Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Strand House

Outside The Strand House: red frontageAfter several weeks looking at Dublin city centre pubs, we’re heading back to the Northside, with a visit to The Strand House in Fairview. Locals will recall that this was most recently the BRÚ House Fairview, which was a BRÚ pub that became a Galway Bay pub retaining its BRÚ branding, but with the Galway Bay food menu and core beers. Clear? Great! However, just as The Beer Market (also a former Galway Bay/BRÚ joint) became The Christchurch Inn, so BRÚ House is now The Strand House.

Well, what’s changed?

The bar at The Strand House

First off, the frontage is red now, but the beer lineup is the biggest revision, and it’s quite a downgrade from my perspective. Whereas before there were the usual Galway Bay beers and some interesting guest taps, now it’s a standard Heineken/Diageo macro lineup, with a single independent option – the always-welcome Trouble Ambush. On the positive side, the Ambush was lovely and fresh, and hopefully it will remain that way, but it did mean that for me, there were not as many reasons to stop in and linger as there had been before. Indeed, while the interior looks welcoming, if not a huge change from the previous look and feel (the nice coat/bag hooks under the bar are certainly handy, and the darker colour scheme is pleasant), I’m not entirely sure it sets itself apart from Gaffney’s, just a few doors down now, whereas before, they were more distinctive – though the staff were all on top form, so also a big positive there.

Red leather seats at The Strand House

We’ll do a separate entry on Gaffney’s at some point, but in brief, it is a very comfortable Old Man Pub, also with a few craft taps (from Hope, in their case). And, so far, The Strand House feels quite similar, albeit with more children running around. One of the things that made BRÚ House such a useful neighbourhood pub was the children’s menu – and with Fairview Park right across the road, we would stop in not infrequently after a playground session, or even in the middle of trick-or-treating on Halloween. That’s not to suggest it was overrun with small children, by any means, but it was a very chill, family-friendly spot at reasonable hours. And while the food menu won’t kick in for a bit, there were still quite a few kids around, no doubt as the parents living nearby were presuming they’d be able to get them fed as under the previous management – time will tell.

I plan to visit again once the food is back – trad sessions are also on the way – but at the moment, it’s less of a destination than it used to be, at least for me. Perhaps more independent taps will be added in the future, but without them, it’s no longer my go-to post-haircut spot, despite being just around the corner from said establishment. That said, it’s nice to have more than one neighbourhood pub, so it’s more likely to fill that niche.

And if it turns out the food menu is the real draw, all to the good…fingers crossed!

Where: The Strand House, 12 Fairview, Clontarf, Dublin 3, D03 C998
Access from the city centre: Buses 14, 15, 27; DART to Clontarf Road
Food: Coming in May
Sport: Seems even more sport-friendly now: football, horse racing, GAA…
TVs: In the main bar area and in the back seating areas
Music: No music on my visit, but live music is coming
Family-friendliness: As mentioned, many children on my visit, though unclear if there will be events for them
Pub-crawl-ability: Low, unless you prefer a walk up to The Yacht Bar in Clontarf, though Gaffney's is almost next door
Local sites of note: Fairview Park, Croke Park, Clontarf Promenade
Haunted: Not that I've heard…
Other notes: Very handy for Martin's Off-License, one of Dublin's best; in theory, the Battle of Clontarf may have happened not far away, but that could also be LIES

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Toner’s

Outside Toner's PubDespite its Viking-era foundations, Dublin rarely feels like an ‘old’ city by European standards – something we can, in large part, blame on the Wide Streets Commission, which resulted in the demolition of much of medieval Dublin in the 18th century. However, the city the Commission members desired can very much be seen in the part of Baggot street we are visiting this week as we look at Toner’s Pub. While perhaps best known as a literary pub (yes, another one – we do have a fair few), it’s also practically the Platonic ideal of a Dublin pub: a Georgian building, a past as a grocer and tea merchant, lots of dark wood, Guinness and a surprising number of snugs, nooks and crannies.

Inside Toner's PubBuilt as a house in 1734, Toner’s has been continuously operated as a pub since 1818, and to quote the National Built Heritage Service, ‘[t]he remarkably intact exterior greatly contributes to the historic streetscape in the centre of the south Georgian core.’ On my recent visit, that history was very much on display, as Toner’s is the first Pub Museum, an initiative sponsored by Heineken, and we did a bit of poking around to see how it all works (and, full disclosure, to get a free Heineken 0.0, which regular readers know is not my go-to, but it was a nicely-organised event). In brief, the project lets you scan a QR code at the front of the pub and then to investigate objects and locations throughout the rest of the pub – that may be a voiceover, a bit of music or other information about the item in question. It did reveal some fabulous anecdotes about former visitors, from WB Yeats to David Bowie, though I imagine many visitors just want to sit with a pint and soak up the history more organically. That said, it’s not always easy to find out those little historical snippets that the bartender or regulars may just ‘know,’ so it is very handy for tourists (or history nerds like me). Time will tell how scalable it is to other pubs, but I am all for doing a better job of documenting (and funding) pub history.

