Posts

Ever since Molly wheeled her barrow up the road from those pelt-peddling pricks down at the mouth of Grafton Street and plonked herself where it’s supposed that the Vikings once erected the thingmote, their version of Dundrum Shopping Centre, you could argue that the most westward point of Suffolk street has been subject to something of a rejuvenation.

O Neill’s: Suffolk St.

It’s here outside St Andrew’s church that you might listen to the portrayal of fiction as fact when steady throngs of tourists are corralled around the likeness of the city’s most famous mythical brasser only to have her described as if she were as real as Tone or Collins. And as you watch these tourists, one by one, mount Molly’s plinth and degrade the cause of feminism one brush of her brass bust at a time you might think to yourself that it’s not ideal but that it could be worse – it’s only a statue after all and where’s the harm in a few Yanks thinking of her as once actually alive… alive-o. It’s also probably apt enough that O Neill’s is the public house which sits upon this site because it, to me, falls into this same category as the scene aforementioned – it’s not ideal, but it could be worse.

Relative to our, ahem, studies… this bar is quite a notable one insofar that it’s the first where we can conclusively state a connection to James Joyce, a good pub does not make. And yes, this is another pub with strong links to JJ himself, it being featured in Counterparts – one of the short stories contained in Dubliners. In this story we meet Farrington, a legal secretary whose vitriol toward his superiors is severe enough that it manages to manifest itself as a thirst. And such is the insistence of this thirst on the day that Counterparts is set, that Farrington heads off on his afternoon break to quench it:

He was now safe in the dark snug of O’Neill’s shop, and filling up the little window that looked into the bar with his inflamed face, the colour of dark wine or dark meat, he called out: “Here, Pat, give us a g.p., like a good fellow.” The curate brought him a glass of plain porter.

Thankfully the standard of the jar seems that it was up to a higher level back at that time for if Jim happened to be writing about my maiden visit to the pub he’d be flinging his lingual prowess at describing how the curate poured my drink into a near empty and used vessel in one single pour and offered to sell it to me at full price. A decade on that still gives me the shivers.

bad pint in bulmers glass

I don’t know whether its just the size of the pub of the proliferation of taps, but the drink in here tends to be an issue more so than it should be. Personally, and anecdotally (off and online) we hear of bad pints galore in here (check out the Guinness we came across on twitter recently in the picture.) and with the price tag of €5.50 a go, the standard should be far higher.

Aesthetically the pub has its ups and its downs. Traditionally decorated, the front bar is resplendent with wood alike all other show piece pubs of the Victorian age around the city. It would be my pick of the many sections on offer especially seen as it’s good and out of sight of the dreaded carvery bar – a feature which Pintman №2, №3 and I have spent plenty of time arguing about. I should also, at this point, mention that the two lads aren’t quite as anti-O Neill’s as myself, their assessment of the place being an adequate one for taking in a match or two. But I think I might have them on the ropes about it these days.

Returning to the point made earlier on, and while not my pick of the bunch, O Neill’s is a pub that isn’t quite as bad as it could be. But with the touristification of Dublin ongoing it’s most certainly following the cash in the wrong direction. And what a shame it is to find that a pub with such fine potential to sit up top with the big leaguers would seem to be having it’s genuine cultural bonafides paddy whacked into a twee tourist only experience. Something which I suppose the quare one outside knows all too well.

It was in a local pub a few years ago and just as the final notes of Amhrán Na bhFiann rang out from a battered old Yamaha that I found myself in a bit of a troubling situation. Having become somewhat hemmed into the corner of one of the pub’s alcoves, I’d wound up at the barrel end of a barrage of threats from some coked-up little head-the-ball who had wasted little time in informing me of his strong connections to republican socialist republican paramilitaries – The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

Peadar Kearney’s: Dame St.

