the league table.

Upon our first visit (which would inspire plenty more) we settled in with two jars of Arthur. Having counted the change returned and calculated them to have impacted the pocket to the tune of €4.60 apiece, we turned our attention to the quality. And let us say that these gargles were as creamy as that poxy couch in your granny’s front room. Served in the preferred tulip shaped vessel, we found no fluke to be identified with the quality remaining constant throughout the duration of our first session here, and let me tell you – it did end up as a session. With the sole intention of dropping in for a pint or two to give the pub a try, Pintman №2 and I soon realised we’d be here for a longer spell than initially intended.

As if being satisfied with the atmosphere, the gargle and the aesthetics wasn’t good enough, Peadar’s had another ace up its sleeve. We were barely into our third pint when we came to notice a growing assembly of musicians beginning to occupy the back section of the pub. In ones and twos, we observed the arrival them – a guitarist or two first, then a piper, then a fiddler and then plenty more besides. By the time we were halfway through our fourth pint we were front row to a blistering All-Ireland eve céilí and Peadar Brown’s had captured our heart.

So you may take your picturesque rip-off dens festooned in fairy lights and hanging baskets. They might look the part on a calendar or a postcard or a fridge magnet. But no such piece of overpriced tat could possibly deliver the type of craic that you’ll find within the walls of Peadar Brown’s. This pub is a pillar of its community, a place of music and culture, a proper public house! This is a real Dublin pub!

The Back Page: Phibsborough Road

Outside of a few punts on The Grand National and Cheltenham, I think that it would be a fair assessment of myself to say that I’m not that much of a gambling man. But with that said, I’m here to tell you today that I would happily bet pounds to the pence that former Ireland and Leeds footballer – Johnny Giles, when given the option of drinking somewhere other than The Back Page, would probably do just that.

So here’s the thing, it’s not that I have any inside knowledge on Gilesy’s drinking venues of choice or his inclinations toward craft beer or anything – it’s just that on either of the gable ends of The Back Page there is, in the guise of street art, two nods to Giles’ former colleagues. One is a direct Eamon Dunphy quote likening Christiano Ronaldo to a fish and the second happens to be a colourful caricature of the late Bill O’Herlihy, fully complete with his trademark catchphrase: Okey Doke.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that Johnny would have a problem with either of these two embellishments in their own right. It’s just that if I were him I’d probably be a bit annoyed about the proprietors of The Back Page not completing the troublesome trio and emblazoning me upon their facade too. But Gilesy I am not, so I suppose that I should state for the record that my initial visit to The Back Page was made with no such biases, hypothetical or otherwise.

If those two above-mentioned features haven’t convinced any of you football-mad readers out there, I must hasten to advise you to make no mistake about it, The Back Page is here to stake its claim as one of Dublin’s utmost soccer-centric bars. With national and club football flags and scarves looking down upon the countless images of moments from soccer history, this pubs grá for the beautiful game is something it wears proudly upon the sleeve of its vintage Italia ’90 jersey. I’m even sure that I wasn’t hallucinating when I saw wallpaper comprised entirely of FIFA PlayStation covers stretching back as far as the nineties on one of the walls.

The downstairs interior of the pub consists of three main sections, -the bar which is situated at the front of the building is the first of these. Tending to be dimly lit upon each of our visits – it’s a space wherein you’ll find a handful of high tables outside of a raised section with lower seating. A medium sized bar is placed to the right of the space, beside which sits a full-length bookcase housing a sizeable collection of board games.

The bar itself is well stocked and offers a wide range of craft alongside a couple of the old reliables. Guinness came in at the painfully high price of €5.60 a pop, and while objectively it wasn’t a pint which was overly poor on quality, it was most definitely one which felt like very poor value when compared to the price and standard in the pubs located within the immediate vicinity.

Beyond the main bar toward the back of the premises, there is a lengthy atrium which offers high seating at bar-tops which seemed as if they were protruding from the ledge along the wall in the manner in which they jutted out perpendicularly. Opting to sit at one of these we surveyed the rest of the space and found agreement in our dislike for what was essentially the kitchen from a pizza restaurant. This particular feature which sat partly obfuscated by the bar made us feel we were in a restaurant more so than a pub.

