For anyone just stumbling across CHTM!, once a month or so the three writers behind this blog, joined by a small group of friends, visit five Dublin pubs and then write about our experiences. A different person each month picks the five pubs and makes sure not to give away any details beforehand. The reviews are often as varied as the pubs with the three different writing styles giving three very different narratives.
After twenty-one pub crawls many of us, including myself, believed that the days of crawls “between the canals” were perhaps over and that we’d permanently have to relocate to the suburbs. This crawl was designed to prove myself wrong.
A small but dedicated group of us met at Portobello Bridge on Sunday 1 July, the day of the UEFA Euro 2012 final.
Ushering people back across the bridge away from Portobello, I led them up Mountpleasant Avenue Lower which acts like a dividing point between Ranelagh and Rathmines. The residential area is host to a lovely pub by the name of Corrigans (aka The Mountpleasant Inn) which rests beside a little shop and surrounded by nothing else but houses and flats. A proper ‘local’. You’d have to know exactly where you were going in order to find it.
Coming in through the last door, we found ourselves in a spacious bar area. Certainly bigger from what it looks like from the outside. Its large windows ushered a lot of light into the room. We had the place to ourselves and so nestled ourselves down at the back in the comfy seats. The friendly bartender who greeted us took our orders and dropped the pints down to us. We were all on Guinness and everyone agreed they were delicious. There was an overall ‘old-school’ feel about the place. “Green tiled walls and dark wooden floors” as Annie L. summed up on Yelp.ie
Established around 1914, the pub is still in the hands of Corrigan family after all these years. Obviously big sports fans there’s GAA and particularly Rugby memorabilia cover the walls.
Its main claim to fame is that it was used for the movie Young Cassidy (1964), a biographical drama based upon the life of the playwright Sean O’Casey directed by Jack Cardiff and John Ford and starring Rod Taylor, Julie Christie, and Maggie Smith. The pub, which was selected along with Mullligans of Poolbeg St and Fox’s in Glencullen, was chosen because it still had ‘its gaslights intact and its counter is divided up into cosy booths by the presence of ‘baffle-blinds’ mirrors’. A trailer for the film can be seen here.
All in all Corrigans is a stand up pub. Perfect location, nice interior, pleasant barstaff and decent pints at a reasonable price. Definitely up there with O’Connells on South Richmond St as the best pubs in the area.
Leading people back towards the canal, I took them down the scenic Charlemont Place and down to Leeson Street bridge. Our second pub of the day was The Leeson Lounge.
A popular spot for Kilkenny GAA fans as former proprietor Paddy Morrisey was a proud Kilkenny man, the pub stands at the busy corner of Leeson St. Upper and Sussex Terrace. 46As and 145s whizz past it every couple of minutes. Morrisey ran The Leeson Lounge from 1977 until his death in 2006. The walls are still lined with magnificent photographs from the past 100 years of GAA activity, mainly of the Kilkenny Cats.
The interior is quite bizarre. In a good way. A massive fish tank takes over a quite a lot of space while on the walls GAA photos and rockabilly gig posters fight for space. Open plan and spacious, an open door onto the road brought in cool air and light into the usually dark and slightly seedy room. A couple of regulars were propped up at the bar. There was no music whats so sever and only a very quiet TV in the corner. A nice change to the blaring rubbish that some pubs force its customers to listen to.
The pints, which were dropped down by the well-dressed, stylish barman, were ok. Nothing special but it is a cool little pub and I hope to check some more live gigs there soon. I’ve also heard the toasted sandwiches are excellent.
Next up was M.O’Briens which is situated immediately next door to The Leeson Lounge.
Owned by the same people as The Brazen Head and The Foggy Dew, it’s nothing like its neighbour and probable rival. Pokey and small, M.O’Briens maintain a strict no TV and no music rule so don’t expect to catch the GAA or hear a rock n roll band here. (On second look, while its website says there’s a “no music” in the bar – they do seem to hold “jazz, traditional music and folk” bands from Thursday till Sunday)
Its charm lies in its beautiful interior, which though was renovated in 2008 has retained all the original features going back 100 years, and the excellent pint of Guinness. Its website makes that claim that their two bartenders, the “dependable” Tony and PJ, are two of the longest-serving bar men in the city. A couple of us noticed that Snuff was available to buy behind the counter.
The ‘Sussex Bar’ sign outside gives it a certain old-school English tavern feel to it. Or maybe that’s just me.
Known before as Hughes Public House, it was run by a Joseph Hughes (see 1911 census here) from 1902 to 1942. For a time in the 1950s, it was known as ‘Walkers’. Michael Brien, who gives the bar its current name, passed away in 1974.
Exiting to find it was raining heavily and with the Euros kick off not too long away, we decided to jump into a cab. Our fourth stop of the day was Scruffy Murphys on Powers Court just off Lower Mount St.
