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On more than one occasion, we’ve happened to find ourselves in conversation with an older generation of pub patronage whereby the topic at hand will wind its way around to that much favoured subject of ‘The Dublin Character’. Generally these conversations will go the one way – we, being the younger side, will ultimately find ourselves on the receiving end of the older side’s lament for the demise of The Dublin Character. Usually delivered with a swathe of clichés, there’s no room for irony when they just don’t make em like they useta anymore.

Naturally though, we’re always poised to argue the contrary – and it is a matter of public record that we believe Dublin, and in particular – its pubs, to be ripe with characters for the pickin.

Objectively though, we can bring ourselves to admit that the nature of the Dublin Character has changed down through the years. Recently, we took in a crawl along Talbot Street which prompted a discussion on Dublin characters of old, and one in particular – Matt Talbot. Matt, or The Venerable Matt as he is now known by some, was a terrible man when it came to the demon, drink – an alcoholic by thirteen, his early years were defined not only by his dependence on a sup, but by the scheming, thieving and cajoling that came along with such an addiction. Eventually though, Matt saw the light and decided to live in servitude to the divine – a life that ultimately would include a bizarre self-inflicted regiment of food deprivation, sleeping on planks and wearing chains upon his body.

Given all of that, and having incorrectly assumed that Talbot Street had been named for Matt, we couldn’t help but wonder what the man himself would make of the proliferation of boozers along the street that bears his name, if he were still rattling along the streets of the city. Probably not much. We were also thinking that we’ve been indulging in some of his penance ourselves in the name of the craic. Skipped the odd meal to nip in for a scoop? Check! Slept on uncomfortable surfaces? Yep! Wore chains upon your person?…. Eh, we really should get onto the topic of Grainger’s here.

Grainger’s, depending on your geography, sits at the start or the end of Talbot St. A mainstay of the street, the Grainger name has adorned the façade for as long as any of us care to remember. A narrow pub, it’s probably best identifiable by its striking black and white chessboard flooring. The fit-out of the pub is typical of a modern style of interior design seen in new and newly refurbished pubs – chesterfield-esque upholstery and trendy lighting fixtures sits amidst pastel tones. It’s quite evident that the recent refurbishment seeks establish the space more as café-bar than just bar.

Overall the look is effected nicely enough. That is though with one exception – sitting atop the bar there lies a plywood covering at the base of the beer taps. As if plucked straight from Cassidy’s or P Mac’s, this anomaly sits in defiance to its refined surroundings having apparently been designated as the pub’s proverbial plaster cast, it being littered with signatures and doodles.

Anomalies aside, it should be noted that the livery sitting beneath the grafittied plywood is far more extensive than one might expect, or than was by us. With plenty of genuine independent craft brews alongside the old reliables – there’ll be no lip out of your Granda or your cousin from NCAD, should you decide to bring them to Grainger’s for that big family get together you’ve been meaning to have. Guinness clocked in at an even fiver and made no negative impact on the taste-buds of me or Pintman Nº2, no mean feat when you consider that it followed a few in Cleary’s.

Vibe-wise the pub could have stood to have had a bit more atmosphere befitting of a Saturday night when we last visited. Sparsely populated, it seemed to lack the benefit of a regular custom that its neighbours seem to enjoy. Crawling though, as we were, it can’t be said whether we had just ducked in before the rush.

None of us, with full conviction could say that we dislike Grainger’s. But it suffers from being situated to too many other beloved boozers for us to find the charm in it that we do with the rest, It’s certainly a better pub to be waiting out a train in when compared to Connolly station’s in-house boozer.

I’m a bit annoyed at The Sunset House! You see, the pub was rebranded as The Brendan Behan after a fatal gangland shooting back in 2016, and this was the name that the pub was trading under when we made our only visit there back in September of last year. Being aware of the name and needing no persuading – yours truly here wrote a piece on the pub which was more of an ode to Brendan Behan than anything else. You can imagine my disappointment when I rocked up to Summerhill Parade to snap the pub last January, only to discover that it had reverted to its former name – The Sunset House. So queue in a re-write and a not-so-swift realisation that the pub’s signage had been obscured by a traffic light in the photo I’d taken, and I’d returned to Summerhill once more for another snap only to find the pub closed. In the intervening times that I’ve passed the boozer I’ve always found it closed * – so this image will have to do for now.

*[I’m not sure if it’s gone the way of Gill’s down the road and decided upon a more skeleton set of opening dates, or if it’s just plain closed-down. D1/D3 folks might advise us of what the craic is in the comments.]


Anyhow, I suppose I’m glad that I managed to snap an open and operating Sunset House during an actual sunset, albeit with obscured signage – we made just the one visit here over the years and happened to do so on what we can only assume to be one of the pub’s busier trading days – All Ireland Final Day. With Dublin Facing off against Mayo in the 2017 decider – Pintman №2 and I, GAA novices at best, found the bluest attire we possessed and took to the boozers of Summerhill hoping to suck up some of the atmosphere. Arriving in during the earlier half of 1PM we found The Sunset House to be as busy as one would expect any purveyor of alcohol in close proximity to a stadium on the day of a final to be.

