Dublin! It’s a city, if the annals of internet comment sections are to be believed, that divides opinion. And while pub-dwellers prone to over-romanticisation, such as ourselves, are ten a penny – there’s also a hefty cohort out there in the world who refuse to base their opinions of our native city on anything other than the darker end of the full spectrum.
Though our official line is one attesting to the craic and beauty being in plentiful supply, we’re not so ignorant as to equate Dublin to some utopia and even we like to take the road out sometimes in search of an atmosphere where urbanity doesn’t abound. Where settings are a little, if not a lot, more rural.
Thankfully when such pangs kick in and when time or money won’t allow – we can achieve something akin to a rural encounter without having to travel so far. Sometimes an experience bordering on bucolic can be had mere minutes from the city centre – we’re referring, of course, to a pub which rightly calls itself an authentic country pub in Kilmainham – The Old Royal Oak.
In researching the name of this pub, I can’t say with any great degree of confidence that we’ve managed to establish its exact origin. Some say that there must be a tie with the nearby Royal Hospital given its inclusion of the word royal, but in the course of our research we’ve come to establish our own particular theory. We have previously touched upon the genesis of some modern pub names in our post about The Deer’s Head and similar to that, we’ve found ourselves looking back toward our old colonial neighbour for answers. You see, it so happens that an abundance of pubs across in the UK have names containing any given permutation of the words royal, oak and old. And as you might imagine, there’s a good reason for this.
Way back in the 1600s during The English Civil War, Royalists and Parliamentarians were having a bit of a disagreement. And this disagreement was of such severity that it brought about the need for a battle in the town of Worcester. Possibly about governance, possibly about sauce, who knows? Anyway, King Charles, the king to be; not the dog, being head of the Royalists and a bit of a useless prick to boot – decided that he had scant chance of survival when pitted against Lord Protector and cunt of the last millennium – Oliver Cromwell, Ollie being head-honcho of the opposing side. Opting to hide away from all the bloodshed, Charlie sought refuge – and as the story goes, found it in the relative sanctuary of a big oak tree.
Fast forward a decade or so and the civil war is over, Chaz is back on the throne and is regaling everyone with the tale of the time he was shielded from danger by a big bastard of an oak tree. So Brits being Brits – they start writing songs and naming boozers after this Royal Oak, as it had been dubbed.
Let it be known that our guess, educated by the fact that The Old Royal Oak was first opened as a pub when British rule still reigned over this country, is that this pub took its name – as so many others across the Irish Sea did – from that tree in the middle of England. And if it didn’t then so be it. We still managed to get around to calling Ollie Cromwell a bollox in at least one of the things we’ve posted on this website.
The Oaker is a pub that would seem to espouse the principle that less is more – the bar, a one-roomed, undivided space, is characterised by its simplicity. Upon entrance you’ll observe low seating on your left and a medium sized bar to the right. Seating, while not in short supply, is limited and when the place fills up it fills up fast. We commandeered a few stools up near the bar just in the nick of time when we last visited. Decoration is made up of the usual cavalcade of ephemera you might find in traditional pubs – paintings and pictures of local landscapes and landmarks, old drink adverts, framed jerseys and a few flags on the ceiling too, just for good measure.
I’d made my first visit here in the company of Pintman №5, who rates this pub as his favourite in the city. My fears of disagreeing with him were quickly allayed as we settled in to a few pints and he pointed out an elderly lady perched on a stool at the end of the bar. Describing her as “a little dreamboat” he informs me that she is the owner, or related to the owner as it may be.
When the time comes to use the jaxx, I’m reminded by my companion to inspect the snug while en-route – and I’m glad that take this instruction. Peering through the unassuming door I find myself in a space that is more family – living room than pub-snug. Its cosy inhabitants, all of whom are glued to a match on the TV, react to my interruption with the same sort of perplexity you might to a perfect stranger wandering into your own sitting room. I return to the bar extoling the cosiness this snug to my companions before demanding of them that we sit in there upon our next visit. We will!
Pintwise, we’re in dream territory here €4.80 on our last visit (which was Nov 2018, way too long ago) and a decent skinful sunk with great pleasure. Pintman №5 indulged in a toasty on that occasion too and it looked the part.
Out and out this is a fine establishment. One I wish was in more of a convenient location relative to a northsider such as myself. The pub too is also a great lesson for all new and prospective publicans thinking of going for that big revamp. Simplicity can be effective, if the place is run right.