Pubs six to ten. Worse still, my pubs (As everyone spent a good three weeks reminding me). With, in my opinion, Dublin’s best pint already out of the way at Mulligans, the pressure really was on. Its funny, in that you do a pub crawl, everyone goes “god that’s a great idea” and when the second one rolls around, it’s the exact same five faces taking off. The brave soldiers, Sundays best. Unfortunately, on the Sunday in question, Manchester United were playing in ‘the football’, and nowhere was this clearer than when we strolled into Davy Byrnes.
A fine spot for a pint, but not exactly the Waxies Dargle or whatever the lads were expecting. In fact, within minutes of walking in I wondered if I’d gone and pulled a shocker. Despite looking like a room in the Mansion House, Davys does a fine pint of Guinness. I knew all would be well after the first sip, and right I was. Saved. At €4.80, it was one of the dearer pints of the pubs tried so far, but in a setting like this what do you expect? I consider this one of the best looking drinking spots in Dublin.
It was only when I returned home I learned from the mother that in the 1950s and 60s, this was widely considered ‘a gay bar’. A ‘gay’ bar in 1950s Dublin was probably somewhere with couches or a working jacks to be honest. More oysters, less cheese and onion crisps, but a pub like this is worth stalling into just to look around the walls at the fantastic art collection on display (Not ‘art’ in the Grogans ‘I’m mental and have a paintbrush’ way, but proper ‘jesus that’s amazing’ art)
I felt a tad cheated here, in all honesty perhaps during a huge English football match isn’t the best time to check out a pub just off Grafton Street. As JayCarax observed, there were groups of older people tucking into proper Sunday feasts, the food looked perfect, and the seats nice and comfortable. No room at the inn though, and after a pint I would describe as ‘well worth another’, we decided that instead we’d take our chances in the second pub.
“Oh I know where we’re going, it’s the Stags Head” No, no it’s not. You’d have to feel bad for The Dame Tavern, is there a pub we all walk by on a weekly basis but never go into? Yes, it’s called the Dame Tavern. Sitting across the road from The Stags, you’d hardly even notice it tucked away. Perhaps (and I’m more than willing to be proven wrong, and hoping I am) the second smallest pub in the city centre after the Dawson Lounge, this place was surprisingly not jammed out with football shirts. Rather, a nice cosy crowd were (unanimously from what I could see) tucking into pints of black by candlelight. Quick eyes on one of the lads parts guaranteed a table by the door, in the very corner of a corner pub. The pint, at €4.60, was lovely. No complaints whatsoever.
After a quick departure from the packed Davy Byrnes, there was time to waste here. A table of history buffs in a Dublin pub is a dangerous thing. I’m always amazed by the Easter Rising in so far as for what was essentially a ‘working week rebellion’, you could talk about it for months and not take the tip off the iceberg. We could have stayed here and gone the whole way to May, because I couldn’t see anyone wanting to make the move and stand up. This really was a pub I wish I picked lastly, there’s nothing worse than leaving a great pub to depart into the Great Unknown, not least when there’s quite a walk involved. Still, hats, coats, scarves (well needed at that) and the party moved off to MacTurcaills.
A funny pub, and one I haven’t set foot into for a number of years. By a number of years, I mean the ‘rockshandy and a bag of crisps and I’ll shut my chocolate covered face’ years. Right across the road from Tara Street Fire Station, I’m quite sure it would have been Saint Patricks Day trips made here for the most part. My old man, being a lucky one of course, landed the Dolphins Barn ticket in the great Frontline Services Raffle, and those local pubs were of different stock altogether. I couldn’t help but have a flashback or two coming in the doors here, and amazingly, maybe the price of a pint was the same as last time the Dad bought one here. At €3.50 (Bring your student card folks), this is a steal. Add to it the kind of friendly barman you think only exists in Bord Fáilte ads, where the conversation is flowing not forced, and this was shaping up nicely.
The pub was unusually quiet, but by this point of the night the football was no more and the other punters in seemed to be working away, with the unusual combination of pint glasses and calculators (that can’t be a good idea) sitting on table tops. MacTurcaills has been given a paint job since I last stepped foot into it, and looks all the better for it. Is it a little off the beaten track, as some seem to argue? To be honest, if you think this is “away from town”, you’re probably the kind of person who gets a taxi from O’ Connell Street to Jervis Shopping Centre. An actual pub (and not whatever that travesty under the Dart station is) selling good quality pints at €3.50 is hard to fault. No sign of Geraldine Kennedy, and most of the journo lights across the road were off. With Sky Sports moving on to the small-time league results, the night was now rolling and the ‘Sunday Roast and a Pint’ crowd departing Dublin on the 46As and 25s of the city en masse.