Front snug at Toner'sAnd Toner’s does have an interesting history; it’s alleged to be the only pub Yeats ever went to, and his brief? occasional? presence in the front snug seems to be one of the connections that gets Toner’s onto the list of Dublin’s haunted pubs – again, something I’d like to see grow, at least from a folklore-gathering perspective, although alas, his magickal duel with Aleister Crowley took place in London. But Yeats was not the only Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn member to stop in at Toner’s – Bram Stoker was a more frequent guest, as he lived just a short walk away.

But what of the pub itself? First off, it’s bigger on the inside (no, really) – the front bar, while picturesque, is just the beginning. It winds around inside, with quite different-feeling sections upstairs and downstairs, but the enormous beer garden is one of the largest in Dublin – and it’s even heated. There are covered booths, some with laptop or phone charge points, as well as other seating options, so a rainy day need not rule out a bit of fresh air. Beer-wise, it’s very much a Heineken-plus-Guinness shop – the only ‘crafty‘ option is Five Lamps lager, but there is now a Murphy’s tap; the demise of Islands Edge has cleared the way for its return around town. Although I’d personally prefer at least one local independent option, you do have two (actual) stout options.

Only a tiny portion of the beer garden

While it’s true I rarely find myself in this part of town, I did make a mental note that the beer garden is going to be lovely once it warms up a bit more…perhaps an ideal spot to take out-of-town guests who want to see a ‘real Irish pub’ in the middle of their museum visits; stopping in at Toner’s can count in both columns.

Where: James Toner’s, 139 Baggot Street Lower, Dublin 2
Access from the city centre: 5-minute walk from St Stephen’s Green
Food: Crisps/peanuts or bring in a pizza from Cirillo's next door
Sport: Can have quite a rugby crowd, but big events in general tend to be shown
TVs: One above the main bar, a few elsewhere here and there
Music: Trad sessions and the odd ‘secret’ gig for the likes of Dermot Kennedy and Shaggy (indeed!) – keep an eye on the socials
Family-friendliness: More of a grownup spot, but the beer garden does have plenty of space if you’re getting pizza
Pub-crawl-ability: Medium-High – McGrattan’s, Kennedy’s, O’Donoghue’s and Doheny & Nesbitt are all very close, though I’d personally head further on up toward Cassidys, Bowes or The Palace Bar
Haunted: Did Bram Stoker bring any kind of attached elemental from Marsh’s Library when he drank here? Let’s say yes!
Local sites of note: Little Museum of Dublin, Huguenot Cemetery, St Stephen’s Green, Merrion Square, Fitzwilliam Square, Royal Hibernian Academy, Oireachtas, National Library of Ireland, National Museum of Ireland (Archaeology and The Dead Zoo), National Gallery of Ireland…etc.
Other notes: If you do venture outside, you will not be troubled by seagulls.
Socials: Facebook, Former Twitter, Instagram

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: O’Neill’s Pub & Kitchen

Outside O'Neill's: sign & clockAs tourist season seems more or less nearly in full swing, we’re sticking with Dublin city centre this week and O’Neill’s Pub and Kitchen – a tourist-friendly but also authentic pub that caters to a range of tastes and preferences – and one that’s large enough to offer a different experience depending on where you are in the pub (and just how crowded it is on the day or evening).

The snug downstairs at O'Neill'sI recently had the unpleasant experience of stopping in a pub I’d never tried, and which shall remain nameless here, that was so aggressively diddley-eye that I had to flee after a single quick pint – the Clancy Brothers on a loop, too loud; a complete lack of non-Guinness options, the various tin signs and old farm equipment on the wall just that little bit too much like an Oirsih Pub of the sort you find anywhere in the world, and that doesn’t need to exist in the middle of Dublin. When I asked the bartender if there were any local craft options, she claimed not to know what that meant. Now, that in itself isn’t a dealbreaker, there are some excellent Guinness-only pubs that are well worth a visit – The Gravediggers and The Hut immediately come to mind – but add in the twee décor, the music (and I love good trad…just not the same four or five particular bits that get played endlessly to tourists) and the Americans wearing Peaky Blinders hats, and it was a big nope.

