Grainger’s: Talbot St.

On more than one occasion, we’ve happened to find ourselves in conversation with an older generation of pub patronage whereby the topic at hand will wind its way around to that much favoured subject of ‘The Dublin Character’. Generally these conversations will go the one way – we, being the younger side, will ultimately find ourselves on the receiving end of the older side’s lament for the demise of The Dublin Character. Usually delivered with a swathe of clichés, there’s no room for irony when they just don’t make em like they useta anymore.

Naturally though, we’re always poised to argue the contrary – and it is a matter of public record that we believe Dublin, and in particular – its pubs, to be ripe with characters for the pickin.

Objectively though, we can bring ourselves to admit that the nature of the Dublin Character has changed down through the years. Recently, we took in a crawl along Talbot Street which prompted a discussion on Dublin characters of old, and one in particular – Matt Talbot. Matt, or The Venerable Matt as he is now known by some, was a terrible man when it came to the demon, drink – an alcoholic by thirteen, his early years were defined not only by his dependence on a sup, but by the scheming, thieving and cajoling that came along with such an addiction. Eventually though, Matt saw the light and decided to live in servitude to the divine – a life that ultimately would include a bizarre self-inflicted regiment of food deprivation, sleeping on planks and wearing chains upon his body.

Given all of that, and having incorrectly assumed that Talbot Street had been named for Matt, we couldn’t help but wonder what the man himself would make of the proliferation of boozers along the street that bears his name, if he were still rattling along the streets of the city. Probably not much. We were also thinking that we’ve been indulging in some of his penance ourselves in the name of the craic. Skipped the odd meal to nip in for a scoop? Check! Slept on uncomfortable surfaces? Yep! Wore chains upon your person?…. Eh, we really should get onto the topic of Grainger’s here.

Grainger’s, depending on your geography, sits at the start or the end of Talbot St. A mainstay of the street, the Grainger name has adorned the façade for as long as any of us care to remember. A narrow pub, it’s probably best identifiable by its striking black and white chessboard flooring. The fit-out of the pub is typical of a modern style of interior design seen in new and newly refurbished pubs – chesterfield-esque upholstery and trendy lighting fixtures sits amidst pastel tones. It’s quite evident that the recent refurbishment seeks establish the space more as café-bar than just bar.

Overall the look is effected nicely enough. That is though with one exception – sitting atop the bar there lies a plywood covering at the base of the beer taps. As if plucked straight from Cassidy’s or P Mac’s, this anomaly sits in defiance to its refined surroundings having apparently been designated as the pub’s proverbial plaster cast, it being littered with signatures and doodles.

Anomalies aside, it should be noted that the livery sitting beneath the grafittied plywood is far more extensive than one might expect, or than was by us. With plenty of genuine independent craft brews alongside the old reliables – there’ll be no lip out of your Granda or your cousin from NCAD, should you decide to bring them to Grainger’s for that big family get together you’ve been meaning to have. Guinness clocked in at an even fiver and made no negative impact on the taste-buds of me or Pintman Nº2, no mean feat when you consider that it followed a few in Cleary’s.

Vibe-wise the pub could have stood to have had a bit more atmosphere befitting of a Saturday night when we last visited. Sparsely populated, it seemed to lack the benefit of a regular custom that its neighbours seem to enjoy. Crawling though, as we were, it can’t be said whether we had just ducked in before the rush.

None of us, with full conviction could say that we dislike Grainger’s. But it suffers from being situated to too many other beloved boozers for us to find the charm in it that we do with the rest, It’s certainly a better pub to be waiting out a train in when compared to Connolly station’s in-house boozer.

J O’Connell’s: South Richmond St.

Sitting in the middle of the Caribbean Sea there lies a small city on the northern coast of Panama with a population of five thousand people. This city boasts a tropical maritime climate and a quick search online shows me that it’s currently bathing in a sunshine which has brought a temperature in the region of the high twenties. This is in stark contrast to the current Irish weather conditions which have, in the last few days, began to exude that icy November chill that has you finally digging out your biggest coat from the back of the wardrobe. Thankfully I’m sheltered from said iciness, but less thankfully is the fact that I’m in work – in a drab office block, and aside from writing this, I’m also neglecting my professional duties by perusing a collection of images of this little city mentioned above. It’s a picturesque place – dense forest-like growth buffers between land and sky on all inland horizons while horizons off into the Caribbean look just as exotic as you might expect The Caribbean would.

I’m sure some of you might be starting to wonder where I’m going with this. Well, the reason why I’m harping on about such a far-flung place is namely down to the fact that in the last few weeks – we happened to have a pint in an area of Dublin which not only is a namesake of this Caribbean town, but happens to have actually been named after it. The area we refer to is Portobello.

