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“This old pub standeth on sacred ground, surrounded by the high walls of the Royal Kilmainham Hospital, by the ancient cemetary of Bully’s Acre and the dungeons of Kilmainham Jail. The Patriot’s Inn has been closer to the pulse of Irish history than any other contemporary pub.”

So says the signage sitting at the entrance to the Patriots Inn pub in Kilmainham. Now far be it from us to stand here today and call this pub’s historical bona-fides into question, but can we just ask you whether you might agree with us that the sense of historical significance that may well be afforded to this pub just happens to get even a little bit diluted when you factor in the fact that that sitting just atop the pub is Dublin 8’s most authentic, lively Italian dining emporium – La Dolce Vita. I mean, pizze di Napoli, fettuccine alla carbonara and spaghetti al pomodoro, don’t exactly scream saoirse na hÉireann now do they? Maybe it qualifies under ‘our gallant allies in Europe’. I don’t know.

The Patriot's Inn Pub Kilmainham

It’s probably just me. But when I first pushed back the door of the bar in The Patriot’s Inn of a November evening, the first thing to grace the olfactory plains of my internal workings was the pungent bouquet of basil, garlic and tomato. All fine things in their own right and great in the appropriate time and place, but when a man has the desire for porter, he need not be enticed by certain aromas and these are certainly included with those. I, and others so discerning, have been known to leave pubs for less.

But this night, it would take more than the smell of decent Italian gnosh to move me and my companions as we were there to get this pub well and truly ticked from our list. Making our way to the bar we hastily retrieved a few pints and set about getting a table. Finding our way to a free table toward the back we listened a while to the music which emanated from the lounge before tucking into the pints before us. While the enjoyment of these was impacted by the smell of food, it was agreed that they were of an acceptable standard and a decent price too. (€4.80 in November 2018… we don’t often get the chance to get out to Kilmainham)

As we discussed Italian involvement in the course of Irish History and considered floating to the owners – the idea of changing to the restaurant to French cuisine for the 1798 tie-in, we came to notice two lads who had become uneasy about themselves and were up and down from their seats a lot. Deciding that they were probably looking for something we left them to it before they interjected and asked the entire enclave which we were sat in if they had seen a ring about the place. Having received entirely negative responses to their queries one of the men informed us of how it was the other’s wedding ring which had gone missing, the other having only been married a few short weeks and out on his first few pints, sans-missus, since the big day.

It was at this moment when a beautiful act of male telepathy occurred. We all knew that losing a wedding ring was bad. But losing one on the first few pints away from the wife – fatal. Every person harbouring a Y chromosome in that room knew that this fella’s entire drinking future was at stake. So with that, we all mobilized. Recruits seemed to appear from all angles. And after a solid ten or fifteen minutes of ransacking the back alcove of this bar, a tolkeinesque roar could be heard throughout the town of Kilmainham as this newlywed was reunited with his wedding band once more. And even better was the fact that after such upheaval, I’d no longer found myself bothered by the smell of Italian cooking. We sank a pint or two with the newlywed afterward to celebrate before heading down the road.

The Patriot isn’t a bad pub by any stretch of the imagination. But they could do with leaving the pasta upstairs.

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.