Barrels on the way up the stairsHappily, O’Neill’s is nothing like this, and visiting it not long after The Pub to Remain Nameless made its positive features stand out all the more. Yes, there are trad sessions – good ones are always welcome – but the usual background music is quiet enough to chat, not painfully loud. Yes, there are various old photos and signs, even some barrels as you head upstairs, but they seem like a more natural accumulation over the past 150-200 years, rather than having come from a warehouse as part of a kit. The ground floor is something of a warren (in the best possible way), with the bar serving several distinct spaces, including a pleasant snug by one of the doors. There is a good variety in terms of local craft options on tap (again, we’ll let the decorative hand pulls set high up on a shelf slide – there’s no cask here), but it’s always a good idea to have a backup choice selected; in my experience, the first choice is nearly always the one that just kicked. Happily, though, there are some good options (Lineman, Bullhouse, Whiplash and Trouble, to name a few independent Irish breweries showcased on my most recent visit, with Third Barrel upstairs), so it’s in no way a hardship.

Upstairs near Whiskey CornerAnd speaking of ‘upstairs,’ there’s a nice ‘Whiskey Corner,’ all red leather and dark wood, though of course you’re welcome to drink anything you’d like (and the whiskey selection is indeed a very good one). It can be quieter up here (not necessarily on big game days, of course), especially during the afternoon, and it can make a pleasant spot on your literary pub crawl, given its Seamus Heaney connections, among quite a few others. But again, there is a good variety of seating, with many little nooks and snugs, so it’s also a nice escape from Grafton Street shopping, just outside.

So, while my more usual MO is to hit up one of my locals before heading into town proper, my most recent visit to O’Neill’s was a good reminder that there are very nice spots right in Dublin city centre as well – they are not all tourist nightmares, even when you are absolutely in the middle of everything. Good times are possible!

Where: O’Neill’s Pub & Kitchen, 2 Suffolk St, Dublin 2, D02 KX03
Access from the city centre: You are there
Food: What I would term ‘tourist pub fare’ – Irish stew, soups, sandwiches, toasties and then burgers, etc.
Sport: Various screens for various sports – football, GAA, horse racing, etc
TVs: See ‘sport’
Music: Quiet enough to have a conversation; also trad events
Family-friendliness: Plenty of food options if it’s not late/too crowded
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Bowes, Cassidys, Mulligans, The Palace Bar, JR Mahon’s, The Oval, Porterhouse Temple Bar, Tapped and many, many more are all within a very short stroll
Haunted: With its literary cred, a ghost would be a big plus, but no obvious stories
Local sites of note: Grafton Street, Trinity College, NATIONAL WAX MUSEUM, Irish Whiskey Museum…you are central
Other notes: Not to be confused with O’Neill’s Victorian Pub & Townhouse on Pearse Street
Socials: Nothing updated for quite a few years

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Bowes

Bowes stained glass windowI don’t have the largest list of city centre Dublin pubs to recommend (yet!), simply because I’m not in the more touristy parts of town very often, but one pub in this area I do quite enjoy is Bowes. It really does tick all of the boxes for a Victorian pub out of central casting – dark interior, stained glass, wood panelling and slightly worn around the edges. The exact parameters of those edges have been under discussion for some time, as there have been numerous attempts to get permission to expand into the sadly-derelict Irish Yeast Company building abutting the pub, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear path for or against that happening at the moment.

The bar at BowesBut as of this writing, Bowes seems to be doing just fine as-is: in addition to the usual well-kept Guinness, there’s always an excellent whiskey selection, rivalling that of The Palace Bar, and a good variety of local craft beer – Kinnegar, O’Hara’s, Rye River – plus some useful non-alcoholic options. One speculates that this kind of non-whiskey variety was unimaginable when Bowes was a regular hangout for Irish Times journalists in decades past, but it does suit its current mix of Trinity College students, tourists and long-time regulars; on my visits, I’ve always found a wide range of ages, accents, genders, backgrounds and interests, all equally welcome.It’s not the kind of pub I usually go to in my own neighbourhood, largely because I’m more often out and about with family in those situations, but it’s an ideal spot for a real ‘pubby’ pub when meeting up with other grownup friends and kicking back with a pint or two.