Hidden away down a lane and overshadowed by blocks of flats and offices, Scruffy Murphys is an odd place indeed. For what I gather it was a run of the mill locals boozer in the 1940s & early 1950s, became a very trendy place for Dublin’s ‘faces’ and professionals from the late 1950s until as late as the early 1990s and now its back to being a normal bar with strong football links. (It’s the base of national team supporters group You Boys In Green)
Apparently its rise to fame dates back to 1958 when it used in the British comedy film ‘Rooney‘, set in Dublin, starring John Gregson, Muriel Pavlow and Barry Fitzgerald. Based on the novel by Catherine Cookson, and directed by George Pollock, the film depicted the life of James Ignatius Rooney, a Gaelic hurler at the weekends, and who works as a Dublin rubbish collector Monday to Friday.
Trinity News (27 Oct ’66) described it as the “present Trinity ‘in’ Pub”. Right through the 1970s and 1980s, it was described continually in the papers as a “trendy watering hole” and “one of Dublin’s trendiest bars”. It held hosts to an array of semi-glitzy parties and launch nights. Apparently it was known as The Hive during this period.
In April 1990, the pub made front page headlines as 10 regulars, in a syndicate together, won £2.4 million in the lottery. The 10 included bar owner Paddy Mulligan and manager Michael Bourke. They were the first syndicate to scoop over £2 million. (On a side note, the Indo reported that by 1993 Mulligan was ‘penniless’)
The pub itself is huge and ‘busy’ in that there are things everywhere you look. Lots of seats of varying sizes on various levels, TVs everywhere, walls covered with posters and ornaments and a massive bar. Sunday was quiet with a couple of locals here to watch the match but I heard it can get rammed with the after-work crowd.
The pints were grand and we found comfy seats and a decent TV to watch the first half of the final. Grand spot for something like that.
We headed around the corner to Oil Can Harrys just in time for the second half. It’s one of those confused pubs that doesn’t know whether it should be a quiet old man pub, a modern, trendy place or an Oirish pub tourists. Established in the 1940s, the website describes how the pub ‘groans with timber fixtures’. Whatever that means.
On the unusual name, it would seem Oil Can Harry was a character in an American silent film called The Perils of Pauline (1913).
Starving at this stage, we ordered a platter and for €18 got an array of delicious, greasy potato wedges, chicken wings and onion wings. It fed five of us fine.
Making good time, at this stage we decided we had time to make one more pub. It was one that originally on my list but I moved off when rearranging my route when I found out it was going to be Euro Finals day.
So, we crossed a road or two, down an alleyway and found ourselves at McGrattans on Fitzwilliam Lane which is another weird little place.
Originally a motor sheet-metal workshop owned by R. Thomas & Sons, it was taken over by the NUI graduate club and opened up a social venue called The Graduate Club in 1962. Conversion cost £5,000 and it turned the ‘panel beating workshop’ into a licensed premises with amenities for bridge, chess as well as a cafeteria and patio garden. Subscription was 3 guineas a year which included membership of the Graduates’ Association.
It functioned as The Graduate Club until 1975 when it was taken over and turned into a nightclub called ‘Barbellas’. Its ‘gala opening’ invitation, enticed the public to:
See our water sprites dance in the pool … Have a drink in the waterfall bar … or try the delicious food in our elegant restaurant.
Ulick O’Connor in Magill magazine reviewed Barbellas in 1978:
(Here) are the most naked girls you can see in Dublin. What holds up the tiny pieces of silk that cover them only an expert in structural engineering can explain. They float along with their tiny trays, indifferent to the gaze of hearty males who have been able to distract their girlfriends’ attention, to steal a look. Then, oh golly! At 12 p.m. a girl plunges into the blue fountain in the centre of the club and writhes around to frothy airs.
Upstairs the food is excellent and the service by two brothers attentive. The chef is also a brother so you have a direct line of communication if you have a complaint, which I have never had. This is a cleverly designed club, which suggests glamour. As you go in there are superb photographs by Louis Curzon of gorgeous girls, to hint at exotic times later on. If you glance overhead you are under a ship’s rigging so it is easy to imagine slipping a way to the Andes blue from the gloom and wet outside .
It was put up for sale in 1983 and I’m not sure what was there until it reopened as McGrattans in the Lane in December 1989.
McGrattans today is a labyrinth of side rooms, smoking areas and little nooks and crannies. There’s also a pretty comprehensive collection of celebrities pictured in the bar that don the walls. See their website for some examples.
Today, the place is still popular with journalists, media types and musicians and we spot a former RTE newsreader at the front bar.
We found a little tucked away room and enjoyed our pints all to ourselves. Certainly an unusual and original place, I wouldn’t mind coming back to try their (supposedly decent) food and having it out on the patio the next time we get a half decent bit of sunshine. They also have a few pool tables which are always a welcome addition to a big pub like that.
So, there you go. 21 pub crawl down. John’s turn next and we’ve pencilled in early August.
If you’re ever in the area or want to avoid the main ‘drags’ of Rathmines or Ranelagh check out Corrigans.
For great live music, The Leeson Lounge is the place to go.
However if you’re in the area and are looking for a nice (and superior) pint, check out M. O’Briens next door.
A good place to watch the football, Scruffy Murphys
Don’t go out of your way for Oil Can Harrys but if you do, you could do worse than try the food.
Everyone should try it at least once, the hidden away McGrattans where you end up playing a game of pool with your favourite meeeja personality.