Posts

Recently we were philosophising about what it is that brings that certain sense of je ne sais quoi to pints when they’re taken in enjoyable numbers of a Sunday. Having given due regard to theories of Old Ireland and The Sabbath, we came to look on the whole situation more generally and found some consensus that the sweetness derived from a Sunday session is most certainly directly proportional to its inherent risk. Riskiness, when you consider its intrinsic incalculability, is something that borders on the magical. And you don’t need to be an adrenaline junkie out on a tightrope or a high roller staking five grand a hand to get the endorphin rush that risk can deliver. All you need to do is put your next days’ wage or even your entire job on the line and get down to the boozer for a skinful on a Sunday. Fair warning though, I tossed these particular dice a few weeks ago and I lost.

Thankfully this loss brought about no need to hightail it back to hatch number two or to pawn the family silver, the nature of my punishment this time around was to be more sensory than anything. With a humdinger of a hangover the next morning, I rushed queasily down the road to make the last Monday DART that would deliver me to work on time. Sufficiently sardined onto same, I made the horrifying discovery that I was headphoneless. And of course, it wasn’t even a tiny moment after I’d made that realisation when two particular gentlemen, whom I could only describe as the type who would have been dealing with NAMA during the recession, boarded the train. Unfortunately, these boys had no inclination to keep as quiet as the rest of the passengers and set about letting the whole carriage hear their conversation which was convened entirely with the use of business buzz-word bollock-talk. You know the sort of stuff – acronym laden shite that you’d hear the minister for finance yammer on with when he’s speaking about citizens like financial commodities. Anyhow, it was these two gobshites and their overuse of the phrase Silicon Docks in referring to the Grand Canal area that had me thinking of The Ferryman.

Almost certainly named in accordance with the dockland profession, The Ferryman adds to that reverence which (rightly) is afforded to historical working-class figures. Dockers and their ilk tend to be particularly esteemed compared to their inland contemporaries when it comes to works produced from all pillars of culture such as art, literature, music and, em, pub names. And given that the docks are now tech-centric you’d have to wonder if the dockers that future generations will refer to will be silicon dockers. I don’t suppose that it’s entirely unlikely that gravel-voiced troubadours will sing merrily in slip-jig timing about the days of user acceptance testing to patrons gathered around the lounge of The Senior Data Analyst Inn in a century or two. Thank the big fella upstairs that you and I won’t live long enough for that one.

On the medium to large side of things, The Ferryman is a pub whose look is very much timber focused – wooden flooring, tables, and facades abound while surfaces which are not covered with timber are painted in tones resembling such. Ephemera is mixed and follows no defining pattern, but one could pick out plenty of maritime stuff in there to tie in with the name if they chose to. Wrapping around in the sort of shape that almost resembles an L, the bar is relatively open and boasts plenty of seating options. There’s a sizable downstairs bar in the pub too and overall you couldn’t fault the appearance of it. There’s plenty of window space around the street-facing walls of the building too which make for fine people-watching opportunities while you sip away on a pint. And speaking of the pint, it won’t bring about any cause for concern in the tastebud department but will rock the wallet for five and a half euro which is certainly on the higher side of things.

Pintman Nº7 and I were in last over the summer and had a couple of mid-afternoon scoops before heading further afield. The place was ticking over with a customer base mostly comprised of tourists from nearby hotels as well as one or two more local sounding lads who were appropriately garbed in lifejackets. We considered making a bad joke about them falling into their pints but decided against the risk of offending hardier souls than ourselves.

Aside from a pricey pint, we couldn’t criticize The Ferryman too much. It’s a pub that must be commended for having weathered the storm of the recession and managed to keep the doors open when so many others were closing. And given the concentration of industry back into the docklands these days, it seems that The Ferryman should be more than able to stand dockers (silicon or otherwise) in good stead for all their future quayside drinking needs.

Jaysus lads, let me tell you now that Dublin By Pub isn’t always an easy affair. It’s a Wednesday afternoon and I’m back in work after the weekend. The voice isn’t back yet, the head is still twingeing and I’m still having flashbacks of all the Buckfast sodden debauchery we’ve been up to at the weekend while we were out of the capital for a bit. I don’t even, in the slightest, want to be thinking about alcohol, nevermind writing about it. But duty calls and here we are. So you might forgive any decline in quality for this time around. Cheers.

The Lower Deck is a pub that’s evaded me for years and years. Sneakily hidden around the corner from The La Touché Bridge which facilitates those wishing to traverse the canal from Portobello to Rathmines (or vice versa), it’s a pub which it turns out I’ve had plenty of time to find. The online authority on Dublin history – comeheretome, reckon a pub is on the site since the 1830s. A good snoop around online has brought up a couple of images of the pub where it has been named both McDermott’s Harbour Bar and Michael Ryan’s. Interestingly enough, the concrete space out the front of the pub, often frequented by skateboarders nowadays, isn’t there in the picture of the pub as Michael Ryan’s – instead it’s filled with water seemingly having been a part of the canal itself at one stage. And by the time that the pub is named McDermott’s it’s after been filled in and used as a carpark.