Pints of Rye River at BowesFor me, Bowes combines the best features of Old Man Pubs – decor, vibe and unpretentiousness – with what I also expect on a good afternoon or evening out: local beer and whiskey, a more diverse crowd and a generally sound atmosphere. If someone could just point me to a ghost story (or create one), it would have everything…

Where: Bowe’s Lounge Bar, 31 Fleet St, Dublin 2, D02 DF77
Access from the city centre: You are there
Food: I’ve only ever seen crisps consumed, but the internet claims there are other snacks
Sport: Not sporty
TVs: Possibly an old one somewhere, but never seems to be on
Music: Fairly MOR, but never too loud; I’ve also been when it has been music-free
Family-friendliness: Leave the kids at home for this one
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Doyle’s is next door, but O’Neill’s, Cassidys, Mulligans, The Palace Bar, JR Mahon’s, The Oval, Porterhouse Temple Bar, Tapped and many, many more are all within a very short stroll
Haunted: It certainly looks and feels like it should be haunted
Local sites of note: Trinity College, Book of Kells, Grafton Street, NATIONAL WAX MUSEUM, Irish Whiskey Museum…you are as central as can be
Other notes: Handy coat/bag hooks, which more pubs should have
Socials: None seem active

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Love Tempo

A pint of Whiplash with a candle inside Love TempoOne of the most pleasant thing about a pub crawl through The Liberties is that there truly is a spot for everyone, with old-school boozers like The Lord Edward, to tourist-friendly spaces like The Christchurch Inn, plus everything in between available – especially on Thomas Street. Added to that mix (see what I did there?) late in 2023 was Love Tempo, the latest spot from the various Venn diagrams behind Fidelity, The Big Romance and Mother. The particular micro-genre of Dublin pub-goer catered to here is most similar to that at The Big Romance and Fidelity – so, the Whiplash-loving music aficionado – but perhaps with more of an emphasis on the music end of things at Love Tempo.

Mixing desk inside Love TempoAs at Fidelity – which is itself about to be a fair bit larger – there is a custom sound system that I am too old to know much about, but whereas Fidelity has a wide array of taplines featuring all manner of Whiplash beers and interesting guest options, Love Tempo has a more limited draught beer offering (the can selection is quite nice, for the record). Yes, there are still some of the core Whiplash beers, but this is a spot that also serves your standard Guinness and Heineken brands like Lagunitas, Beavertown and Coors, too. The former site of The Clock, the once-cavernous space now has several distinct sections, and all have been updated in a sleek-yet-comfortable style. There is a smaller, bright bar at the front, and it gets (pleasantly) darker as you move into the interior, with the long back bar on one side. There are snacks on offer and a variety of cocktails as well (again, quite similar to both The Big Romance and Fidelity in that respect). And, somewhat unusually for this part of Dublin, there’s a very welcoming outdoor space behind the pub, with proper chairs and tables.

The back garden at Love TempoBut for me, it’s the main space I found quite soothing: dark, but not too dark; and some banging tunes (jazz, electronica and a few old favourite Pet Shop Boys tunes), but nothing too loud. The Big Romance may more often play my beloved Divine Comedy, and it’s certainly closer to home for me, but relaxing with a pint in Love Tempo’s cool (in every sense of the word) surrounds was a delight. Of the Fidelity/The Big Romance/Love Tempo triumvirate, Fidelity is probably still my favourite, as the beer selection is always top-notch, but Love Tempo makes for a nice spot to relax and enjoy a break in The Liberties as well; it’s a nice addition to this part of Thomas Street.

Where: Love Tempo, 10 Thomas St, Usher’s Quay, Dublin 8, D08 C2W7
Access from the city centre: Buses 13, 27, 49, 54A, 77A, 123, 150, 151, G1, G2, 15-ish minute walk
Food: Small snacks
Sport: Not that kind of thing
TVs: Nary a one
Music: It’s pretty serious business
Family-friendliness: More of a post-uni to elder GenX vibe – I mean, the Factory Records nod in the name is for us, right?
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Dudley’s is across the street, with The Thomas House, Swift, Arthur's, The Christchurch Inn, Tailors Hall, The Lord Edward, The Bull & Castle and The Beer Temple/The Oak all within a short walk; The Brazen Head is also a bit further away
Haunted: It does look like the kind of place that would invite hipster ghosts
Local sites of note: Guinness Storehouse, Vicar Street, Olympia Theatre, Christchurch Cathedral, Dublinia, St Audoen's Church
Other notes: The rarely-spotted Murphy’s Red was one of the draught options – a sign of things to come elsewhere?
Socials: Instagram, Former Twitter

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Fagan’s

Fagan's - mosaic tile floor outsideBill Clinton wuz here. And you’re not likely to forget it, as he seems to be on every wall in Fagan’s, somewhere.