So as it would turn out, this fair little canal-side district was so named, not after a type of mushroom, as yours truly had thought, but instead from the occasion of some aul colonial English prick getting one over on some aul colonial Spanish bollox. This delightful little bloodbath, which happened in 1739 is now referred to as The War of Jenkins’ Ear. But enough about that.

J O’Connell’s, from what we can tell, is an old boozer. Our limited research skills haven’t managed to date it, but a record in ‘Thom’s Almanac and Official Directory for the Year 1862’ lists a Mr Walter Furlong – a grocer and spirit dealer, as it’s occupant. A further record from an electoral register dated between 1908 and 1915 describes the building as being a ‘Licensed House’. What’s nice though about this pub, though, is the fact that none of that is rammed down your throat. Nowadays we live in such a marketing-centric time, and it’s of particular annoyance to us when a pub which is barely opened a wet day bombards its patrons and potential patrons with a PR-spun, contrived ‘back-story’, which takes more than enough of its fair share of artistic license when deciding on how liberal to be with the truth. In J O’Connell’s this is no concern.

What you do get here is an authentic Dublin boozer. The colour scheme is one that I can’t come to describe without mention of the word – festive. Glossy reds and greens cast a warming glow on the pub which is of a medium size overall. High seating is available at the bar only and a traditional combination of pub couches and low stools make up the rest. The walls display a good mix of the usual fare – horses, GAA, local history and some nice portraits of Brendan Behan & Co. Mix nicely along with the whiskey and beer trinkets about the place. Pintman Nº2 was taken with the arrangement of the shelving behind the bar and I noticed the barrel end of a few casks which sat into the bar, as they would have in the era before mainstream bottling. I wondered if they were an original feature at the time, I’m less uncertain now having discovered the age of the place.

The vibe when we visited was quite a chilled one – a mix of young and old locals sat ensconced into various corners engrossed in quiet conversation. The radio was kept low enough and was playing Billie Holiday, or Billy Holiday-esque sort of tunes – we all agreed it an unusual set of tunes in the context of Dublin pubs en-masse, but too agreed that they suited the mood perfectly. The staff were excellent, the barman was on the ball with service and barely allowed us to leave our seats to obtain a jar. The pint was a bargain at €4.80 and was as satisfying on the palate as it was on the pocket.

J O’Connell’s is one of the true undiscovered gems in Dublin’s landscape of pubs. And yes, the Panama Canal may be more impressive than The Grand, and there’s little doubt that the weather in the Carribean is nicer than ours. But who wants to be drinking rum in a wicker hut with sand down your trousers when you could instead be cuddled into a couch with a pint of plain in Portobello. I know which one I fancy more.

Cassidy’s: Camden St.

What do Robbie Keane, Bill Clinton and Daniel O Donnell have in common? Now there’s a question you never thought you’d ever hear, and a question we never thought we’d ever ask. It’s not that Bill had sweet first touch when he played five-a-side on the lawn of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave – no, no. And we’re pretty certain that you won’t find Keano in any brass section warming up to the dulcet tones of Baker St. Nor will you find Bill Clinton going out of his way to attract older wom….. actually, never mind.

Well if any of you out there thought that Cassidy’s of Camden Street was the particular commonality between the three distinguished figures aforementioned, you would be right because this pub happens to be one which at one time or another purveyed a pint to each of the three lads.

The perfect example of a deceivingly large boozer, this one has to be up there with one of the longest pubs in the city. The pub is popular with Donegal natives and we have it on good authority that it’s managed by wee Daniel’s brother too. Exuding a comfortable vibe that must be difficult to maintain in such an expansive space – Cassidy’s is a Victorian pub which characterised with all the usual features one would expect of a place described as such. Dark wood and brass fittings serve as a welcome aesthetic in the midst of part of town that seems to become trendier by the day.

The pint, we usually find as being up to scratch here and we’ve certainly no recollections of a bad one ever being put on front of us on any visit. Upon our last visit we were charged an even fiver for the dark and creamy pleasure, but use that as a rough guide only – we’re fast approaching the year anniversary of that visit at this rate.

Regrettably we don’t haven’t spent half as much time as we’d have liked to in this pub over the years. We’ll definitely be making sure to remedy that in the near future.