Edit: The body of water was known as The Portobello Basin or The Richmond Basin. Another view here and here

So in its current guise, the pub is known as The Lower Deck which does fit in with the pub’s proximity to the canal but is also a good euphemism for the part of the body where all the action happens. It’s a reasonable-sized boozer and houses a music venue in its basement called The Bello Bar. We arrive of a recent Saturday afternoon when there was a touch of summer in the air and made straight to the bar.

The pub is a decked out (yes, decked) in a traditional enough style with upholstered couches, high and low stools around the place. The bar sits as a rectangle in the centre of the room with the space around it divided up. Raised sections sit upon the left as you walk in and as you make your way to the further side of the bar there’s plenty of low seating on offer too. It’s a pub you could get cosy in easily enough – and one with an immaculate jaxx by the standard we’re used to.

The pint was a good one too, no complaints were heard around the table and not even on the price which fell below the fiver mark. Nothing short of a miracle around this particular part of town.

My favourite part of our visit to the pub though was to take in this aul lad who was perched with a pint and a tablet (the electronic kind, nothing small and blue to see here) on a table upon the periphery of one of the raised sections toward the back of the pub. He was the sort of man that reminded me of my own father insofar that he had the look of one of those aul fellas that treated advances in personal computing with nothing but persistent reluctance. That is until one day they were made aware of the advantages these technological feats had bestowed upon the experience of the watching of and gambling on horse racing. This man, however, seemed to have taken things a step further than my own da and had set up in the pub using his silver surfing credentials to dispense all necessary information lacking from an immediate proximate bookmaker. I think he was even taking bets. Fair play to him.

The year is 2053 and the end is nigh! Global warming, nuclear warfare, global pandemic, zombie apocalypse – picture it however you see fit. I was thinking about how certain subcultures would get on in some sort of apocalyptic scenario there the other day and ultimately I came to realise that the first set of the general population to start to see rapid attrition, aside from the infirm, will ultimately have to be the hipsters.

My hypothesis is based on two main ideas – firstly the veganism. Now I’m not for a moment going to knock vegans – fair play to them! Especially those who do it properly. But the type of fad veganism that hipsters tend to have a proclivity toward can’t be good for the system – taking all of that iron out of the equation just to look cool can only mean one thing– anaemia. And the anaemic are certainly at a loss when our plague-stricken sun scorched, sea-swelled, radioactive night of the living dead doomsday scenario plays out.

Secondly, and this is something a chiropractor or a spinal surgeon might easily school us on, but it seems to me that the variety of mismatched, rigid and antiquated seating one tends to happen upon in The Bernard Shaw and its contemporaries just cannot be the type that leaves your spine in a better shape than it would have been prior to use. I’m near-on certain that we’ll have a good cohort of grey-haired hunchback hipsters knocking about the place telling us how they collected their pensions before it was cool come 2053. And lord knows that they’ll be ripe for the pickin’ when all of the looters and the undead come rummaging around the gaff at end of days.

So, The Bernard Shaw. Name after Portobello’s most famous Nobel Laureate (who, himself, shortened his name by dropping the George at the start of it), this pub is one held in the same regard by the hipster class as St Paul’s Cathedral would be by subscribers to Catholicism. It’s a boozer which tends to be revered by cooler kids than I for its exterior rather than its interior. We’re told that the beer garden is extensive and that there’s a double decker bus somehow involved in the whole setup. Unfortunately all of this is a bit lost on me – my take on al fresco drinking being that it is better done on grass and through the thriftier means of cans. And as for drinking on a bus, personally I wouldn’t want to risk a Vietnam flashback of some of the things I’ve seen on the 27 down throughout the years.

As with all pubs, our concern lies mainly with the interior.

More Cockney flower girl than toast of London, the pub is comprised of three main sections – the front bar, triangular in its layout, screams twenty minute lunch rather than six pint session – although there is something to be said for its purpose as a prime people-watching real estate. Closing in acutely, this section leads toward a small set of steps which bring you to the lower area of the pub – this in turn houses a larger seating area complete with DJ box and the third section of the pub – a tiled corridor, in essence, sits at the back of the building. The aesthetic of the place is standard hipster chic – rough and ready – characterised by mismatched minimalist furniture and perpetually changing artwork.

Pint-wise, the main complaint is to be made in relation to the price. €5.70 is the sum charged for a Guinness – which, in fairness, was a bit of a majestic drop. Along with the stout – and as you’d expect from such a place – there’s a wide range of craft on offer too.

It was always unlikely that we were ever going to come to extol the virtues of this place. At best for us, it’s a decent lesson in subjectivity – people love it! And we’re fine with that. But with that said, our likelihood of return is probably most appropriately summed up with Shavian parlance – “not bloody likely”.

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!

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.