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Though there’s no smoky haze or abundance of black faces, and still without the bourbon stink or distant cricket hiss you can still close your eyes and immerse into the hollering and the bawling of man and instrument. And in the rhythm of that juke joint rattle you can cast the Liffey as your Mississippi, and Martin Dunleavy as Blind Willie McTell and just, nearly, almost reach a state of transcendence.

The Facade of The Ha’penny Bridge Inn, it’s currently missing its ‘y’.

But then it all shatters with a sharp tug on your coatsleeve and the piercing screech from the reddened face barking violently and abrupt toward you… ‘DRINK! DRINK!’ he screams it into my baffled face as I struggle to muster a response. “DRINK!” he screams louder again. And just as I begin to utter a response, he clarifies the matter – ‘Buy a drink! This music isn’t free”. He’s a manager… or the owner. I’ve been in the pub for no more than 40 seconds.

You could say that my first adult experience of the Ha’Penny Bridge Inn was a bit unusual, well that was what I had assumed until I’d come to realise that finding yourself at the receiving end of the ire of this particular barman was not an unusual occurrence. Dozens of people have too relayed to me, their stories of being howled at in this particular pub. I even seem to remember hearing Lankum recounting a similar tale onstage to a sell-out audience in Vicar St one night, and again in an interview.

I’m not for one moment going to suggest that it’s okay for a grown man to shout at people like this, but you might forgive me on this occasion for endorsing this man’s penchant toward tirade. Allow me to frame it in terms of Bang-Bang. Bang- Bang, Thomas Dudley to his mother, was a Dublin character of old and is rightly revered for the break from mundanity he provided to ordinary Dubliners of his era. But, an inescapable fact of the matter is that there were almost certainly persons who departed from an encounter with him in a less than a positive mood solely for the reason that he didn’t conform to the status quo. For better or for worse, this shouty barman is a character, and you’ll certainly leave the pub with a good story if you happen to trigger his vocal cords, which is eternally better than leaving with no story at all.

So, a month or two back Pintman №3 and I, in the absence of any nearby uncharted pubs, decided to seek out this pugnacious publican and get to grips with a pub we haven’t paid much prior service to in the past.

Arriving in of a weekend evening we found the place as busy as expected – I set about grabbing the last remaining seat while Pintman №3 headed to the bar. Returning pintless shortly thereafter, Pintman №3 tossed a wrapped knife and fork onto the table leaving me to wonder aloud as to whether he’d ordered food. No, no he responded, throw them into me bag there will ye? Obliging him, I held off on a follow-up question when he immediately explained his rationale around the act – it’s €5.90 a pint, have to make that up somehow.

One of the more authentically traditional boozers of the Temple Bar district, the Ha’penny Bridge Inn is standard enough in its appearance, an L shaped sort of room with the bar on the larger side of the L, we’d categorize it as a small to medium pub. There’s no messing about with seating which is upholstered in a red pattern and comes just as good and cosy as it would in any standard suburban local. A mesh of tile and wood makes up the flooring and the most notable feature of the pub is probably the collection of fabric badges and crests which are affixed to the ceiling above the bar. We agreed that it had the makings of a good cosy shop but lost out on being classified as such due to the front doors to the street being permanently open. Oh, and that €5.90 pint was far more acceptable to all relevant sensory considerations than it was to those of a budgetary nature.

In the end, having discovered that our cacophonous friend wasn’t about, we headed on for somewhere a bit more familiar on this night. I hope he’s still putting in the odd shift now and again. The Ha’penny is certainly by no means a bad pub and is most definitely the pick of the bunch when you lump in its nearest neighbours. So, if you think €5.90, or 1,180 ha’pennies, is a fair price for a pint, by all means – have at it. Just leave the cutlery alone!

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.

Growing up in Ireland, you come to realise that certain phenomena can occur from time to time that there’s just no excuse for. Hindsight is certainly 20:20, and 20:20 puts a harsh and unforgiving light on things once they’re done. Garda Patrol, Dustin the Turkey at the Eurovision Song Contest, The ‘Ah Here Leave It Out’ woman getting paid fistfuls of cash to appear to drunken nightclubbers – to mention a few. All equally inexcusable and blatantly ridiculous moments in Irish social history. This is okay though. All of these were quite evidently outside of the norm and it’s even easy for us now, as it was back then, to hold our hands up as a nation and say- ‘mea culpa lads, things got a bit out of hand there.’

Some other things though, are so engrained into our national identity that coming to view them with any sense of their ostensible ridiculousness is a harder affair. This is something I came to realise a number of weeks ago having donated blood and mistiming a bus. Realising that another bus wouldn’t be leaving the terminus for at least another hour, I knew there was only one thing for it. And that one thing was to be delivered in a pint sized vessel complete with black body and a white head.

Sitting in the confines of the canteen in the Irish Blood Transfusion Service’s clinic in the architecturally striking Lafayette House (a building based on that which houses Bruxelles pub) I opted to text Pintman Nº2 – who, as luck would have it, was practically across the road in Fitzgerald’s. With haste, I gathered up as many complimentary pens as I could and set about correcting the pint’s-worth of liquid deficit I’d just underwent.

Arriving into the ornate surroundings of the pub I met with Pintman Nº2 and two other friends, one of whom happened to be a Brazilian native. Explaining where I’d just come from to Pintman Nº2, our other Irish companion interjected  with an enquiry as to whether the act of donating blood still begets a free pint of Guinness. Retrieving my drink from the barman, I explained that the practice had ended some years ago, and with a hearty gulp of my newly poured pint I exclaimed, to laughter that fell one short of unanimity, that you now have to provide your own pint.