Given that it was after last orders, it’d be handy enough just to blame the gargle and the time of night. But the thing is that ever since my early teens, and up to the present day, I’ve always been reminded by both of my parent’s – together and separately – that my ‘big mouth’ will get me ‘in trouble one of these days.’ So therefore, I’d have to put my overlooking of the fact that the INLA had disbanded in 2009 down to the distraction that had resulted from the sheer irony of having gotten myself ‘in trouble’ while engaging in an act of pacifism.

What lead me to this point could probably be construed as an unpopular opinion, for you see, over the years I’ve come to acquire a personal distaste toward the practice of rolling out of our national anthem to celebrate a night of drinking and sub-par entertainment. We’re not currently at war, there’s no overwhelming need to be bolstering national pride! Appending the national anthem to events of such mundanity as a few local pints only serves to denigrate its integrity – you’re not engulfed in the roar of cannons or the peal of rifles and the only bhearna bhaoil likely to be encountered after eight pints down the local will be little more than a few digs thrown outside a chipper. So when some one-man-band calls last orders and queues up their Amhrán Na bhFiann backing track you’ll likely find me in a state of respectful abstention. And this is what aggrieved my newly acquired INLA contact.

Thankfully the gift of the gab was well lubricated at this particular hour and the hostile situation was easily diffused and made a friendlier one – once the above argument was made and peppered with plenty of continuity republican sentiment, that is. I even got the opportunity to impart some knowledge onto the inebriated would-be liberator by telling him that the national anthem was originally written in English by one Peadar Kearney – a name he knew only from the Dame St. pub.

According to their website, Peadar Kearney’s is so named due to the fact that the great man himself once dwelled within the walls that now house the pub. This was a claim that we could neither confirm nor contradict with google. Sitting on the fringes of the tourist chaos that Temple Bar entails, the pub is one that’s decorated traditionally. Alike it’s neighbouring boozer: Brogan’s, retro Guinness adds are de rigueur with respect to the pictures about the wall – these share space with mirrors branded with different whiskeys, local road signs, a portrait of a boxer and most notably – two jockey’s outfits enclosed in a glass case. All of which we neglected to obtain the significance of, if any.

A small to medium sized pub, it could be categorised with many others in the city in the way that a relatively narrow corridor comes to open up toward the rear of the space. Seating is untraditional and makes use of large barrels, flanked by high stools, in lieu of the usual table set up.

The pint was of a high standard and hit the wallet for €5.30 which admittedly was on the lower side of our both mine and Pintman №2’s estimates – both of which took more than enough influence from the pub’s proximity to Temple Bar. The barman was sound and plenty competent too. We found reason also to note the variance in the music being piped in which started well with some Deep Purple and had descended into that plastic-paddy genre of ba***dized classics by the time we were leaving. Pintman № said he would have preferred to hear the commentary on the match at the time.

Being entirely honest, we couldn’t say that we disliked Peadar Kearney’s, but by that same virtue we did note that we couldn’t shake the feeling of it being a bit more geared towards tourists. This ultimately means that we’d likely not spend too significant an amount of time on the pints in here, but we’d certainly not avoid it altogether.

Lately, we hit something of a milestone here on DublinByPub – you might have noticed during the month of March that we finally managed to breach the ten thousand follower mark here on Instagram. We’re still a little perplexed as to how we’ve managed to come this far but we’d certainly like to take a moment to sincerely thank all of our followers across Instagram and other social platforms for their continued support and engagement, we genuinely do still get a buzz from spreading the good word of Dublin Pubs and hearing your stories and perspectives back. This following post is one we had hoped to upload when we surpassed the 10K mark, but in our usual disorganised fashion, we were a bit late to the mark and are only getting around to it now.