In the past we’ve spoken about how some boozers sometimes defy expectations set by their exterior, The Sunset House is no such a pub. There was little or nothing to write home about when it came to the appearance of this pub, bright and plain – the colours bring an unwanted sense of sterility to the place. The seating is basic enough and Pintman №2 and I agreed that the only noteworthy feature of the pub was the bar which had been constructed from brick.

The pint was good and in a fine flow with the increased level of custom, mine came to the table in a Smithwicks Glass which prompted a discussion on whether such an offence was excusable given the day that was in it. The price isn’t remembered as one that caused any offence to either of us.

The vibe in the place was surreal enough, we agreed that we’d need to return to get a feel for the place on an ordinary day but for now we embraced the mix of patrons brought in by the impending game. A DJ sat ensconced into a corner of the pub blasting unfazed patrons with that type of paddywhacking continuity-republican music you might hear at the end of the night at some ropey cousin’s wedding. Face-painters did the rounds and coloured in the cheeks of children with their team colours of choice – I was disappointed that Pintman №2 wasn’t further along with the gargle such that he’d be more agreeable to having his mush painted too. As we finished out our gargles we’d clocked a local in a weathered Bowie t-shirt. Having remarked on him being the oldest lounge boy we’d ever seen we pondered as to whether he’d been coerced into the job with the promise of free gargle the night prior.

Even though we wouldn’t see this place threatening to breach the top one hundred cosy boozers in the capital, we’d still hate to think that the sun had set on The Sunset House. Hopefully it’s still on the go or at least will be again soon.

 

There was a moment there in 2017 where we were getting a bit worried about the state of the Dublin pub scene. Borne from the increasing number of pubs closing their doors our concerns were compounded when we realised that many of these were boozers that had been operating as far back as we could remember.

Now granted we’re still sore from the loss of The Sackville Lounge, our 2017 grief subsided somewhat when some new pubs sprung up here and there. The first of these caught our attention when we noticed works ongoing at the site of Sean O Casey’s on Marlborough St., the most notable feature of which was the new façade which had been decorated with what this author safely assumes to be the largest image of Seamus Ennis ever printed.

Seamus Ennis for those not in the know was an Irish musician who was most famed for his prowess when it came to playing the indigenous Irish musical instrument – The Uilleann Pipes. The Uillean pipes are an interesting instrument, less discerning ears will tend not to describe them as a pleasant aural experience, but if you’re anything like ourselves you’ll find that the drone of the air passing through the chambers of these pipes will unearth your inner seanchaí and inflame your desire to wander barefoot across the breadth of the country, imbibing solely on whiskey and communicating only in song.

The pub opened last July promising live trad seven nights a week – a statement that had us terrified with the thoughts of pricey scoops and Galway Girl on repeat. Thankfully these were to remain mere nightmares and the pub has already become a hub of activity for all those seeking authentic traditional music.

The interior of the pub is no ornate affair, dark blues are contrasted with plain whites which give the pub a brighter look than most others. The materials are rough and ready – my companion, a carpenter by trade, couldn’t forgive the fact that the back bar was made from a material he reliably informed me to be OSB board. But I liked the overall look of the pub and argue the point that it’ll wear into itself naturally, as all traditional pubs should.

The drink is a mixture of craft and usual fare and should placate the adventurous and the purists alike. Our usual pint of Guinness came in at an even fiver, and was consistently well poured.

The Piper’s Corner is certainly our favourite new Dublin Pub. It’s authenticity is a breath of fresh air in a Dublin smothered with establishments offering homogenised and expensive ‘experiences’ in the guise of anything from New York glamour to Budapest chic – Long may it run!

Recently we heard that Molloy’s, which we thought had closed down, had reopened following a renovation. We were passing by not so long ago and figured we’d drop in to check out the handy work. Truth be told, we hadn’t been in for quite a while – having remembered the bar as a well weathered rough house that contained a gents which waged a fully-fledged assault on even the most insensitive of olfactory setups.


Having entered Molloy’s of a midweek evening we could gladly report that the only aroma to caress the nostrils was a sweet perfume of timber and varnish. The refurbishment is of the best possible kind; there’s no trendy modern architectural going on, the pub has simply been returned to its former glory. The dust is gone, the wood polished and the fixtures glossy once again.

A medium sized snug sits at the end of the bar which itself is beautifully put together in Victorian style woodwork that frames a clock and mirroring along the back. Large older whiskey mirrors throughout the pub aid to light space effectively. We found it to be a cracking looking pub, and the WC was in a far superior state than I’d remembered it.

Pint wise, everything was spot on – creamy, well poured and a tulip glass as the vessel. Being thorough I sank a few to verify the first wasn’t a fluke. The staff are a good bunch. Their rapport with the locals heightens the homely atmosphere of the pub, and doesn’t at all detract from them competently carrying out their duties. Speaking of bartenders’ duties, one of the less glamourous was to be called upon when a local boozehound, not content with the skinful he’d clearly already consumed attempted an entrance that wasn’t half as discreet as he thought. Taking notice of this, the barwoman was straight out to dispatch the man. After he’d endured a deserved four minutes of the stern sort of rollicking a mother might lay upon a misbehaving five year old, the seventy plus man was out the door. The Barwoman bid him a farewell in a tone wildly contrasting with that she had just thrown him out with and insisted that he mind himself and that she’d see him tomorrow.

Molloy’s is back on the map! We’ll definitely be back in soon. Make sure you are too.