As you probably know by now, every month this blog organises a pub-crawl. In rotation, a different person chooses the five pubs in advance, picks a meeting point in the city and makes sure not to let any details slip to the rest of the group about what pubs are to be visited.
April was my turn and I chose the area of Portobello.
I set the meeting point for the corner of Harcourt Street and Stephens Green. This was once the site of Little’s Pub, now the Stephens Green Hotel, which was taken over by members of the Irish Citizen Army (ICA) during Easter Week 1916.
This location was also chosen to confuse people on the route we were going to be taking that day. We could of easily headed off towards the direction of Wexford St, Leeson St. or back towards Grafton St. One of the joys of these pub-crawls, in my mind, is having no idea where your ‘tour guide’ for the day is going to bring you.
Dfallon and Hxci were on time as usual, with CHTM! crawl regular JFlood only a couple of minutes late.
I led them up Harcourt St., stopping briefly to point out Edward Carson’s birthplace, and through Camden Place where we spotted this little letterbox. I crossed the road at Camden Street in order to point out the (mostly) hidden plaque at No. 34 where Na Fianna Éireann were founded in 1909. The plaque can be only been if you face the building from the opposite side of the road.
Our first stop was Cassidy’s. I was surprised to see the place so busy on a sunny Sunday afternoon. There were a number of families and punters dotted around the long, narrow bar. It is hard to talk about Cassidy’s without mentioning that it was a stopping point of Bill Clinton in December 1995 where he was photographed enjoying a pint of Murphy’s Irish Stout. Apparently, the Cassidy’s are ‘distant cousins’ to the Clintons. We were able to get the best seats in the house, by the window immediately on the left when you enter. The pints, were as far as I can remember, perfectly fine. In truth, we didn’t explore the pub or stay long enough to get a real feel out of the place. But I liked what I saw. Especially the prime spot, where we sat at the window, perfect for people watching.
Not an amazing bar but a lovely one none on the less. Definitely one to pop into if your ever going to try The Camden Crawl.
We only had to cross the road for our next stop. The historic, imposing Bleeding Horse. When we walked in, the place was blaring from the sound of the premiership. Far too loud to warrant the little amount of people in the bar. Usually thronged with after work types on the weekday, the immense pub seemed ghostly empty at this time on a Sunday. We were able to find two lovely sets of tables at the very back of the bar by the window. (For me, this pub-crawl was characterised by the great seats we got in every pub). The pints were lovely and it was nice to have our numbers boosted as we were joined by recent CHTM! pub crawl enthusiast Angela and veteran Hamada.
The Bleeding Horse dates back to 1649 and claims to be the second oldest pub in Dublin. There are many stories on how the tavern got its name. The most frequent one told is that during The Battle of Rathmines (1649), Cromwellian forces brought their wounded horses to the thatched, timber inn that stood here.
The Irish Times, surprisingly, does not wield many interesting stories relating to the pub. The only one that stood out was that Countess Markievicz presided over a Republican meeting in the premises in September 1923 at which Madeleine Ffrench-Mullen and Helena Maloney spoke.
Across Kelly’s Corner, we swung by the renowned Bretzel Bakery and up to The Lower Deck, known locally as “Ryan’s of The Harbour”. There’s been a tavern on this site since the 1830s. Though I’ve spent many evenings down in the basement at various gigs during 2007-8, I don’t think I’d ever properly been upstairs. We managed (again) to get great seats by the window beneath the array of GAA merchandise.
The pints were grand and the barman friendly. My only complaint was the eager, acoustic cover singer who was playing far too loud at such an early time of the evening in the middle of the bar. We finished our pints up quicker than usual because we could barely hear ourselves chat.
Moving on, we crossed the road and into The Portobello. I had thought that this pub had completely gone down the tacky tourist route but I was pleasantly surprised by the lovely, wooden interior and lack of ‘paddy tourist’ vibes in the place. (The bartender said that the first half of the pub has barely been altered since the Easter 1916 Rising when the ICA occupied the premises then called Davy’s).
We took seats in the middle of the premises beside an unusually placed vending machine. On the other side of us, a large trad session had begun involving up to a dozen people. The pints were again grand (I should of really taken notes during the night). A nice pub, full of history, but I’m not sure if I’d feel the need to come back anytime soon. The fact that there’s an over 30s disco called Rain attached to the pub isn’t a real selling point for me personally.
Stomachs were grumbling at this stage so we dropped into the quality Aprile (Est. 1969) chipper on the corner opposite The George Bernard Shaw. A feed of chips by the canal hit the spot nicely. Here, we were joined by our red-haired Italian friend Julian, in a jolly mood due to a Roma win, who had missed the last few pub crawls.
Next up was O’Connell’s on Richmond Street. This was my ‘pièce de résistance’. I for one had never set foot in the place before and I was pleased to hear that no one else besides DFallon had. This is what makes our pub crawls. Being brought into areas of the city and pubs that you’d never usually venture into. Definitely one of the few bars in the city that you’d have to point out to someone. It’s not loud. No neon lights, flags or banners outside. Deceptively small from the outside, the bar was unusually put together with various seats of different sizes all over. A little corner on your left as you go in, a thin row of seats directly opposite the bar and a whole separate section, slightly raised at the very back. We ordered our pints off the pleasant proprietress and settled in for the night. At €4 for a pint of Guinness, they were definitely the bargain of the evening.
All in all, I thought it was a success. Certainly compared to my last effort, which saw three of my five pubs closed.
I might find myself back in Cassidy’s soon with a newspaper in hand, ready for an afternoon of people watching if I see that those seats are empty or The Bleeding Horse to watch ‘the football’ (there’s even a TV in the beer garden!) or indeed O’Connell’s for an (agreeably cheap) Guinness filled session.
Though you might not find me there, if GAA is your interest, check out The Lower Deck and if it’s Trad music, The Portobello might be your place.
Next up is JFlood who will be escorting us around the city at the end of May.
April’s five pubs were:
1. Cassidy’s, 42 Lower Camden Street.
2. The Bleeding Horse, 24 Upper Camden Street.
3. The Lower Deck, 1 Portobello Harbour.
4. The Portobello, 33 South Richmond Street.
5. J. O’Connell’s, 29 South Richmond Street.