Thereafter, our somewhat perplexed Brazilian companion then listened intently as three Irish nationals described the grand old tradition of swapping pints of porter for pints of blood. I’m still not sure if she actually believed us, and who really could blame her – I mean the act of giving stout to blood donors is, admittedly, ostensibly, a bit ridiculous. When you try and disassociate from the national psyche for a bit, that is.

Named presumably after the Fitzgerald part of its owners – The Louis Fitzgerald Group, Fitzgerald’s is included in a portfolio that boasts other such city gems as The Stag’s Head and Kehoe’s. Decorated with that familiar Victorian pub architecture sort of persuasion in mind, its features include tiled and wooden flooring, a long granite bar, dark wood and high ceilings. These all combine to create a cosy aesthetic along the front half of the pub’s narrow space, a space that is nicely illuminated with the aid of large mirrors which distribute the light effectively. It would be far too picky of us to fault the appearance of this half of the pub – it’s a fine looking shop.

The back half of the pub, however, we we’re less keen on. Opening up wide for a more restaurant sort of vibe, it contains lower seating along with the much dreaded carvery bar. But given that that particular feature is tucked away into a corner and not too imposing, I’ll forego the same style of rant that we decided to level upon poor Madigan’s and leave it by saying that we couldn’t, in all good faith, deduct too many points for the back section, not when it does such a fine job of keeping all the tourists from cluttering up the bar, trying to decide what pints to buy. Speaking of pints, the Guinness we found to be tasty and well poured, as it should be at €5.50 a pop!

All in all Fitzgerald’s is a fine aul bar that we’ll likely visit more than just the once again. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to petition Guinness to bring back the donor’s pint, and then to try and figure out how to tell our Brazilian friend about the pints given to women just out of labour.

 

Foxes bear a terrible brunt when you think about it. The poor creatures cannot be spoken about without a mention of the word sly or sneaky or indeed the word wiley. One can only imagine the consternation that typecasting an entire section of the human population like we do with foxes would bring about.

That said, there is no smoke without fire and surely foxes are sly creatures. I like to think that The Wiley Fox was so named due to its proximity to the myriad of bus termini on its doorstep, because what could be sneakier than ducking in for a quick scoop and catching a later bus than intended. Who would dare disbelieve that the bus didn’t come.

 

We recently dropped into The Wiley Fox of a Thursday afternoon when it was ticking over with an afterwork crowd. We’d waited out many’s the bus in the pub in its former guise as The Pint and we were looking forward to seeing how it had settled in following its renovation.

The décor of the pub is largely modern and is product of the design specs predefined in many of the craft beer/cocktail joints which have popped up across the city. Plush armchairs provide seating in the first atrium of the pub upon entrance, more traditional seating takes up the reigns once in the main heart of the pub alongside the bar. A few fox themed bits are displayed throughout and the older features of the pub are nicely taken into the new design.

A Hawaiian themed night was in its early stages when we arrived, it being denoted by the tikki decoration and the staff’s colorful t-shirts and concern for the whereabouts of pineapples. We propped up the bar and called for two scoops. The staff were commendable on their service. The Barman returned the two pints as swiftly as one should to customers who may be shortly making a dash for a bus. His attention to detail was noted when he replaced the pint onto a beermat having noticed the absence of one. The pint itself was good and not too offensively priced either.

All in all we couldn’t fault the Wiley fox to harshly. It’s a fine boozer which has taken newer pub design features and not gone overboard with them. We look forward to missing the bus the next time around.

Early houses are strange places in modern day Dublin when you think about it. The Chancery Inn, situated nearby an extensive Victorian fruit-and-veg market must have surely seen its fair share of early morning custom over the years but with the forward march of progress the early morning crowd has certainly thinned out over the […]

Sometimes when we get to talking on the defining parameters that make a pub a pub we can get very particular on details. The one thing that we do agree upon is that we disagree on a great many points – slightly on some and heavily upon others. Having said that, we should say that we sometimes do get to exhaust the fumes of white smoke now and again, one such consensus we have managed to arrive at relates to a rule on hotel bars – namely that a hotel bar is not a pub!

It’s our argument that the vibe exuded in your bog standard hotel bar is a good light-year or two away from that one should expect in any self-respecting pub. This is due in no small part to the lighting, the seating and often the prices too. Hotel bar etiquette is often a far more formal experience than that of the pub wherein you might find yourself wondering whether to order at the bar or at your table while subconsciously watching your Ps and Qs too. Put simply – we’d rather be in the pub.

But as sure as all hotels have housekeepers who couldn’t give a toss about your hangover, all rules have their exceptions – which brings us nicely along to Lannigan’s.

Situated within the boundaries of the Clifton Court Hotel on Eden Quay – Lannigan’s has grown on us over the years. To say it has a few quirky bits and pieces upon the walls would be the grossest of understatements. Every conceivable piece of wall space in the bar has been plastered with knick-knacks and trinketry, so much so that visitors could easily spend their entire stay in the pub conversing solely about the paraphernalia littered around the walls.

Lit well, the pub is somewhat narrow and opens up toward the back. The pint has never steered us wrong and the staff are suitably proficient and pleasant in their pouring of said pint. The crowd is a good mix – you’ll find locals, tourists, afterworkers and actor’s alike. It’s also the place to bring that person in your life who is partial to an episode or two of Fair City now and again – we tend to see one or another of their cast any time that we call in.

A great pub, this – an exception to our own rules around bars in hotels and a convenient location for thirsty northbound commuters.