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Posts Tagged ‘Bars of Dublin’

In Dublin, the town Joyce claimed was impossible to traverse without passing a pub (only to be disproved with the aid of Google Maps a century later,) it can still be hard to find somewhere that suits your situation no matter the mood.

Somewhere that we’ve taken to recently is the Sackville Lounge, not spitting distance from O’Connell Street on Sackville Place. It’s that perfect mix of archaic and well, non archaic- a one room, no nonsense bar with a great pint, and with sound staff and customers alike. The horse racing on the telly, a bookies next door and the hum of ham and cheese toasties in the air; always made to feel welcome, and always a chat forthcoming whether in company or on your own.

In a city racing to be London-lite but with our dazzling city lights emanating from Spars, Starbucks, exuberant donut shops and expensive ‘brunch spots’ (I’ve grown to hate those words,) places like the Sackville are rapidly becoming a dying breed. People will claim Kehoe’s, Neary’s, Mulligans and their ilk to be the best ‘old man pubs’ in the city. To me, none is a patch on the Sackville.

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The Sackville during RTÉ’s ‘Road to the Rising.’ Image From the Sackville’s Twitter account

We spent a Saturday there last year in what I can only describe was a session of Canterbury Tales proportions. Dozens of people stuck their heads in throughout various parts of the day and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much in my life, or walked away from another pub in Dublin with the same “that was a good day” feeling than I did then. We spent another Saturday there watching Bulmer Hobson sip whiskey and mull over James Connolly’s pre-Rising disappearance as part of Anu Productions excellent  “Glorious Madness.” We saw a British army soldier duke it out with his sister’s ICA partner outside in another Anu piece during RTÉ’s ‘Road to the Rising.’ And I’d like to say I cheered home many a winner there but I think the place was a jinx on me but that matters not, we’ll be there this weekend to say farewell.

For here comes the hammer blow- from a cryptic message board post the other day we gleaned that the Sackville is due to close its doors. Confirmed by the staff and by a quick Google revealing a ‘mutual lease break’ date on the ‘Spire Portfolio’ (which contains the Sackville Lounge amongst other properties) of 8/2/17, it looks to be true. No doubt the recently granted planning permission for Clery’s across the lane and for the construction of a new hotel on Sackville Place will have an effect on the future use of the premises as Dublin looks set to lose yet another of the institutions that made it what its known worldwide for. Sadly, as they say, another one bites the dust.

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So, the calendar timing of these things is getting a little looser, I confess. It doesn’t seem too long since the last one to me (Or my wallet) but the Sunday after Saint Patrick’s Day was set for my second pubcrawl. A bad week for the ATM.

On my first pub crawl, of pubs six to ten, they were all a bit pretty. Davy Byrnes? A great, famous pub ideal for a ‘Sunday lunch and a pint’ combination. Doheny and Nesbitts? You might catch your local T.D at the counter. Lovely pubs, guidebook pubs, polished and presented pubs.

Trips over the Liffey have been rare. Limited to one pub crawl before this, (with visits to Frank Ryan’s and The Cobblestone) that side of town hasn’t really got a look in. This pubcrawl, for that very reason, was a Northside only one.

The Celt, Talbot Street. Photo by flickr user sandraarrell

The Celt, on Talbot Street, is a funny one.

I can’t say I’ve ever noticed it there before in all truth. Pointed out by a friend (The recurring Come Here To Me character, Simon) who had a good night there before, it seemed worth the gamble. This pubcrawl had a few new additions among the faces present, and Oisin and Alan made first time appearances with us here, adding to the usual suspects. A handful of us had been here before, others had not. Great mix.

To the right of the bar, I spot a large, framed picture of Michael Collins. Not unusual in any Irish pub.

What is unusual, is that to the left of Collins, there’s a picture of Liam Lynch, a leading figure in the Anti Treaty movement. Clever barman that, you’ll never lose on both sides of a fence!

The pints (Guinness, naturally. At €4.40 a pint. General agreement they’re good pints too) arrive and we take a seat behind the musicians. This pub boasts of its live music across the week, and it was nice to walk in somewhere at half five on a Sunday evening and hear it, relaxed and in the corner. The playlist was a bit random, with the musicians going from Neil Young covers to whipping out Tin Whistles, but all in all I’m a fan of live music in pubs providing it’s in any way half decent.

Between songs I pick up on a funny sound and can’t quite gather what it is. Two budgies, in a cage by the bar. Why the fuck not, really. The pub is nicely decorated with some interesting odds and ends, and the stone slabbed floor and fireplace add to the places character. It is pointed out by two of the lads that The Celt does good food too, but it’s a bit early for that. Kebabs await later, more likely.

So, we leave The Celt (and a friendly barman, thanking us for dropping the glasses back up to the bar. Something I’ve always done without thinking) and take off on the long walk towards Croke Park. So far, our Northside day out is going swimmingly.

the Red Parrot, Dorset Street. Photo by flickr user xtopalopagueti

The Red Parrot is up next. No, no, no trip to Fagans today. I’ve no doubt people expected it on the walk up Dorset Street, but I’ve different plans today. This is a locals pub in as much a sense as any pub can be. Walking in the door to the bar, the place is a mix of old and young faces (Some very young, scoffing crisps into themselves) and the atmosphere is very much laid back.

The pint, at €4, is a bargain. I can’t spot anyone drinking anything else (Bar the prior mentioned crisp scoffers, who are on the fizzies, duh) which is always a good sign.