East Side Tavern: Leeson St. Lower

Dublin, as most of you will probably have already noticed, is a city that was constructed on a bit of an ad-hoc basis. In the past we’ve alluded to the difference between the streets of Dublin and those of a city in the USA and these are many – we don’t do blocks, we don’t do symmetry, we barely do straight lines – and that’s ok, this is the way we like it. You see, we’ve decided to let logic form our assumption here that The East Side Tavern was so named due to the fact that it’s on the east side of St. Stephen’s Green. But the thing is, St. Stephen’s Green is not a space whose boundaries are aligned in accordance with the four major points on a compass, so it’s sort of on the South-eastern side of the green. But South-eastern Side Tavern doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, now does it?

This one we’re coming at with plenty of disappointment, because we’ve just found out in the last few days that The East Side Tavern has closed permanently. About a week or so ago. And we’re raging. Because it wasn’t all that bad of a boozer.  Set in a building that has been guised under a few different monikers over the last decade or so, it was a pub that we thought had finally broken the curse and managed to dig its heels in. Unfortunately not so.

Comprising of a modern sort of aesthetic it boasted a mix of high and low seating which could have stood (or sat) to have been a bit more comfortable. There was a bit of exposed brick around the place which wasn’t too unkind to the eye and dark wood was the order of the day elsewhere. The talking point of the pub, however, was the wall of bottles which adorned the back of the bar – stretching to the height of the ceiling these were lit in such an accentuating manner that to gaze upon them was to feel you were gawking directly at the face of the almighty, well after a few scoops anyway. Speaking of the scoops, we last visited over the summer and found the pint to be as good as the one in Hartigan’s and at an even fiver was a full ten cent cheaper than Harto’s too.

Years ago, when the pub was known under a previous name we happened to find ourselves in for a few pints following a Damien Dempsey gig in The National Concert Hall. We were about a pint and half in when we began to notice members of the large ensemble, who had performed on the night, file into the boozer and make their way upstairs. Feeling a bit brazen from the evening’s pints, as a whole, we thought we’d wander up and have a look ourselves.

Arriving unimpeded up on to the first floor of the building, Pintman № 5 and I made straight toward the only vacant table left in the room. Now, before I go any further, I need to tell you a little bit about Pintman №5. A textbook definition of a man before his time, Pintman №5, who penned our post on Chaser’s of Ballyfermot, has been taxi-ing drunken hordes of Dubliners home from their evening’s debauchery since his mid-twenties. Speaking exclusively in a rare Hiberno-English dialect which blends rhyming slang and dead colloquialisms – he’s the type of man that comes along to the pub to see your mates’ covers band and shouts up requests for ‘Óró Sé do Bheatha ‘Bhaile’ amidst all the calls for Thin Lizzy and The Beatles. And no, that’s no hypothetical or fictional scenario – Pintman №5’s vocal penchant for this War of Independence rebel anthem became such a mainstay of these aforementioned gigs that random punters even took to requesting the tune in Pintman № 5’s absence.

It didn’t take particularly long on this evening for us to have found the vacant space at our table filled up with the later arrivals to the after-party. Turning to see who had sat down beside us, we immediately realised that we had then been joined by Kerry Trad Legend – Seamus Begley. Accordion in his lap and the lot. Seamus, as it turns out, is a gem of a fella – and sat with us for the guts of an hour swapping stories and jokes. In the midst of all this gaiety at our own table we came to realise that the inevitable seisún had begun in earnest for the rest of the room and more inevitable again we found Seamus leaving our table, having been accosted to play a tune.

Obligingly, he took to the centre of the room and began knocking out a waltz on his accordion. This was received with applause that suggested he might play another. It’s no sooner than he has wondered aloud as to what he should play next that I can hear Pintman № 5’s sharp intake of breath followed by his booming voice bellowing out the familiar request of ‘ÓRÓ SÉ DO BHEATHA ‘BHAILE!’. Unfamiliar though, was the response this time around. Without missing a literal beat, Seamus Begley turns on his heels and begins a rousing rendition of the song, the chorus of which, is fervently sang by the attentive and talented audience. I’ve never seen Pintman №5 so elated. Before and since. And even better again, we’ve never heard a request for Óró Sé do Bheatha ‘Bhaile since.

It’s always bad when a boozer shuts up shop, and we’re most certainly sad to see this one call last orders. Hopefully there’ll be more to come from No. 104 Leeson St. Lwr in the months or years to come.

The George: George’s St.

Did you ever find yourself in a conversation with someone in or around town where you might be talking about one pub or another? One of those conversations where you wind up delving deeper into the topic and end up discussing pubs in general. And you might be ten or fifteen minutes in when the person with whom you are conversing might turn around and ask you if ‘ ye ever drink in Mulligans at all?’ and before you get a chance to respond, the question will quickly be suffixed with a proclamation that ‘that place is a fuckin’ institution’. And of course you’ll tell them that you have, and agree that, yes, it is. But then you might wonder later on, or a few days after, if it really is an institute – and if it is, why?