Of course, to Dubliners, Fagan’s is better known for its Bertie Ahern connections, but I think it’s the Clintoniana I’ve always found a little bit off-putting; in short, for us Gen X folk of all political and national stripes, that aspect of the décor can seem a bit, well, Boomer. However, it’s not every pub in Dublin that’s had national and world leaders enjoy a Guinness (or other beverage) there, so it’s entirely understandable that there would be more than a few clippings on the wall.

Bill & Bertie with a pint of O'Hara's

And, to be fair, it’s not truly throughout the entire pub, as Fagan’s is enormous. The front bar is the original section from 1907, and the (presumably purposefully-designed) barn-like extension to the rear was added much more recently, though care has been taken to give the back bar an air of Victorian respectability, with dark wood and plenty of glass; there’s also the requisite snug, just to the left of that bar. There are also fake hand pumps, which is moderately enraging for a cask nerd, like me, but the less said about that the better. If you carry on even further to the back of the pub, there’s a carvery, and it always seems to be popular. I confess I’ve never quite grasped the appeal of a carvery – I am probably scarred from living in the UK in the 1990s, where that meant (perhaps still means?) something along the lines of a Toby Carvery or Brewers Fayre, with steam tables galore, but I do recognize that it’s A Different Thing here in Ireland…I’m just not sure entirely how. In any event, I am clearly not the best person to judge, but it very much has its fans.

Front bar at Fagan's

I have had quite good a la carte food options here for family meals in the past, but it’s never become one of our go-tos, despite it being a short walk away; while there is a craft beer tap (O’Hara’s Pale Ale on my most recent visit), it doesn’t have the variety of beers you find just up the road at The Cat & Cage (or even Juno, in the other direction), and that’s probably a big reason we simply don’t go there as often – yes, the Guinness is good, though when I’m in a plain-old-Guinness mood, I’m more likely to head to The Gravediggers or The Hut. I’m not even certain I can articulate why that’s the case…it’s simply a pattern I seem to have fallen into.

Back bar at Fagan's

However, in the interests of science, I called in to Fagan’s after a lengthy absence the other day, and I was pleasantly surprised to find it more welcoming than I had remembered it in the past, and that despite its somewhat cavernous feeling toward the back of the pub, there were some cosy nooks and smaller spots to escape to.

I may never truly understand the appeal of a carvery, but I might just stop in more often in the future for a quiet pint (hopefully without accidentally ending up in government).

Where: Fagan’s, 146 Drumcondra Rd Lower, Drumcondra, Dublin 9, D09 YR83
Access from the city centre: Buses 1, 13, 16, 44
Food: Pub grub, pastas, stir-fries, carvery
Sport: All the usual football, rugby, GAA, etc
TVs: Quite a few for the sport, all over
Music: Can be a bit MOR, but they also played ‘Hey, Big Spender’ on my last visit – was it a sign?
Family-friendliness: There are chicken goujons, etc., for the pickier kid, as well as more ‘mature’ kids’ options
Pub-crawl-ability: Medium; Kennedy’s is next door, but you’d be better off walking up to The Ivy House and The Cat & Cage, or stroll across Griffith Park to The Tolka House, The Gravediggers or The Botanic; Juno is not too far to walk, either…at least, by my reckoning
Haunted: Entirely possible that the BVM statue in the park across the street moves
Local sites of note: Croke Park, National Botanic Garden, Glasnevin Cemetery
Other notes: Can be exceptionally crowded on match days at Croke Park, as are all local pubs
Socials: Instagram, Facebook

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Dudley’s

Outside Dudley's at nightWe’re back in the ‘my sort of Dublin pub’ category: one with great craft beer – and a good variety, not simply one or two taps – there are 28 in total at Dudley’s, which is one of my favourite spots in The Liberties. But it’s not just the beer and the deep, rich colours that make this one of my go-to places when I’m in this part of town; it’s that it’s always welcoming and feels like a part of the fabric of the community – a pub for many different occasions. As with some of the other locations that make up the always-excellent Libertine Market Crawl each month, it’s a place that caters to many different demographics; I’ve seen groups (and solo drinkers) of all different ages, looks and preferences, whether that’s those with a taste for the Guinness that was brewed down the street or an Irish craft beer from the likes of Lough Gill, Whiplash, Hopkins & Hopkins or Trouble; the lineup is always changing, as are the styles.

Mac & cheese and a pint at Dudley'sDudley’s opened in 2021 when the previous pub on the spot closed during the Covid shutdown. Its name now commemorates Thomas ‘Bang Bang’ Dudley, a renowned Dublin character who roamed the Liberties and surrounds, using a key to ‘shoot’ buses and passers-by; the key is also remembered in the pub’s signage; Phibsborough’s Bang Bang Café is another nod to the man himself. Inside, the renovation is still looking fresh, with deep colours and a variety of seating options – two sides to the bar, with bar stools and tables around both, and cozy mezzanine and downstairs areas as well. I’m also a fan of the food; I’m always baffled that we don’t have more mac & cheese in Irish pubs, since we have The Best Cheese here, but Dudley’s is one of the few places in Dublin that provides.

