“When things go wrong and will not come right, though you do the best you can, when life looks black as the hour of night, a pint of plain is your only man”
It could barely have been foreseen that something that started as an excuse for a pub crawl on a slow Sunday afternoon could turn into a day of good banter and storytelling, traversing the spots that thousands and millions of weary travelers have trod before and ultimately in the conception of this Blog. Five pubs in one day, it’s not a hard thing in Dublin City, it‘s near impossible to get from A to B without passing at least one watering hole. It’s not exactly a cultural experiment either; it’s the sort of thing you do every weekend anyways without thinking about it. It’s only when you plot the five pubs beforehand, the nature and character of those five pubs and go there with the idea of having the craic while critiquing the place at the same time, drinking decent pints whilst judging them, and singing a few songs and telling a few tales in between. Then it becomes cultural.
So that’s what we did on the first Sunday in September. Five pubs were chosen and five brave warriors met in The Long Hall on Georges Street for the first pint of the day. For those of you who have never been in the Long Hall, it’s an unusual pub, decorated with early 20th Century trappings, rich shag carpets and wood panelling. The pint is bloody gorgeous too, if a little on the soft side.
It’s the kind of pub that is full of shirt bedecked office workers on a Friday evening but on a Sunday afternoon, the crowd was sparse. Not that we were giving out. And in a welcome development, though most pubs we had walked past to get here had ‘de football’ (English of course) blaring at full volume, the telly wasn’t even switched on here and the music was down low. A grand spot for a bit of natter; and during the natter we find out it’s a pub with a bit of history too – Ever seen the video for Thin Lizzy’s “Old Town?” Well the bar the lads are propping up is none other than the one in The Long Hall! So a quick toast to Phil and the boys and we were out the door, the barman giving us a shout of Slán as we left. Not too many places you get that either.
So next up was McDaids, just off Grafton Street. We didn’t stay long, as the barman gruffly demanded ID off each of us (I haven’t been asked for ID in five years or so… I didn’t know whether to be happy or angry) and then only begrudgingly asked what we wanted. The Chelsea Vs. Liverpool game was blaring and we decided it wasn’t worth it. Maybe the barman was a Liverpool fan (they were losing 2-0) or we just caught the place on a bad day because I genuinely like this pub; just definitely not that Sunday. As a change of plan, we headed for Kehoes, just the far side of Grafton Street. We found a nice quiet spot upstairs in the side room adjoining the Upstairs bar.
For those of you who have never had the pleasure of scooping in Kehoes, the upstairs bar is basically the living quarters of John Kehoe (long since passed away ) transformed by sticking a counter and some taps in it. It’s like drinking in your grannies sitting room. The old pictures adorning the wall were the source of many anecdotes as Pearse, Connolly and Heuston were debated and dissected. They say you should never talk politics or religion in a pub. It was a bit difficult in this place… With pictures of the 50th anniversary of the rising on one wall and Bono on the other! The pint was nice and cold, the head stayed white and the glass was left with the magic seven rings; always a good sign in my book. So with a few pints on us we headed on towards The Dawson Lounge.
The Dawson Lounge’s claim to fame is that it’s Dublin’s smallest pub. With two other groups of five or so in the place, there was not a stool to be had. We were disappointed to find out we couldn’t collect a Guinness 250 beermat commemorating this place but then again, it’d be hard to paint a picture of the place, what with there just being a door and a tiny hanging sign above it!
Not much you can say about this place, great pint, nice and snug, the kind of place you’d love to step into on a cold and wet day to read the paper or watch the news over a pint of plain. And don’t be dissuaded by the shortness of the review for this place; sure don’t they say it’s not the size that counts.
The next pub was to be Toners on Baggot Street, a great little boozer this, one of my secret hideaways- the kind of place where you can happily sit in the corner with a pint and a book and not be disturbed by anyone except the barman asking if you want another pint! We were greeted cheerily as we entered and we were glad to get in out of the cold and get a much-anticipated pint. I can’t recommend this pub enough; nice and snug, a great pint and a pub with a great history, frequented by Behan and O’Brien as it was.
I was sad to leave but we were nearing the summit of our challenge, and the cream of the crop. I think we peaked too early by deciding to include Mulligans of Poolbeg Street in our first five pubs for it truly is one of the best pints in the city. There is nothing polished about this pub, it’s old Dublin, (very old Dublin, the place was established in 1732;) rough and ready. Bare wood floors and nicotine scarred walls, but genuine and welcoming at the same time, far from the super pubs Dublin has come to know and despise. A great place for a bit of banter, the pub was well populated with young and old, bent over pints, chatting, laughing and slagging. A smashing pint aswell, and that makes all the difference.
We forgot ourselves here and indulged in a few more than we originally meant, but it was hard not to and besides, this was to be the end of our road for this week, and the end of the first chapter in a story I hope we endeavour to keep going. Pints, mates and the craic, what more could you ask for?
September’s five pubs were:
1. The Long Hall, Georges Street, Dublin 2.
2. John Kehoe’s, 9 South Anne’s Street, Dublin 2.
3. The Dawson Lounge, 25 Dawson Street, Dublin 2.
4. Toner’s, 139 Baggot Street Lower, Dublin 2.
5. Mulligan’s, 8 Poolbeg Street, Dublin 2.