The George is a pub that will leave you with no such quandaries. Established in 1985, a full eight years prior to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the Republic of Ireland, it is Dublin’s longest running and operational gaybar. A mecca for Dublin and indeed Ireland’s LGBTQ community – it’s a boozer that can unequivocally be described as a living, breathing, bona fide institution.

The George, in its entirety, is a sprawling multi-levelled space which plays host to karaoke, drag shows, bingo and plenty of other LGBTQ friendly activities. When we last visited – we found ourselves a bit early for all of that, so we opted instead to make our way into the side bar for a pint. The bar (which is actually the original pub) is now, in homage to a former long serving member of staff, known as Bridie’s Bar and is, according to some light research, colloquially referred to as ‘Jurassic’ by some locals – someone in the comments might enlighten us on this one. (Named so due to its housing of older clientele – thanks to @fionarhw on Instagram for a swift response there)

On a Sunday afternoon we find Bridie’s to be busy enough such that we have to settle for standing space. Carving out a few square feed toward the far end of the room, we find the atmosphere to be a calm and friendly one and we’re engaged in conversation of the same manner by a few lads at the bar as we order a round. Our drinks are dispatched hastily by a competent barwoman who’s seamless service of a sizeable-enough crowd is noted separately by a few of us. Guinness clocks in at an even and reasonable €5 and is a good pour at that.

Looking at the design and layout of the bar, objectively, we find it has its hits and its misses. Appearing to have been the beneficiary of a relatively recent refurbishment, Pintman Nº2 and I find the time to indulge in a short argument over the wooden panelling behind the bar – him being against and me being impartial. We agreed that the Romanesque windows, topped with their flourishes of stained glass, were a nice touch but also come to agree that the two large pillars that sit parallel to the bar serve to break up the space more than we’d have liked them to.

Our visit passes off mostly without incident. At one stage someone, somewhere in the premises, presumably opens a door or flips a switch that they weren’t supposed to. A noisy alarm sounds and in the grand Irish tradition of ignoring alarms in pubs everybody goes on about their business as the barwoman scrambles across the room to silence the alarm again. One or two of us can’t help but have a bit of a giggle when someone brings up the episode of the Simpsons where a functioning steel mill turns into an uber-gay dance club upon the sounding of the hometime klaxon.

I’m trying to wonder now whether or not it’s been apparent in all of the posts we’ve uploaded on DublinByPub thus far that we’re not members of the LGBTQ community. Presumably it has. Hopefully more appeant though, has been the fact that we most certainly espouse a policy of live and let live without judgement or prejudice. Of course we’d be lying if we said we didn’t carry subconscious prejudices that come with an upbringing in a de facto theocracy which institutionally heaped scorn and stigma upon those who identified as LGBTQ. Thankfully though, prejudices as these can be challenged. And we can think of no better or more enjoyable way to challenge them than sinking a few pints in a friendly atmosphere of a Sunday afternoon. Give it a try sometime, won’t you?

Fitzgerald’s: Aston Quay

Growing up in Ireland, you come to realise that certain phenomena can occur from time to time that there’s just no excuse for. Hindsight is certainly 20:20, and 20:20 puts a harsh and unforgiving light on things once they’re done. Garda Patrol, Dustin the Turkey at the Eurovision Song Contest, The ‘Ah Here Leave It Out’ woman getting paid fistfuls of cash to appear to drunken nightclubbers – to mention a few. All equally inexcusable and blatantly ridiculous moments in Irish social history. This is okay though. All of these were quite evidently outside of the norm and it’s even easy for us now, as it was back then, to hold our hands up as a nation and say- ‘mea culpa lads, things got a bit out of hand there.’

Some other things though, are so engrained into our national identity that coming to view them with any sense of their ostensible ridiculousness is a harder affair. This is something I came to realise a number of weeks ago having donated blood and mistiming a bus. Realising that another bus wouldn’t be leaving the terminus for at least another hour, I knew there was only one thing for it. And that one thing was to be delivered in a pint sized vessel complete with black body and a white head.

Sitting in the confines of the canteen in the Irish Blood Transfusion Service’s clinic in the architecturally striking Lafayette House (a building based on that which houses Bruxelles pub) I opted to text Pintman Nº2 – who, as luck would have it, was practically across the road in Fitzgerald’s. With haste, I gathered up as many complimentary pens as I could and set about correcting the pint’s-worth of liquid deficit I’d just underwent.

