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!

The Long Stone: Townsend St.

The Long Stone we hardly knew ye.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.