The third main space within the pub is found down a short corridor from the right side of the front of the pizza restaurant. Housed within here is a games room which boasted a veritable leisureplex worth of amenities such as pool tables, table tennis tables, and a crazy-golf course. Yes. Crazy Golf. In the pub.

if any of you currently reading this happen to be long time DublinByPub readers, you may have already twigged that this one wasn’t for us. I’m certain that there are people whose experience of going for a few pints can be enhanced with the addition of miniature golf and pizza, but those people are not us. And while I’m sure that our absence from this pub is no lamentable matter of fact for its proprietors, I can only offer our particular opinion. And our opinion saw something of a contrived and gimmicky affair.

But different folks will take to different strokes. Plenty will have no problem with a sports bar being readily built and decorated. Us, we prefer a more organic establishment of a boozer’s theme. We reckon it’s like reading a book – in order to have a meaningful understanding of the narrative you have to read through the entire text. You can’t just skip to the back page!

Jimmy Rabbitte’s: Camden St.

Lately, I’ve been finding myself lying awake at night pondering a big question. This question isn’t of an existential variety, no, no. I’m fine with reflection on the afterlife and the greater universe for the moment, the one question that’s currently interrupting my sleeping pattern is that which queries whether Jimmy Rabbitte’s, the pub on Camden Street, was named after Jimmy Senior, Jimmy Junior, or both. There’s also the frightening prospect that the pub might have been named after someone other than one of the two characters in Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown trilogy.

It might be reasonable to assume that Jimmy Junior is the man in question here, given that his band – The Commitments do in fact rehearse in the space sat above the pub during the movie adaptation of the of the book which bears the band’s name. But it can’t be that simple really. I mean, who wouldn’t want to name a pub after Jimmy Senior. Colm Meaney’s portrayal of the foul-mouthed, pint-drinking loveable family man is one that is beloved by the entire population of this country. Ah, alas – maybe some questions are just too big for this life.

A relatively new pub, Jimmy Rabbitte’s is an establishment which myself and Pintman №2 have darkened the door of no more than three times and no less than two. Upon our first attendance within the boozer, we found it sparsely populated with the exception of a table with what sounded to us to be an English lad. This particular lad, who wasn’t the worst looking chap to be fair to him, was a bit of a hit with the ladies who at the time, one and all, seemed to be making it their business to approach his table for a chat. Feeling a pinch of inadequacy from the whole situation, Pintman №2 and I reminded ourselves of our inner beauty and made for a table with two pints of plain.

Pint-wise we recall the standard as being nothing too above average but of an acceptable level all the same. The last note of price we took put the pint of plain at an even fiver. But we’d expect that to have risen by now given the time elapsed since then. Aside from stout, the range of gargle was pretty plentiful and seemed to have something to appeal to a wide range of the drinking public, particularly those who fancy a gin from time to time.

The appearance of the pub is what we might describe as modern-retro. It might seem hypocritical of us to say that we liked the place given our thoughts on its nearby neighbour – Devitt’s. But as the installation of this boozer did not require the tearing out of an old gem we’re happy enough to figure that this is one of the few times that we’re not contradicting ourselves. With its solid wooden flooring underfoot, wood panelling on the walls and exposed wooden rafters overhead – the pub keeps a certain rustic charm. For decoration – there is any number of quirky surreal scenes framed upon the wall-space while enough postcards to stock a souvenir shop sit affixed to the rafters. Snug lovers can rejoice in the knowledge that this pub boasts one of the capital’s newest snugs, the modest-sized compartment sits toward the front of the pub. Not stopping there with older conveniences, the underside of the bar offers the option of hooks for jackets and bags. Interesting too beneath the bar sits a definite sign of the times in the form of USB ports. The modern hook perhaps?

I suppose we could put a bit more of an effort in and actually figure out specifically whom this boozer is really named after. But maybe the mystery is half the craic. Oh, and we eventually found out who that English fella was when the women in our lives put two and two together. They wasted no time in berating us, angrily asking “how on earth” we didn’t recognise Jude Law “sitting right in front of yis!!??” – a question we each could only possibly answer one way…

… I’m fucked if I know, Terry!

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!