Arriving into the ornate surroundings of the pub I met with Pintman Nº2 and two other friends, one of whom happened to be a Brazilian native. Explaining where I’d just come from to Pintman Nº2, our other Irish companion interjected  with an enquiry as to whether the act of donating blood still begets a free pint of Guinness. Retrieving my drink from the barman, I explained that the practice had ended some years ago, and with a hearty gulp of my newly poured pint I exclaimed, to laughter that fell one short of unanimity, that you now have to provide your own pint.

Thereafter, our somewhat perplexed Brazilian companion then listened intently as three Irish nationals described the grand old tradition of swapping pints of porter for pints of blood. I’m still not sure if she actually believed us, and who really could blame her – I mean the act of giving stout to blood donors is, admittedly, ostensibly, a bit ridiculous. When you try and disassociate from the national psyche for a bit, that is.

Named presumably after the Fitzgerald part of its owners – The Louis Fitzgerald Group, Fitzgerald’s is included in a portfolio that boasts other such city gems as The Stag’s Head and Kehoe’s. Decorated with that familiar Victorian pub architecture sort of persuasion in mind, its features include tiled and wooden flooring, a long granite bar, dark wood and high ceilings. These all combine to create a cosy aesthetic along the front half of the pub’s narrow space, a space that is nicely illuminated with the aid of large mirrors which distribute the light effectively. It would be far too picky of us to fault the appearance of this half of the pub – it’s a fine looking shop.

The back half of the pub, however, we we’re less keen on. Opening up wide for a more restaurant sort of vibe, it contains lower seating along with the much dreaded carvery bar. But given that that particular feature is tucked away into a corner and not too imposing, I’ll forego the same style of rant that we decided to level upon poor Madigan’s and leave it by saying that we couldn’t, in all good faith, deduct too many points for the back section, not when it does such a fine job of keeping all the tourists from cluttering up the bar, trying to decide what pints to buy. Speaking of pints, the Guinness we found to be tasty and well poured, as it should be at €5.50 a pop!

All in all Fitzgerald’s is a fine aul bar that we’ll likely visit more than just the once again. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to petition Guinness to bring back the donor’s pint, and then to try and figure out how to tell our Brazilian friend about the pints given to women just out of labour.

 

Kimchi Hophouse: Parnell St.

Occurring in the form of premises decorated with ephemera alluding to places and people of no significance to local culture – the overseas ‘Irish Bar’ is an ever-intriguing anomaly. Of course, we’re more than aware that most are likely a mere means to generate profit, but it’s sometimes still a difficult task to silence that voice in your head (that same one verbalises after a pint or two to ask the Garçon in McNulty’s in La-Rochelle whether he’s ever been to Ballyfermot) from bigging-up the fact that the most popular variant of drinking establishment, worldwide, is that which replicates your own native one.

It would, though, make you wonder how others feel about similar circumstances. What would, say a native Korean, think about Dublin’s flagship Korean watering hole: Kimchi-Hophouse? Answers on a postcard, please.

Sitting in the somewhat Asian district of Parnell Street: Kimchi-Hophouse trades in a premises that’s been involved in the purveying of intoxicants since 1848 and which, much to our delight, retains the signage bearing its former name: The Shakespeare. The reason for this we’re not sure of. Whether it was a decision based on finances or a deliberate nod to the past is uncertain, but we’re sure Will-o himself would approve. Past being prologue, and all that.

As it turns out, a Korean bar in Dublin isn’t that unusual in the grand scheme of things. The similarities between Korea and Ireland are many, with some even referring to Korea as the Ireland of Asia. It’s also well reported that Korea is a country not too dissimilar to ourselves when it comes to the partaking of a few social beverages. A fact that is easily evident when you consider that their national spirit – Soju, was the world’s best-selling type of liquor in 2017.

This is all good and well, but the 72-Billion KRW ($64M at the time of writing) question is whether this all translates to persons of Korean lineage running a good boozer? And using Kimchi-Hophouse as an example, the answer is yes. A narrow sort of pub, its appearance is characterised by a light blue and white colour scheme with homely wooden flooring underfoot. TVs are ubiquitous and my companion, a far more discerning football fan than I, agreed that the pub is a perfect setting in which to take in a match. The drink on offer comprises of both craft and mainstream, and the prices – all of which are helpfully displayed upon labels hung from the taps, are good. The Guinness was of a very high standard, costing a mere and moreish €4.50 a pint.