T-shirts at Dudley's - yes, you can buy one, but no, you don't have toIn short, even though it’s not one of my locals, Dudley’s is always a must-visit when I’m over in that direction; it’s great for a chilled-out solo pint, a pause on the Libertine Market Crawl with friends or family, and a fantastic spot to kick off a little Liberties pub crawl with friends.

But with such a nice variety of beer, food and ambiance, sometimes the crawl ends where it begins…there’s no compelling reason to leave!

Where: Dudley’s, 48 Thomas St, The Liberties, Dublin, D08 Y44A
Access from the city centre: Buses 27, 77A, 123, 150, 151, G1, G2, 15-ish minute walk
Food: Slightly fancier pub food, Sunday roast, mac & cheese!
Sport: Football & rugby on for bigger games
TVs: Screens for larger sporting events
Music: Live sessions on Sundays at 7, great jazz & indie faves the rest of the time
Family-friendliness: I’ve found the mac & cheese a great success in the afternoons
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Love Tempo, The Thomas House, Swift, Arthur’s, The Christchurch Inn, Tailors Hall, The Lord Edward, The Bull & Castle, The Beer Temple/The Oak; The Brazen Head is also a short walk away
Haunted: No obvious tales circulating, but this part of town has seen some things…
Local sites of note: Guinness Storehouse, Vicar Street, Olympia Theatre, Christchurch Cathedral, Dublinia, St Audoen’s Church
Other notes: Also ideal for pre- or post-gig pints & food at Vicar Street
Socials: Instagram

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Lord Edward

Outside The Lord EdwardSome Dublin pubs are spoken about in slightly hushed tones, with an air of wonder; when you admit you haven’t been to one of those ‘classics,’ there are frequently two standard responses: ‘ah, you must, it's wonderful,’ or ‘well, I know it’s a certain type of a place,’ which may sound non-committal, but it conveys much more. And so while I’ve been told again and again that I ‘must go’ to The Lord Edward, also hearing the second line nearly as frequently had made me somewhat apprehensive. On the face of it, this is silly; what could be intimidating about a pub that is clearly beloved by so many? And I hasten to add this isn’t the sort of place that has a clear demographic type that would be genuinely something to avoid; I used to live near a fairly notorious football hooligan pub in London in the 1990s, and while it was my closest watering hole, the fact that I would walk nearly a mile to the Wetherspoons up the road instead should say everything about that.

But after reading Eoghan Walsh’s thoughtful piece the other week, I determined to finally pay The Lord Edward a visit. And while on one hand, I found very much what I expected, there were a few elements that kept me thinking about it for some time after. Both the pub exterior and interior absolutely fit the ‘19th century pub that was last updated in the 1960s‘ aesthetic, and it’s probably true that there are ever-fewer pubs out there that fit this bill, though this is obviously part of what appeals to many. And, indeed, there is some lovely tilework and stained glass, though the scuffed dark wood and tired carpet are a bit less charming – at least, to me. And as a fairly curmudgeonly pub-goer myself, I very much agree that not every pub needs a ‘feature wall’ and stripped wooden floors – going too far in that direction absolutely robs pubs of their character. And not every pub needs to have a craft beer tap – I very much enjoy The Gravediggers and The Hut, which are great spots to simply relax with a Guinness – the option of Beamish as well as Guinness at The Lord Edward is handy, though I was moderately surprised not to see the Guinness 0.0 option as well. I suppose yes, there were some Five Lamps beers, but they’ve never really appealed to me.

A pint of Beamish at The Lord EdwardBut as I sat with my pint of Beamish (yes, I am aware that the Guinness was brewed just a short walk away, I’m just a sucker for Beamish and am glad it seems to be reappearing around town), listening to snatches of conversation here and there, I struggled to put my finger on just what it was about The Lord Edward that made it feel less ‘for me’ than the aforementioned Gravediggers or Hut. Was it simply that it was a bit more run-down inside compared to the other two? Both of those have interiors that feel ‘old’ but well-loved, I thought, so perhaps that was one aspect of it. Was it the entirely male clientele – at least, on this visit? Possibly…though I’ve also had similar crowds at The Boh. What I finally landed on (and it may well be a case of overthinking) was that a combination of the two factors reminded me of pubs with a similar look and atmosphere in the UK, back in the day…albeit with much better Guinness, I expect! My working theory is that men who are (probably) younger than me would have grown up going to pubs of this sort with their dads, uncles, cousins and so forth, and so it may trigger a particular nostalgia, especially as more and more of this type close, update or gentrify. For me, though, I’m reminded of slightly dodgy places in the East End of London that had kept their 1960s carpet as some sort of homage to the Kray Twins…the blokey atmosphere I used to encounter some 25 years ago felt very much in evidence at The Lord Edward. And I would not say this was overt or purposeful, it just…is. And I think that for me, most old-school boozers feel interchangeable with other old-school boozers anywhere in the world, and that they offer less that’s unique or charming, with an individual sense of place, whereas a pub like The Gravediggers is brimming with personality and local character.