The Old Storehouse – Crown Alley</br><i>(A Pint with Shane MacGowan)</i>

It’s no mystery in this modern existence of ours that certain things work better when coupled with others – salt and pepper, gin and tonic, Lennon and McCartney – you get the idea. One particular pairing whose values I’ve come to espouse as my drinking career has evolved over the years is the coupling of music and a few drinks. When tied together, the aforementioned pair tend to form a sort of symbiosis; themes in music can be outlandish and unattainable, a few pints allow us to cast off the shackles of cynicism and live in the moment of a song, whereas settling into a decent album or a good gig provides a perfectly opportune moment to indulge in a tipple or three – it’ a perfect two-way street. A good number of years ago I was indulging in this particular mix of activities when I happened upon a master of the two arts of music and drink – Shane MacGowan.

The evening leading up to this encounter began not in a pub but in a concert venue on Middle Abbey St. – The Academy, a few friends and I were in to see a since disbanded Dublin group by the name of The Republic of Loose. The Republic Of Loose at this time were known for their raucous shows – which, due to their late starting times, would guarantee a fairly rowdy and booze-quenched audience. These gigs would often involve an appearance from a contemporary musician during the encore and this evening would be no exception to that. Appearing for their first encore on this particular night the band introduced their guest for the evening – the lead singer from The Pogues: Shane MacGowan. With a drink in hand and a lit cigarette in a post-smoking-ban era Dublin, Shane ambled into the centre of the stage and led the band in a cover of The Rolling Stones’ Honky Tonk Women before performing an original – Fiesta. The crowd’s response couldn’t be described as anything even marginally south of pandemonium.

After the concert had come to a close, and in that after-gig half-drunk euphoria, I found myself sat upon a step outside the venue awaiting the emergence of the friends I’d become separated from. As I waited I had begun talking to a woman with whom I shared the step, mostly discussing the gig we came to address the topic of Shane McGowan’s appearance – at which point I felt it appropriate to declare my desire to share a drink with the great man – it was from here on that things became a bit serendipitous. Upon hearing my request –the woman produced a mobile phone and inexplicably began dialling. When she finished the call I received two important pieces of information – firstly that she was a good friend of The Republic of Loose’s lead singer and secondly (and also more importantly) that Shane McGowan was bound for a pub in Temple Bar called Eamon Doran’s.

Shane MacGowan

With due thanks given for the latter piece of information I had gathered my friends and we made haste to Eamon Doran’s. Now we’ve mentioned Eamon Doran’s on DublinByPub before, it was a rock bar that towed a nice line between the popular and the alterative and was adjoined to the Dublin’s most beloved pizzeria: DiFontaines, before it made the move up to Parliament St. Doran’s had a number of defining features – these were not limited to a large Thin Lizzy stage sign, some very poorly lit basement corners from which lust-spent couples would emerge at random intervals and a narky Asian barman who poured a tremendous pint of stout. I loved Doran’s! And I frequented it to such a degree that I had found myself on first name terms with one of the bouncers, this was something that would prove to be advantageous later on.

For consistency’s sake we should comment on the pub as it stands now. Being fully aware of the potential of their central Temple Bar location, the successive owners decided to revamp our beloved haunt to resemble its neighbouring tourist traps. Thusly The Old Storehouse was born – sending rockers to go seek pastures anew the new look Doran’s became complete with the type of fit-out that you might find in any given Irish Bar dotted across the globe and began purveying that sort of paddy-whackery laden genre of Temple Bar Trad that rarely goes an hour without repeating a gratuitous rendition of The Fields of Athenry. We’ve since been in separately over the years and while we agree it would be a grand spot to wind up in for a few hours as a tourist, we can’t say that we’re likely to become locals anytime soon ourselves, but anyway – back to MacGowan.
Arriving into Doran’s shortly after leaving The Academy, we noticed no difference in the place compared to a usual run-of-the-mill night. A quick search for Shane yielded no results and with the diminished prospects of pinting with a Pogue apparent, we set about getting on with enjoying the remainder of our night. This we did, until such a time that the cessation of music and full illumination heralded the end of the evening’s proceedings. Making our way slowly toward the exit, serendipity was to step in again when I ran into the bouncer with whom I was friendly. Having more or less immediately asked him about Shane, he ushered me away into a quiet corner and informed me that he would see what he could do.

