Posts Tagged ‘Pub Crawls’

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.

Davy Byrne's. photo by Flickr user barryleiba.Used under a Creative Commons License.

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.

Dame Tavern: photo by Flickr user infomatique. Used under a Creative Commons License.

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.

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“When things go wrong and will not come right, though you do the best you can, when life looks black as the hour of night, a pint of plain is your only man”

It could barely have been foreseen that something that started as an excuse for a pub crawl on a slow Sunday afternoon could turn into a day of good banter and storytelling, traversing the spots that thousands and millions of weary travelers have trod before and ultimately in the conception of this Blog. Five pubs in one day, it’s not a hard thing in Dublin City, it‘s near impossible to get from A to B without passing at least one watering hole. It’s not exactly a cultural experiment either; it’s the sort of thing you do every weekend anyways without thinking about it. It’s only when you plot the five pubs beforehand, the nature and character of those five pubs and go there with the idea of having the craic while critiquing the place at the same time, drinking decent pints whilst judging them, and singing a few songs and telling a few tales in between. Then it becomes cultural.

So that’s what we did on the first Sunday in September. Five pubs were chosen and five brave warriors met in The Long Hall on Georges Street for the first pint of the day. For those of you who have never been in the Long Hall, it’s an unusual pub, decorated with early 20th Century trappings, rich shag carpets and wood panelling. The pint is bloody gorgeous too, if a little on the soft side.

The Long Hall: photo by Flickr user inaki_naiz. Used under a Creative Commons License.

It’s the kind of pub that is full of shirt bedecked office workers on a Friday evening but on a Sunday afternoon, the crowd was sparse. Not that we were giving out. And in a welcome development, though most pubs we had walked past to get here had ‘de football’ (English of course) blaring at full volume, the telly wasn’t even switched on here and the music was down low. A grand spot for a bit of natter; and during the natter we find out it’s a pub with a bit of history too – Ever seen the video for Thin Lizzy’s “Old Town?” Well the bar the lads are propping up is none other than the one in The Long Hall! So a quick toast to Phil and the boys and we were out the door, the barman giving us a shout of Slán as we left. Not too many places you get that either.

So next up was McDaids, just off Grafton Street. We didn’t stay long, as the barman gruffly demanded ID off each of us (I haven’t been asked for ID in five years or so… I didn’t know whether to be happy or angry) and then only begrudgingly asked what we wanted. The Chelsea Vs. Liverpool game was blaring and we decided it wasn’t worth it. Maybe the barman was a Liverpool fan (they were losing 2-0) or we just caught the place on a bad day because I genuinely like this pub; just definitely not that Sunday. As a change of plan, we headed for Kehoes, just the far side of Grafton Street. We found a nice quiet spot upstairs in the side room adjoining the Upstairs bar.

Kehoes: photo by Flickr user boggerthelogger. Used under a Creative Commons License.

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of scooping in Kehoes, the upstairs bar is basically the living quarters of John Kehoe (long since passed away ) transformed by sticking a counter and some taps in it. It’s like drinking in your grannies sitting room. The old pictures adorning the wall were the source of many anecdotes as Pearse, Connolly and Heuston were debated and dissected. They say you should never talk politics or religion in a pub. It was a bit difficult in this place… With pictures of the 50th anniversary of the rising on one wall and Bono on the other! The pint was nice and cold, the head stayed white and the glass was left with the magic seven rings; always a good sign in my book. So with a few pints on us we headed on towards The Dawson Lounge.

The Dawson Lounge’s claim to fame is that it’s Dublin’s smallest pub. With two other groups of five or so in the place, there was not a stool to be had. We were disappointed to find out we couldn’t collect a Guinness 250 beermat commemorating this place but then again, it’d be hard to paint a picture of the place, what with there just being a door and a tiny hanging sign above it!

Dawson Lounge: photo from dublin-in-pictures.blogspot.com

Not much you can say about this place, great pint, nice and snug, the kind of place you’d love to step into on a cold and wet day to read the paper or watch the news over a pint of plain. And don’t be dissuaded by the shortness of the review for this place; sure don’t they say it’s not the size that counts.

The next pub was to be Toners on Baggot Street, a great little boozer this, one of my secret hideaways- the kind of place where you can happily sit in the corner with a pint and a book and not be disturbed by anyone except the barman asking if you want another pint! We were greeted cheerily as we entered and we were glad to get in out of the cold and get a much-anticipated pint. I can’t recommend this pub enough; nice and snug, a great pint and a pub with a great history, frequented by Behan and O’Brien as it was.

Toners: photo by Flickr user Mr Pauly D. Used under a Creative Commons License.

I was sad to leave but we were nearing the summit of our challenge, and the cream of the crop. I think we peaked too early by deciding to include Mulligans of Poolbeg Street in our first five pubs for it truly is one of the best pints in the city. There is nothing polished about this pub, it’s old Dublin, (very old Dublin, the place was established in 1732;) rough and ready. Bare wood floors and nicotine scarred walls, but genuine and welcoming at the same time, far from the super pubs Dublin has come to know and despise. A great place for a bit of banter, the pub was well populated with young and old, bent over pints,  chatting, laughing and slagging. A smashing pint aswell, and that makes all the difference.

Mulligans: photo by Flickr user Diego

We forgot ourselves here and indulged in a few more than we originally meant, but it was hard not to and besides, this was to be the end of our road for this week, and the end of the first chapter in a story I hope we endeavour to keep going. Pints, mates and the craic, what more could you ask for?

September’s five pubs were:
1. The Long Hall, Georges Street, Dublin 2.
2. John Kehoe’s, 9 South Anne’s Street, Dublin 2.
3. The Dawson Lounge, 25 Dawson Street, Dublin 2.
4. Toner’s, 139 Baggot Street Lower, Dublin 2.
5. Mulligan’s, 8 Poolbeg Street, Dublin 2.

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