The overall vibe of the place is a buzzy one and the adjoining restaurant means there is plenty of movement from the kitchen which is situated somewhere toward the back of the pub. On any visit we’ve found the crowd to generally be a young one, with trendy inclinations. Many of them seem opt to occupy the smoking area out the back of the pub. The staff are sound too and our only complaint about the experience of the pub was an ordering process which seems to come into effect in the evening whereby one can only be served if they are standing within the confines of a relatively small section of the bar. This we found to be an unnecessary practice especially so when it was enforced with a strictness that meant a you’d miss out on the chance of service if you were merely a foot out of place.

But overall, we’re very fond of this boozer -having all the adventurousness of a departure from the norm with all of the comforts of the familiar – Kimchi-Hophouse is a pub we’ll definitely revisit, even if only to try some of this Soju stuff.

The Deer’s Head: Parnell St.

Lately in thinking about The Deer’s Head, we’ve been considering pub names in a bit more detail than we usually would. Our reason for this is that we’ve decided that The Deer’s Head is part of an exclusive-ish club, speaking in terms of the confines of Dublin City. Along with another four somewhat similarly named boozers – The Stag’s Head, The Boar’s Head, The Brazen Head and The Turk’s Head, this pub is a member of what we’ve decided to call The Headed Pubs Club. And recently we’ve become quite curious toward the genesis of these peculiar names. So much so that we don’t actually get around to speaking about the actual pub until about 8 paragraphs in, feel free to skip ahead if you want. We don’t mind.

Previously, having visited The Boar’s and The Stag’s head, we were content enough to think that these type of boozers were named so in accordance with their prized pieces of taxidermy. But reflecting further upon this, and considering the lack of taxidermy in The Deer’s Head, along with a hypothetical angry Turkish lad or two, we’ve decided that we don’t really know that much after all.

Now most of you may already know or will have observed that pub names in Ireland tend bear the name of the proprietor of the premises, or the former proprietor as the case may be. This is a result of the requirement to do so which was legislatively enshrined into rule by the Licensing Act of 1872. This act decreed that ‘Every licensed person shall cause to be painted or fixed, and shall keep painted or fixed on the premises in respect of which his license is granted, in a conspicuous place – his name’. Failure to abide by these directions would incur the hefty penalty of a £10 fine or a £20 fine in the case of repeat offenders.

This is all good and well, and certainly does explain the emblazoning of ‘O’Reilly’s’ upon the left hand side of the façade of The Deer’s Head – but having completed an unfruitful search in the text of the aforementioned Licensing Act for the words Stag, Boar, Brazen, Turk and head, I can’t say any closure was given to our sense of curiosity. What followed this would be a sluggish wade through torrents of digital articles pertaining to the listing of ‘the top ten maddest’, ‘the world’s most memorable’, ‘Ireland’s weirdest’ and ‘Britain’s funniest’ pub names. Progress was slow! But eventually we did find some material of substance.

Firstly, the point we need to make about the ‘headed’ pubs before any other is one that separates The Brazen Head from the pack. This is mostly because the genesis of The Brazen Head’s name falls outside the norm given that it stems from the occurrence of a nosey hooker falling afoul of an errant Williamite cannonball. But that most certainly is one for another day.

As for the rest of our ‘headed’ pubs, it would seem that these are so named with a hearty dollop of influence from the culture of the former oppressor. Yep, it seems that The Brits have had a certain propensity down through the years to name pubs in accordance to popular and/or local heraldry – heraldry being the act of attributing a coat of arms to your family name or bloodline, (very) broadly speaking. That, too, is not to say that people didn’t just name pubs after a boar that might have been moseying around the town, or a stag up in the park or the like. Pictorial symbols were most definitely the way to go back when the majority of your customer base was illiterate!

Overall though, it’s the sole inclusion of the head in each of the names we’re currently writing about that would leave us to believe that some coat of arms, while maybe not directly bringing it about, certainly influenced the naming of the boar’s, stag’s and deer’s head, or even a pub they were named after, or in the same vein as. And again, with The Turk’s head, we can say this with a higher degree of certainty, given that pubs of the same name are ten-a-penny across the water and are well reputed to be named  in accordance with heraldic symbolism that popped up during and after the crusades.

So that’s about the shape of it with regard to these pub names, enough to satisfy our curiosity at the least anyhow. And if you had asked us a few weeks ago, as we emerged from The Deer’s Head in a state of giddiness from what we had just encountered whether we’d end up writing anything akin to that which precedes this sentence – we would likely have rebutted your query with a response that was overwhelmingly laden with profanities. But still, here we are.