A nervous number of minutes would follow wherein I’d gain admittance to the pub once more only to be escorted out again by a more senior member of the security staff with whom I was not friendly, eventually, the door would become ajar and a friendly voice would usher me in with the instruction that ‘they’re up the back there’. They were.

In all truth, this memory is a hazy one given the amount of drink that had been consumed on the night – but there are a number of clear recollections from the overall encounter. First was the thought that I had in my head as I approached Shane. Recalling the various recorded interviews I had struggled to comprehend his speech in, I distinctly remember being worried about understanding the man. In hindsight, I perhaps should have had also been concerned about the inverse – given the drink-fuelled deterioration in my own particular lingual skills at the time. Nonetheless, both fears were ultimately unfounded – we communicated with ease and understood each other in the same manner I’d imagine tribal elders do when they’re speaking in tongues and full of ayahuasca.

Over the course of a single pint of Guinness, we discussed topics ranging from The Dubliners to Brendan Behan to Damien Dempsey and music in general. Overall Shane shone through as an intelligent and personable person, he listened to whatever nonsense I must have said to him and conversed insightfully and respectfully throughout. I remember being somewhat astonished by the size of the man’s hands as he raised a pint glass of clear liquid to his lips, a glass which he later clarified to me as containing gin when I naively asked if it contained water. This was corroborated by the smell in the air after he took another mouthful, an aroma that suggested that there wasn’t anything other than gin in the pint glass. When I’d finished my own pint (of Guinness) I asked Shane if I could hang about, and to my surprise he obliged – it was then that a pal of his took me aside and explained that intrusion was a regular occurrence in the Shane camp and if I’d mind fucking off. He put it so politely I couldn’t really refuse.

So out I stumbled into a deserted Temple Bar and set about home, and even now as I type I can still recall the thought I had when I awoke the next afternoon – the disbelieve, the surrealism. I’m still wondering to myself, especially now given the time that has passed, as to whether this just some dreamt up drunken narrative created in my subconscious. But it wasn’t! And this is no Wizard of Oz ending – it’s more along the lines of Nightmare on Elm Street I’m thinking, but with a shitty pixellated image of me and Shane taken on a mid-2000s camera phone instead of a few slashes on a nightgown.

So given that we’re always looking for good drinking quotes to punctuate the stuff we put on here and given that we’re on the subject of one of Ireland’s most beloved lyricists, we should leave the last word to Shane. “When the world is too dark, And I need the light inside of me, I’ll walk into a bar, And drink fifteen pints of beer”

The Celt is an odd one, although it’s not to the best of the author’s knowledge advertised, marketed or described as a tourist bar it somehow is. Now, when we say tourist bar we’re not in this instance likening it to some of the purveyors of extortionately priced paddywhackery in Temple Bar but anytime we’ve been in there has always been a healthy abundance of tourists tucking into stews or plates of cabbage alike.

The Celt: Talbot St.

The décor here is fairly traditional, it’s not the most polished of spaces but its roughness supplements its charm. The standard old Irish pub paraphernalia makes up the decoration with whiskey jugs and black and white portraits all around. Threadbare wood and red slate flooring set the visual tone of the pub which is well set out for a small enough room.

We’ve been in a few times, one of which was in the midst of a crawl where we arrived in to a bit of music which melded nicely into the background. The pint was decent enough and was drank without complaint. There was a decent mix of locals and tourist and the vibe was friendly with a touch of strange given that there was a Japanese warrior (whom some of us recognized as a busker from Grafton St.) at the bar having a pint.

On the whole we can’t fault The Celt too much. It’s the good type of tourist pub and the type we’d recommend over those money grabbing bastards in Temple Bar any day.