And to be clear, not every pub needs to tick all of my very specific boxes…I mean, I’m hardly going to have a perfect Moon Under Water of my own without a cask option, but I can let that slide most of the time. I suppose the key point here is that, in the absence of fond memories, The Lord Edward doesn’t feel like ‘a pub for me’ – and that’s absolutely fine, it obviously has regulars, fans and a busy tourist trade, given its location opposite Christchurch Cathedral – and they love it as is, which is as it should be.

And the cathedral bells, it must be said, do add considerable interest. An English tourist asked the barman whether the constant ringing of bells was ‘just because it’s Sunday.’ After a suitably long pause, the response was short, but complete: ‘No. There’s always a lot of bells.’

So, in summary, there’s much to be said for a proper old-school boozer if that’s your thing; The Lord Edward absolutely fits that bill. Perhaps it’s just waiting to become (or already is) your old school boozer.

Where: The Lord Edward, 23 Christchurch Pl, Wood Quay, Dublin, D08 RK00
Access from the city centre: Buses 27, 77A, 150, 151, 11-ish minute walk
Food: Crisps, theoretical toasties
Sport: Football on at times
TVs: Bar-level TV had news on
Music: No music, but occasional trad sessions upstairs possibly still happening
Family-friendliness: Many more appropriate options in the area
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Tailors Hall, The Bull & Castle, The Christchurch Inn, The Beer Temple/The Oak are all more or less in one direction, with The Thomas House, Love Tempo, Swift, Arthur’s and other Liberties spots (including a certain Guinness Storehouse) in the other; The Brazen Head is also a short walk away
Haunted: Finally, we have a proper haunted pub: Lord Edward Fitzgerald himself is meant to frequent the building
Local sites of note: Christchurch Cathedral, Dublinia, St Audoen’s Church, Guinness Storehouse, Vicar Street, Olympia Theatre
Other notes: The pub gets slightly odder from a physical perspective as you go up; the toilets are, uh, unique
Socials: Facebook seems largely abandoned

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Christchurch Inn

Outside The Christchurch InnAs a general rule, when I’m in this part of town, I head to The Oak, or wander further into The Liberties for spots like Dudley’s or Arthur’s (or, really, anywhere that is a stop on the always-excellent Libertine Market Crawl – a highly-recommended monthly craft market that takes place across multiple pubs). And while I’ve spent a goodly amount of time in this week’s pub, it was in its previous guise as The Beer Market, one of several Galway Bay pubs that the chain has shed over the past several years – a topic we’ll return to in a moment. But I recently had occasion to visit The Christchurch Inn, as it is now known, and can report that the interior is much brighter, so if you were a fan of the dark, dripping candles from The Beer Market era, you may need to head to Cassidys to get your fix nowadays.

First, though, some background; I was trying to determine when I’d first visited The Beer Market, and I got as far as figuring out it must have been on a work trip in 2016 or 2017, long before we moved to Dublin. I’d been impressed enough by the beer lineup – all Galway Bay and other local craft options – and the cosy, candlelit atmosphere that I bought a t-shirt; one that I suppose must now count as a collector’s item. I’d been back more than a few times after we arrived here permanently, though the pandemic and my general reluctance to go south of the river if I didn’t have to meant it wasn’t anything like a regular spot for me. Nevertheless, I was a bit surprised when it was sold off, along with some other Galway Bay-owned or branded locations, early in 2023* – but only because I’d just been there shortly before the shuttering, and there was no obvious indication at that point of its imminent demise. But on paper it did make sense – it was so close to The Beer Temple and The Oak, and even Against the Grain isn’t terribly far away – so it was a bit of a Galway Bay saturation point.

