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

This only served to heighten his curiosity.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Don’t you have to wonder about billionaires sometimes? It might just be me, but you have to even slightly agree that there’s something inherently untrustworthy about someone who manages to pass the million mark in their bank account and instead of going full rockstar and pissing a sizeable chunk of it away in a glorious lengthy bender, sits down and plans on how to times it another thousand? Shite craic say we!

Outwardly, that opening passage will read as if being the start of another ill-advised tangent. I can assure you that this is not the intention. There exists, in my mind at least, good reason to link the aforementioned sentiment to the topic of the pub pictured here, but in order to make this connection I need to tread a little bit more carefully than I usually would. For this connection hinges heavily upon the mention of a well-known, divisive Irish figure, and this particular person has an infamous proclivity for litigation. Given all this, the person in question will henceforth be referred to as a “well-known Irish billionaire” or WKIB for short.

By now you’ll probably appreciate that there is no setting that I won’t talk about pubs in – so it should come as no surprise that it was over a discussion on Hartigan’s with a colleague in work that I came to learn that WKIB had such a penchant for Hartigan’s that they opted to have a replica of it built in their back garden as part of a landmark birthday celebration. This was an act that in normal circumstances would probably have upped my estimation of WKIB – but this had another dimension. What soured this from being perceived as a mere act of wealthy extravagance was the fact that this pop-up-pub happened to replicate the very boozer in which it is widely reported that WKIB (allegedly) sat down for a crucial meeting with a well-known TD back in the 1990s. It is alleged that the two of them, while there, got up to some shady dealings over some mobile phone licenses and the sort… Allegedly.

A tribunal we ain’t! And given that, we’ll say no more on this alleged meeting for now other than to say that it was one that fed into my natural distrust of the billionaire class, and strengthened my nurtured disdain for brown-envelope politicking. But worst of all – this was an anecdote that ultimately led me to approach Hartigan’s with something of a low expectation. An expectation that would ultimately find itself mostly unchallenged.

Boasting the sort of drab appearance that visitors to public hospitals in the 1990s will remember with little fondness, the pub is characterised by a too-bright-for-its-own-good sort of colour scheme complete with a cold hard floor comprising of greyed tiles, with the odd red one thrown in for good measure. Pintman Nº3, having only moments ago, been made aware of the replica commissioned by WKIB re-evaluated, downward, his level of amazement at the feat by remarking that he’d probably be able to throw the same up with a few sheets of ply out his own back garden in half a day “at best”. Rugby and golf paraphernalia was the order of the day when it came to the pictures upon the wall – all of this shared space with exposed cabling and plenty of UCD class photos too, we were surprised to see that the pub retained its ties to the university, which moved from what is now The National Concert Hall many years ago.

We should note, however, that there are a number of redeeming features to be considered too – most of them being on the exterior. Stained glass windows at the front of the pub are certainly a conversation piece. The four of them bear a letter each – T J L L – the meaning of which we ultimately forgot to ask the barman about. Along with these, the façade also boasts a fine example of some traditional signwriting – the name of the pub being unambiguously displayed in beautiful gold leaf lettering. And then there is some interesting wrought style ironwork which makes up a gate that guards the front door. Bearing the letter’s A and M, a quick bit of research would inform an educated guess that these are the initials of the pub’s long serving former publican – Alfie Mulligan, whose full name once adorned the neighbouring pub.

The pint didn’t warrant too much complaining and came in at €5.10, a figure we all agreed was a good one, given the pub’s central location. The barman that poured said pint seemed a sound enough lad too.

Hartigan’s is not a pub that I ever envisaged us having much to say about – certainly not this much. It’s not a boozer with a vibe to our particular liking, but it would be ignorant for us not to tip our hat to the brazen manner in which it sits in comparative dereliction to some of the relics of the celtic tiger in its immediate vicinity. And while it may always be a pub that is synonymous with the infamy that comes with (alleged) political corruption, there’s no denying that it is one of the great Dublin boozers of old. And no (alleged) money-hungry bastard will ever take that away from the place! … Allegedly.

Sometimes when a bit of research is warranted for pubs that we post we can end up finding ourselves in some strange corners of the internet, take this moment as an example – I’m currently perusing The Intoxicating Liquor act of 1927 in order to identify the section of the act relating to The Holy Hour. All so I can corroborate a Brendan Behan quote in which he states that the politician who introduced The Holy Hour to the Dáil was shot dead an hour afterward. As I type now I’ve already realised that the link I was trying to establish between McGrattans’ proximity to the Dáil and a quote from a renowned drinker about politicians isn’t really there, or extremely tenuous at best.

