We used to live like lords. We’d roam freely from bar to bar, marching to the beat of the filthy change that jingled about in our arse pockets. We’d wade through packed pub gangways searching for seats that weren’t available. We’d cling to the bar and press the flesh with any hand, outstretched in our general direction. Sweaty in summer and sniffly in winter, we’d embrace friends and strangers with equal disregard for personal space. We’d breathe each other’s air, taste each other’s drinks and smoke each other’s smokes. We never booked ahead and we’d eat, only when we’d had our fill. Sometimes we wouldn’t eat at all.
We used to live like lords.
If you could possibly indulge me, I’d like to continue with a cliché. And this one has been uttered aplenty in various forms of expression, both artistic and not: But! You really just don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it. And us: we lost it all. I’m sat here a mere couple of days before some of our city’s pubs will reopen their doors and allow customers upon their premises for the first time in over three months. But now all is changed, changed utterly. Not only is a terrible beauty born, it’s also walking, talking and getting ready to go to pre-school.
We’re told that there’ll be plexiglass – walls of the stuff. There’ll also be time limits, mandatory food orders, table service, queues and all sorts of other measures, the sum of which are required in order to allow pubs open once again. It seems that spontaneity, the very essence of the magic that is the Dublin pub experience, is the one which is the most helpful to the spread of COVID-19.
We’ve chosen to use our piece on The Bankers as that which will include a bit of a COVID-19 spiel for a few reasons. Mainly because the pub has been in the media over the last few weeks – showing off the modifications, newly installed within, to deal with a socially distant customer base. It’s also the second to last pub that I happened to imbibe in before the great shutdown in March. And with all that’s gone on, I have to admit that I’m left with something of a newfound fondness and gratefulness for the place.
I think it’s a fair thing to say that one can have little doubt in their mind when they state that, at some point in history, a banker was a person whom one could aspire to – a pillar of the community, even. But another thing that requires little doubt is the fact that whichever particular moment in time that this was, it is certainly now dead and gone. Ask anyone of my ilk, who had the delight of trying to begin their professional life back when Brian Lenihan was popping cloves of garlic like panadol in celebrity economists’ kitchens, what their estimation of Bankers are and I could almost promise you a response that will be as critical as it will be laden with profanity. So you might say, the name above the door of this particular pub isn’t one that has really ever had much appeal to my generation and me.
But what’s in a name? I hear you and Juliet ask. If a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, well then a pub by any other name must surely be just as much craic. And yourself and Juliet would be correct, this pub’s name is inconsequential to its actual appeal. Once you’ve stepped inside the cosy confines of The Bankers, you’ll find that any thoughts you previously held of bludgeoning bondholders will find themselves calmly assuaged by the charm of this pokey little boozer.
Jutting, angularly, out onto Trinity street to give way to Dame Lane, The Bankers is a pub that has no shortage of footfall outside – an attribute which affords the pub one of its finest features – its people-watching real estate. Dublin has several excellent pint-proximate people-watching spots and the front of The Bankers is undoubtedly on par with the likes the front window in The Long Hall.
The Bankers would easily be categorised as a small pub, relative to those about town. It’s comprised of two main sections – a low seating area toward the back and a high seating area at the front, this being the one that houses the bar. The bar, though compact, seemed to offer a good degree of choice the last time we were in. Covered in all sorts of denominations of foreign bills, a craft-thirsty Pintman №7 was happy to retrieve a pint of Wicklow Wolf from it.
Pintman №2 and I stuck to the usual pint of plain on that occasion back in March, which rang in at a price of €5.50. And a grand pour it was too.
The pub itself is a dark enough space, mainly down to the stone tiled floor and the dark wood throughout. Thankfully though, the artificial lighting used to countenance such darkness tends to be at a good level. The interior is decorated with the usual trinkets and ephemera you’d see around the pubs in town and was noted to be the better of the few cabinets around the place, all of which were full with illuminated whiskey bottles. We also noted that they have those streetlamp style signs that advertise both Guinness and Smithwicks, the same as can be seen in Fallon’s, we like them. The back section of the bar struck a bit of a different look, it being adorned with a large scale mural featuring a myriad of famous Irish faces and quotes inscribed alongside.
The pub offers a full food menu, too, and with being so central it certainly has an eye on the tourist trade. Alike others that do, we noted that the lounge staff could tend to be a bit over-exuberant when it came to glass collection and their insistence on us making use of table service, though this will probably stand to them now.
While The Bankers is a fine little pub, I’m not going to pretend that it was always one that I held any sort of a grá for. But we live in strange times. I was talking to a few friends a while back about what the last pubs we visited before lockdown were and how, through one terrible way or another, they could be the last that we would ever visit. And when I listed and thought of the last three I visited on the final day I was on the pints, pre-lockdown – The Palace, The Bankers and Lannigan’s – I thought to myself, in a sort of pub life flashing before your eyes sort of way, that I’ve no regrets here. I didn’t waste my last ones. Time well spent.
Anyhow, we’re definitely prone to a bit of hyperbole here, so you might forgive our sorrowful tone about the new normal at the start of this piece. The video of The Bankers’ new setup looks grand. Look them up and check it out. We’re definitely gonna book a table.