The pub is just that. It is a pub. It has tables. It has chairs. It has pints. It won’t blow you away, but it does its job and people obviously enjoy coming here. The place is clean, there is no rubbish blaring music or annoyances, and the regulars are happy enough and don’t seem to mind day trippers either. One of few pubs in the area that doesn’t seem to be too much of a ‘Croke Park Pub’ image wise. Thumbs up.

Right across the road from The Red Parrot, is Patrick McGraths.

I have learned from this pubcrawl to ALWAYS carry a camera, as McGraths would prove the first internet image search nightmare to date. The yellow one. On the corner. This snap is by flickr user tarts larue

This pub was greatly enlarged a few years back, and I can see it being a busy one on match days. Apparently the place is unrecognisable from its previous incarnation in some ways, and I’m fond of this one pretty soon after walking in the door. A sliding door seperates the bar from the lounge, and the place is enjoying the custom of four or five similar sized groups to our own, as well as a few heads along the bar. It’s all moving very slowly here, and it’s a quiet pub too. A good thing, on a Sunday evening.

The pints? You’re here for the pints afterall.

Fine. So fine, that while on paper the crawl is always a ‘1 pub, 1 pint’ thing, seconds are ordered here.A good bit of time is spent here, in a pub everyone finds most agreeable. Is there much going on on the walls? Not really, no. The decoration is minimal. Still, the lighting, seating arrangements etc. create a lovely atmosphere. I believe the pints were around €4.50, sadly the order was a mess of crisps, Pringles and whatever you’re having yourself. This was probably my favourite pint of the day.

Still, there’s work at hand. Time to move on. Up the road to the ATM (Jesus, the ATM) and on again. We’re now joined by Angela, who joins a tiny, tiny band of ‘women who have gone on a Come Here To Me pubcrawl’

We do invite them, honestly.

While W.J Kavanaghs seems to be hiding from Google, Yahoo, Flickr and everywhere else, just look out for the bottle of this (surprisingly half decent) whiskey in the window of the Dorset Street boozer. Tacky as it comes.

It’s W.J Kavanaghs time. Purely on a hunch this one was picked. I’d heard it was one of the best pubs on Dorset Street, and it is well known for a good breakfast (Bit late in the day…)

There’s a pub in the area that proudly boasts of being a ‘Gastro pub’ (Go away), but this is the kind of pub I like. A mix of old and young faces, a friendly barman awaited us and half a box of crisps seemed to find its way to the table too. Between a Bulmers drinker and a Corona drinker, things were looking a little different to normal. A friend of one of the lads adds a pint of something that isn’t Guinness (!) to the table and we’re now about as diverse as that Abrakebabra ad from five years back (You’ve got the whole world….)

The black stuff is good. Bargain town stuff Monday to Friday too, at €3.50 before a certain time in the evening. I wish I remember the details. Some day, I will be like a journalist and carry a notepad and all that business.

Honestly, I would condemn a bad pint if I got one on a pub crawl, and I think maybe the pub crawl in question just got lucky, but these pints were great. Again, seconds are ordered here (and I think in some cases thirds) and the cosy spot in the corner is occupied for a good hour or so. This is how you lose a pub crawl, when it becomes a pub sit-in.

There seems to be flashy lights (not much, mind) and a Rod Stewart track coming from the back of the pub, a sort of Dead Disco nobody is paying any attention too. Pubs like this should avoid that lark. This pub is buzzing with the sound of chat and laughter and doesn’t need anything else. In fact, I wonder if anyone else at the table even picked up on the sound. The walls are well decorated and not at all tacky, and the pub clean and well presented. Another unfaultable barman, you’d wonder if the pubs knew we were coming in advance today (imagine).

I can see a return performance here some night. I’m chuffed with the Dorset Street/Drumcondra gamble so far, and it’s all make or break now at the last hurdle, Mayes.

Mayes of Dorset Street. Photo from flickr user Ian_Russell

I’ve always loved the Guinness clock feature on the front of this pub,but never ventured inside. Apparently this was once quite a popular pub with Dublin politicos(I would guess due to the Teachers Club also being in the area) and being located only a stonesthrow from O’ Connell Street, I’m not sure why I’ve never ended up here before.

The pints are again right up to scratch, and being the last pub of the night, consumed in good numbers. I order a vodka (!SACRILEGE!) and relax, content with how the evening has gone. The pub is laid back, with a number of (what appear to be) locals at the bar and a few small groups scattered about. Like with The Red Parrot earlier it would be hard to say anything too amazing about the place, and yet it is a great pub. It does the job. The barman even popped over with a free toasted sandwich, brilliant. (The fact Oisin had to remind me of this TODAY is an indication of where I was at by that stage)

So now, it’s end of the night stuff. It goes past eleven on a Sunday ‘evening’, and a half five pub crawl can be deemed a success. The bus is gone. Let it go. Maybe we need to start earlier, who knows. I think our new recruits had fun, and that’s all that matters. Certainly, the pubs today were of different stock to those done before. In some cases, there’s very little you can say about these pubs. They’re good at what they do.

We’re a pub. Simple.

This should be over the doors of a few of them.

Fagans of Drumcondra, as hxci threatened in his article on barstool football fans, remains unvisited. Us little people don’t forget 😉

Fagans of Drumcondra, snap by flickr user MacGBeing

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