Anyways, for those wondering, Kevin O Higgins – the politician responsible for the since repealed weekly mid-day ban on the sale of alcohol was indeed shot dead – but the timing and motives suggested by Behan’s quote remain unproven.

McGrattan’s is one of those boozers that you just can’t fault the placement of – tucked away and almost remote feeling, it lies down a laneway that’s a mere hop, skip and a jump from the various houses of government located upon Merrion St. Upper. The façade of the pub purports it to have been established in 1798, a claim that is reasonably denied in an article by the fantastic blog: Come Here To Me, which describes the premises as having been converted from a sheet metal workshop to a graduate club for the National University of Ireland in 1964 where after it traded as some form of bar up until it’s incarnation as McGrattan’s in 1989.

The interior of the pub is unusual enough – two dissimilar atria are connected by a corridor furnished with pool tables which acts as a buffer between the two. The front atrium is more bar than lounge and would be of the usual appearance seen around the city if not for its wallpaper – patterned stuff reminiscent of that seen in a dodgy strip club you might get bundled into on a budget stag party you might have attended. The seating in the front is entirely comprised of high stools and there’s an open fire too. The back bar, on the other hand, is a more casual affair. Dimly lit, it affords a cosier experience to its occupants with its lower seating and stained glass windows.

Over the years the better nights we’ve had here were after a decent rake of pints, Pintman №4 and I in our younger and more naïve years were both caught short one night when the women we were trying to covertly discuss under the cover of our poorly constructed utterances in Irish turned out to be Irish teachers themselves. Strangely the bad experiences we’ve had were while relatively sober – late last year we happened to incur the wrath of a barman who’s desire for us to not drink in the same vicinity as a retired RTE newsreader manifested itself in insults and a noisy accusation of non-payment of a bill that was long settled.

We should close out this post by reminding you, that our idea here is not neccesarily to review pubs, but to provide a snapshot of them from our perspective, and our perspective here is that we’re probably going to give McGrattan’s a miss for a while after a not-so-nice encounter with a bollocks of a barman. Maybe we should have looked at precedence and kept up our policy of only visiting after a minimum of seven pints, and maybe someday we’ll return, perhaps for the big 250th bash in 2048.

Toner’s can be described as many things in the landscape of Dublin Pubs but when it comes to us here at DBP we tend to describe Toner’s as the snug lover’s pub. For those unfamiliar with the term snug, allow us to explain.

The snug is a historical feature of an Irish or English pub. It’s essentially a seating area which has been sectioned off from the general space of the rest of a pub. Historically snugs were a means to facilitate women in an age when it was deemed unladylike for a woman to be seen drinking in public. They were also said to provide sanctuary for the likes of policemen, politicians and other such public figures who preferred not to be seen in open public during the course of their drinking. Generally snugs were situated to the front of a pub and allowed access to the bar from within. Relatively few of them remain in the city and they have become installations much beloved by the drinking public.

 

We last visited Toner’s of a Friday afternoon and managed to snag the snug. Leaving the entrance open we gazed at an old Bass advertisement which had been affixed to the door. The ad featured an image of legendary folk group The Dubliners suitably snapped holding obligatory pints of Bass. Gazing further at the image we happened to notice that it was taken at the very snug within which we were sitting.

Thinking of the Dubliners, I realised them to be a perfect way to describe Toner’s. The Dubliners, not being dissimilar to the like of The Beatles, were a group that contained several world class musicians whom could all hold their own amongst one another, musically speaking. Not one could eclipse the other, and Toner’s sitting among greats like O’Donoghue’s and Doheny & Nesbitts certainly holds its own and could never be eclipsed by its neighbouring boozers.

Getting down to brass tacks, the pint was fantastic; priced for town, but creamy as the night is long. We intended to nip in for one and stayed for at least three. The décor is traditional – worn dark wood, burgundy hues, drinking and writer ephemera – an absolute jewel to a pub lover’s eyes. The jaxx is entirely at odds with what one expects from the bar; brand new, spacious and clean as a whistle. We’re not normally in the business of commenting on beer gardens but the massive one out the back of Toner’s is a sight to behold.

Toner’s is the quintessential Dublin pub. It’s George Harrison, it’s Barney McKenna. It’s an absolute must.