Unless you’re a newcomer to CHTM, you’ll know that on one Sunday a month the three of us, in the company of a small group of friends head out on a pub crawl, with pubs selected by one member of our troop but not revealed until we’re standing outside the door.
So, Halloween evening, and it was pubcrawl time again. This week, the pubs were selected by JFlood, the only person outside of the CHTM trio to have ventured to pick a route so far. The starting point was Charlemont Luas stop, not far from Ranelagh, so we had a fair idea what side of the city we were headed for. Four thirty was the alotted meet up, and we didn’t have far to go to the first stop, The Barge on Charlemont Street.
I’ve been told that on a warm Summers day, there’s nowhere like the place, getting your pint from the bar and then heading out to sit by the canal and enjoy it. No such luck today, four thirty, Halloween afternoon, dark and dreary Dublin. Not inside The Barge though, a large airy bar split into three levels, the ground floor, a mezzanine area and the second story. A beautiful place to look at inside, and spotless throughout; I was quite taken with the place on first impressions. What I wasn’t mad about was that most of the trade was taken up by a Sunday lunch crowd. Now this isn’t an offence in itself, but I’m not crazy on the idea of having a few scoops somewhere in the knowledge that there’s a family tucking into dinner beside me. The food looked and smelled great, but it was the Guinness we were here for. We took up position in an excellent little snug hidden upstairs with a couch and two arm-chairs squeezed into it and hit the bar to be welcomed by the news that the barman would drop down our pints; a nice touch. The pint, at €4.40 went down well- they obviously take pride in their presentation, as unlike a lot of places that do food, the glasses were spotless and the pint looked perfect. I quite liked this place, it was nice to be tucked away from the hustle and bustle, with the barman down to us after a few minutes asking if we wanted another. But, we were only staying for one so had to make our apologies.
As expected, JFlood led us yet again away from our comfort zone of the city centre. His previous pubcrawls had taken us around The Liberties (my favourite pubcrawl yet by far) and Rathmines so it didn’t suprise me when we headed up Ranelagh Road.
The next pub was one I don’t think half of our group had ever set eyes on before, never mind set foot in. Hidden away on Mount Pleasant, behind the new school on Ranelagh Road and with rows of neighbouring on either side, The Hill is reminiscent, situation wise at least, of Gravediggers in Glasnevin- hidden away in residential area. But as often the case, a hidden pub can be a hidden gem and such is the case for The Hill. A smashing looking bar inside and out, this place looks like its been here since time began; they’ve maintained the Victorian stylings down through the years, and is the kind of pub that feels like its been passed down through generations. A quick look in the Irish Times archive shows it was last on auction in 1999 so that dispels that notion.
We got a few inquisitive looks as we entered, a definite sign of a locals bar, but thats to be expected as the bar lies off the beaten track. The barman again offered to bring the pints down and we sat ourselves in a raised seating area up the back, under the telly. And whilst Liverpool were on, and there were a few regulars watching, the volume wasn’t pumped up as it would normally be and we had no problem talking over it. Not too far away from Rover’s heartland of Miltown here so myself and DFallon exchanged a few nods at the expense of the regulars nattering about their lifting of the LOI trophy on Friday night. It did suprise me when one of them let a roar out of him when Liverpool scored with a few minutes to go- in Rovers absence from Miltown, he had obviously adopted an English club… Again though, a beautiful pub.
Obviously extended into one of the houses next door, the pub seems a lot larger inside than it does out. The pints arrived, and at €4.15 certainly weren’t to be sniffed at; the pint of the night for me. Conversation flowed in this place, and where we normally end up ranting about Michael Collins towards the end of our monthly pubcrawl, he was a target of out venom in our second pub here, (well, more the Neil Jordan film about him. A car bomb? In Dublin Castle? Now there’s historical revisionism.) Nice warm bar, interesting surroundings, great pint and a spotless jacks led this to be pub (as well as pint) of the night for me.
So back into the cold and dark and onwards to our next stop, Russell’s in Ranelagh village. Another eatery this, but as the evening was getting their wasn’t too many around. An odd place this, for while in was clean and tastefully decorated, it just lacked a certain something- there wasn’t much on the walls to distinguish what kind of a crowd it draws; normally you have a few pictures, snaps of locals or whatever. Russell’s? Nothing that we could see. According to one of the lads, its a big rugby pub, but you wouldn’t know it apart from the ads on the front doors. The pint came in at €4.40 and wasn’t too bad, less care for the presentation here though as two of the four pints were over-filled, while not a mortal sin, its something I know the Guinness quality control team frown upon.
Where the first two pubs oozed character, both I would say due mainly to their locations (The Barge right next to a lock and The Hill looking like it was just dropped into a row of houses by accident, I just couldn’t take to this place- it felt more restaurant or bisto than bar, and I don’t think any of us felt too comfortable here. Upstairs looked great, and the smoking area is out on a balcony which is a nice touch but we didn’t fancy the cold so we stayed inside, again up under a telly at the back of the bar.
So onwards to Smyths, just down the road, but not before a quick stop in the Ranelagh chipper and bags of chips all round here. Suprising to see the McDonalds on the corner closed; you’d think they at least would weather the recession- apparently not. Anyway, into Smyths, quite a nice spot, most of the tables inside occupied, and the ones that weren’t had glasses on them, suggesting a busy evening. With the football just over, I’d presume it was that. Up at the bar I ran into an ex- workmate of mine, a retired civil servant and she swears by this place; I trust her judgement.
As I said, there was a decent crowd in here, so we made our way out to the smoking area. Wood panelled, well heated with a flatscreen showing La Liga, we were all happy here. There are Trinity residences around the corner and what we presume were some of the residents, most of whom embraced the halloween spirit and were wearing fancy dress, took up most of the area, but we found a nice little corner right under a heater. The pint, at €4.45 was the business, well presented, a decent head and tasted great; or my belly may just have been happy from the bag of chips ten minutes earlier. One of the lads definitely got costume of the night approval from CHTM anyways as Super Mario walked past, moustache specially grown for the occasion. Legend. We stayed for a couple here, comfortable as we were, and Smyth’s is definitely a spot I’d have no qualms about coming back to.
I’ll be honest and say this is where it starts to get hazy. JFlood had the next spot picked, McSorley’s, only a few doors down. Chris, my old workmate had told me to head up there either way, recommending it as a great spot. And it was a great spot, though not necessarily my kind of spot. The barman was dead-on, dressed in the garb of the local secondary school, we knocked a bit of craic out of the American football on the telly that nobody seemed to be watching except him.
As I said, a nice place, candle lit tables lined the walls, and several of them were occupied. Where Smyth’s seemed to be a youger crowd, McSorley’s came across as more of a thirty- something spot. They do food, and I’d say the place gets busy on a Friday and Saturday night (its a late bar and so stays open until two o’clock at weekends) but tonight was just a steady stream of custom so we nabbed ourselves a high table close to the bar. Pints were €4.45 and there were no complaints.
We did visit one more pub, Birchall’s but I’d be doing it an injustice to try and review it as I simply can’t remember a thing about the place other than that the pints were somewhere around the €4.40 mark and were fine. And I’m sorry, thats all I remember, not from the drink, honestly. Myself and DFallon were sober enough to make our way back to the Luas stop, somehow befriend the drunkest woman in the world (by befriend, I mean she came up and started talking to us before lying down on the platform.) So there you are, six pubs, five that I remember. Standout of the night though had to be The Hill. But for it’s Rovers associations, it’d be perfect.