Having wandered in upon a whim following a couple in The Shakespeare we found ourselves greeted by a pub that we scantly remembered from our previous visit some years ago – not because of any renovations, just because of our brutal memories. To walk into this pub of 10 o’clock or so on a Friday evening as the summer is beginning to wane is to experience working class Dublin through multiple senses. The first is smell. Upon stepping beyond the threshold one encounters an aroma of feet and perspiration that starts with a degree of pungency before subsiding to a more minor consideration. The second sense affected is sight. No dress code applies here, snickers and steel toe boots are commonplace and certainly go some way to explaining the smell. Scores of hardy men gather around wooden plinths dancing like teenage girls would do to pop music in their bedrooms, empowered in the knowledge that no-one is looking at them. When there we rejoiced at a man in a full length Hi-Viz jacket striding, Jagger-esquely, up and down the length of the pub accosting people with the lyrics of the song playing on the PA, which brings us nicely toward the third sense at play here – sound. What other band on this entire earth could possibly be responsible for such widespread expressive physical movement other than Madness! Twenty one solid minutes of Madness, in fact. I’m even struggling now to try and remember if the DJ played any other artists than Madness while we were there, or if even he possessed the copies of any other recordings aside from those released by Madness. Possibly not. And with the reaction of the patrons in the pub, who could blame him.

Other than the over exuberant patrons, the appearance of the pub was fairly standard. Most seating comprised of couches and low stools with the option of higher seating around the aforementioned wooden, plinth-like structures and at the bar too. Colour-wise the bar is light enough, with white walls and green carpet taking dominance of most views. Pictures did hang about the wall and could have been displaying images of Tanzanian Ski Championships for all we knew – given we didn’t pay them too much heed with the other distractions about. It was noted, however, that there was no taxidermied Deer’s Head to couple with the name though.

The pint was a perfect pour and rounded in at an even more perfect €4.50 a pop. We had just the one as we were on a schedule at the time, and maybe subconsciously we were afraid as to what would happen if the DJ ran out of Madness tunes.

So for those of you who have stuck with us here and have read this whole thing all the way through – we’d like to thank you. And suggest that you do take a visit to The Deer’s Head on one of these steamy autumnal evenings. The locals will ask you about baggy trousers ten times over before anyone even suggest a query on the provenance of the pub’s name. But it couldn’t hurt to know, now could it?

 

Cumiskey’s: Dominick St.

It seems that the further we wade into our task of boozing around all the watering holes in Dublin city the more and more apparent it becomes to us that the inner-city is an incredibly fascinating place. As far back as the splendour of Georgian townhouses right through the era of slums and tenements, and onwards to council estates, regeneration and whatever else may come, the history of Dublin city’s last few hundred years could almost solely be charted from examining the ebb and flow of the culture and society on inner city streets down throughout the years. Dominick St is one such inner city street.

Standing through all those periods aforementioned, and for a good 260 years or so, is No. 41 Dominick Street – a building which now houses Cumiskey’s pub. No stranger to historical events, itself – it’s a structure with plenty of interesting stories to tell if the national archives are anything to go by. Having done a quick search with the address, we were almost instantly onto a webpage listing copies of forms related to applications made by its former occupants to The Property Losses (Ireland) Committee, 1916, in order to ‘Claim for Damages caused during the Disturbances on the 24th April, 1916, and following days’. One particular occupant, a Ms Lizzie Burchill, made a claim for ‘£6 10s for destruction of clothing due to gunfire’ which yielded a determination by the committee that she should receive £3. Another claim was made by Messrs J&J Doyle but was declined by the committee as the gentlemen exceeded the deadline within which their claim should have been made. Thankfully though, it wasn’t all bad news for the lads – at least not for John, who made up one of the two J Doyles. He made a claim for ‘£3 for destruction of silver watch by fire at Hopkins and Hopkins, jewellers, 1 Sackville Street Lower’ and got 2 quid back for his troubles.

Anyway, 100 years on from when Lizzie Burchill and John Doyle were dodging trams on Sackville Street, trams have again returned to the capital’s main thoroughfare and are bringing people right by the front of 41 Dominick St. We, ourselves, recently rolled by and couldn’t resist dropping in to have a look at what sat behind this pub’s alluring exterior.

A smaller-than-expected sort of space, it comprises of two main atria that are connected by a corridor which also happened to house the bar. The northern atrium is the quainter affair of the two and is the one where we chose to park ourselves when last we visited. With soft-yellow embossed wallpaper and royal red velvet couches, we enjoyed two superiorly-poured pints while remarking that the room’s exclusive inclusion of low seating made it a real and proper lounge, in every sense of the word. Familiar ephemera adorns the walls in this section and yours truly was happy enough to be sat under a copy of the proclamation until becoming envious of some other patrons sitting in the corner given what was displayed beside them. Cast in white plaster, the unmistakable likenesses of Luke Kelly and Ronnie Drew gaze out at drinkers who sit in close proximity.