We decided to bid farewell to Mc Turcaills, and depart towards the infamous Baggot Street. A drinkers paradise or worst nightmare, this long stretch of Dublin plays home to some of the most renowned pubs of Dublin. O’ Donoghues, The Baggot Inn, and a few other famous spots dot the long walk from Stephens Green to the RDS.
With Toners ticked off the list, and generally very well received, longing eyes had to look away as we entered Doheny and Nesbitts through the ‘Offaly Door’ (The front door of this pub resembles a Tullamore mans tractor, not a spare space left untouched by a ‘mon the boys’ type sticker), the first thing I noticed was the absolute silence in the pub. Bar a handful of well spread out punters, the place was quiet as can be. No telly, no radio, no Alex Ferguson. My pub crawl had escaped Manchester United, and before the fans had boarded their aeroplanes home, Dublin starts nodding off after her week of activity. Locals and the odd stray rambler are all that are out at this awkward stage of the night.
The sound of glass bottles in moving black bins was the only sound in the place as we awaited the next five pints, and by this stage of the night its rare to see all five heads around a table as the race for the jacks truly begins. Another €4.80 pint (We’ve yet to hit €5.00, and don’t think we’ll stay around when we do) and quite like Mc Turcaills the pint was hard to fault, but not in the same league as the first two. You often think talk of ‘Guinness Pubs’ is rubbish, but it seems the likes of Mulligans and Davy Byrnes have fought tooth and nail for such reputations. This pub is famous as a ‘suits spot’ (I see the Dail types have by and large emigrated to O’ Donoghues in recent times however, one imagines due to its fine smoking area as opposed to Ryan Tubridys rare visits) but in reality has a much more varied clientele than ‘journos, lawyers and a few TDs’. It was once a frequent drop in spot for away days types on route to the RDS to see their sides take on Shamrock Rovers, and does manage to hold its on against Toners across the way. Its strange soccer seems the only sport neglected in the mural on route to the jacks then.
Four down, one of the five remaining. Its about this stage I begin to feel real pity for hxci, JayCarax, J. and H. We’re now 10 pubs in, the introduction pages of what will hopefully prove a War and Peace length book with a massive appendix to boot. Even considering that though, its becoming tougher to think of pubs worth a visit. The Northside has gone untouched, funny as seeing as the group contains a number of League of Ireland supporters you’d expect Phibsboro to get a look in. Still, Dublin Bus is a matter for another days crawl, today is about ending mine on a high. We’re back in Dame Tavern territory. You can hear them. “He’s fucking gone and brought us to the one we thought we were going to las….” Nope. Wrong. We all know the Stags, tonights about The Bankers. A pub I not alone pass at least twice a week, but don’t think I’ve ever stepped foot into.
My good friend ‘the football’ returns to my pub crawl. This time however its not English but rather Italian jerseys (well, they’re probably Chinese, but you know what I mean) . Different stuff altogether. Guinness to Beamish, KFC to McDonalds, Bob Dylan to Donovan. With €4.50 pints littering the table, me and Ciaran take off to another world, eyes transfixed on the box above our heads. I don’t mind the football on providing there’s no ‘WHO ARE YIS’ chanting going on, people shouting ‘we’ and ‘us’ at a UK telly channel, and not a seat in the house. The pints were fine, and left me feeling quite happy with how the five pubs had treated us (I still insist the pint in The Long Hall first time around was the only bump in the road so far) Looking around us the pub seemed to be lacking locals and rather made up of the last of the Sunday shoppers, and a few wandering tourists. I don’t think anyone in the group had popped in here before, amazing giving its central location.
With my five down, and the first five now the stuff of legend, I think Mulligans remains head and shoulders above the pack. Of todays pubs, I think if one were to construct a perfect Dublin haunt, it would involve taking the pints from Davy Byrnes, drinking them in The Dame Tavern, and having the barman from Mc Turcaills there to pour the next one. To the other lads, the pressure is on you now! Christmas drinks are on hxci.
November’s five pubs were:
1. Davy Byrnes, 21 Duke Street, Dublin 2.
2. Dame Tavern, Dame Court, Dublin 2.
3. MacTurcaills, 15 Townsend Street, Dublin 2.
4. Doheny and Nesbitt, 5 Baggot Street Lower, Dublin 2.
5. The Bankers, Trinity Street, Dublin 2.