We didn’t spend much time in our analysis of the southern atrium, if we’re to be truthful. As alluded to above, we found to it to be the less formal of the two main sections, if that makes sense. The section you’d be less self-conscious about raising your voice in, y’know? Or so we thought as we made our way through it into the jaxx. Oh and speaking of the jaxx, Pintman  Nº2 reckoned it must be one of the only, or at most one of the few in Dublin with a clear window that looks out into the street… Thankfully away from the more purposeful parts of the room.

Cumiskey’s is a fine unpretentious little boozer and I wish we hadn’t left it so long to finally make a visit there. Next time we go, I’ll be dragging the lads down early to get the seat beside Ronnie and Luke.

 

Peadar Kearney’s: Dame St.

It was in a local pub a few years ago and just as the final notes of Amhrán Na bhFiann rang out from a battered old Yamaha that I found myself in a bit of a troubling situation. Having become somewhat hemmed into the corner of one of the pub’s alcoves, I’d wound up at the barrel end of a barrage of threats from some coked-up little head-the-ball who had wasted little time in informing me of his strong connections to republican socialist republican paramilitaries – The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

Given that it was after last orders, it’d be handy enough just to blame the gargle and the time of night. But the thing is that ever since my early teens, and up to the present day, I’ve always been reminded by both of my parent’s – together and separately – that my ‘big mouth’ will get me ‘in trouble one of these days.’ So therefore, I’d have to put my overlooking of the fact that the INLA had disbanded in 2009 down to the distraction that had resulted from the sheer irony of having gotten myself ‘in trouble’ while engaging in an act of pacifism.

What lead me to this point could probably be construed as an unpopular opinion, for you see, over the years I’ve come to acquire a personal distaste toward the practice of rolling out of our national anthem to celebrate a night of drinking and sub-par entertainment. We’re not currently at war, there’s no overwhelming need to be bolstering national pride! Appending the national anthem to events of such mundanity as a few local pints only serves to denigrate its integrity – you’re not engulfed in the roar of cannons or the peal of rifles and the only bhearna bhaoil likely to be encountered after eight pints down the local will be little more than a few digs thrown outside a chipper. So when some one-man-band calls last orders and queues up their Amhrán Na bhFiann backing track you’ll likely find me in a state of respectful abstention. And this is what aggrieved my newly acquired INLA contact.

Thankfully the gift of the gab was well lubricated at this particular hour and the hostile situation was easily diffused and made a friendlier one – once the above argument was made and peppered with plenty of continuity republican sentiment, that is. I even got the opportunity to impart some knowledge onto the inebriated would-be liberator by telling him that the national anthem was originally written in English by one Peadar Kearney – a name he knew only from the Dame St. pub.

According to their website, Peadar Kearney’s is so named due to the fact that the great man himself once dwelled within the walls that now house the pub. This was a claim that we could neither confirm nor contradict with google. Sitting on the fringes of the tourist chaos that Temple Bar entails, the pub is one that’s decorated traditionally. Alike it’s neighbouring boozer: Brogan’s, retro Guinness adds are de rigueur with respect to the pictures about the wall – these share space with mirrors branded with different whiskeys, local road signs, a portrait of a boxer and most notably – two jockey’s outfits enclosed in a glass case. All of which we neglected to obtain the significance of, if any.

A small to medium sized pub, it could be categorised with many others in the city in the way that a relatively narrow corridor comes to open up toward the rear of the space. Seating is untraditional and makes use of large barrels, flanked by high stools, in lieu of the usual table set up.

The pint was of a high standard and hit the wallet for €5.30 which admittedly was on the lower side of our both mine and Pintman №2’s estimates – both of which took more than enough influence from the pub’s proximity to Temple Bar. The barman was sound and plenty competent too. We found reason also to note the variance in the music being piped in which started well with some Deep Purple and had descended into that plastic-paddy genre of ba***dized classics by the time we were leaving. Pintman № said he would have preferred to hear the commentary on the match at the time.

Being entirely honest, we couldn’t say that we disliked Peadar Kearney’s, but by that same virtue we did note that we couldn’t shake the feeling of it being a bit more geared towards tourists. This ultimately means that we’d likely not spend too significant an amount of time on the pints in here, but we’d certainly not avoid it altogether.