The main bar in The Christchurch InnWithout getting into the specific behind-the-scenes workings that are, frankly, none of my business, the pub ended up in new-but-familiar hands, and was rebranded as The Christchurch Inn, reopening in mid-2023. And so, finally, to what it’s like now. While there is still a bit of décor left over from The Beer Market, notably the outdoor signs indicating ‘beer’ as a daily event, the interior of the pub is now much brighter, with more of a ‘generic Irish pub’ feel, with old adverts and the like. A quick search of recent reviews, especially from overseas visitors, indicates a certain belief that this has been a ‘traditional pub’ from time immemorial, and they aren’t entirely wrong; census records from the 1850s onward show a ‘grocer’ and/or ‘wine and spirits dealer’ on the site, so while the names and looks may have changed over the decades, the use case has (mostly) not.

Looking upstairs at The Christchurch InnBut while it has much less of a ‘craft beer bar’ feel and more of a ‘catering to international tourists’ vibe, there is still a strong lineup of local options, albeit without any from Galway Bay. On our visit, there was some well-kept Ambush, Happy Days, Big Bangin’ and Rustbucket from Trouble, Rascals, Rye River and Kinnegar, respectively; even some Galway Hooker (no relation) appeared, plus a La Chouffe tap for the odd Belgian hit. Obviously there’s Guinness as well, both the real thing and 0.0, and some of your standard lagers as well. And it must be said that it really does feel much less like a locals’ craft beer pub and more like a tourist pub nowadays, though that’s completely understandable, given the location. And on this particular visit, there were many, many North American accents on display (not just mine), and I didn’t have the usual warm-fuzzy feeling from the playlist, which in most pubs I frequent is more ’90s Irish, UK and European tracks – I first moved out of the US in 1995, so haven’t heard any new music From There since then, and I couldn’t identify anything playing without the help of Shazam…it was all American bands I’d never heard of. And to be clear, I’m not saying I’m cool to not take on board New Things, just…old. So, if you’re an American or Canadian younger Millennial or older Gen Z traveller, it will probably get you right in the feels; not everything needs to be just for me, and that’s fine!

But that said, I can certainly see stopping back in for a recovery pint or lunch after a session at Dublinia with the smaller kid (especially if Other People’s Children have been particularly loud there); the staff were fantastic and they clearly know their audience well. And as it’s not a given anywhere in Ireland that any pub, much less a more touristy one, will have any local craft beer offerings, the fact that much of, if not most of, the customers here seem to be tourists is no bad thing, and giving them an opportunity to find something they love beyond Guinness is a fantastic opportunity to keep them coming back. Fair play!

Where: The Christchurch Inn, 13 High St, Merchants Quay, Dublin 8, D08 K09
Access from the city centre: Buses 27, 77A, 150, 151, 11-ish minute walk
Food: Pub grub and a few extras
Sport: Usual big games on for football, rugby, GAA
TVs: Several throughout the pub
Music: Live music on Fridays & Saturdays; otherwise, popular(?) American music
Family-friendliness: So close to Dublinia, easy menu for your picky people
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Tailors Hall, The Lord Edward, Bull & Castle, The Beer Temple/The Oak are all more or less in one direction, with The Thomas House, Love Tempo, Swift, Arthur’s and other Liberties spots (including a certain Guinness Storehouse) in the other; The Brazen Head is also a short walk away
Haunted: Many local ghost tours go through The Liberties…surely, a collaboration opportunity to create a Philip-style ghost, if there’s not one already?
Local sites of note: Christchurch Cathedral, Dublinia, St Audoen’s Church, Guinness Storehouse, Vicar Street, Olympia Theatre
Other notes: The pub layout is the same as before, over 3 levels – you can find a bit of a different vibe in each space
Socials: Instagram

*BRÚ House Fairview was a more recent casualty and will be re-opening under new management as The Strand House in the near future; stay tuned for more on that, though it’s curious both pubs now have a bright red frontage – is this A Thing? Perhaps we’ll see…

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Barber’s Bar

Inside The Barber's BarThis week’s Weirdo Dublin Pub is properly a little bit weird, in the best possible ways; we’re heading back to Stoneybatter for The Barber’s Bar. Although you can no longer get a haircut while you sip, the theme is still very much in evidence, with the barber’s poles outside and other signage inside…along with some taxidermy (obvs) and a Pac-Man machine. But despite its close proximity to the TUD Grangegorman campus*, this feels much more like a neighbourhood spot than a student bar, perhaps because of the emphasis on its dog-friendliness. Though that said, given that so many university students live at home with their parents nowadays (I have one of these upstairs myself) rather than in a messy shared house, thanks to the housing crisis, I suppose there’s nothing to stop them from simply bringing the family dog.

Pac-Man in The Barber's Bar

The Barber’s Bar is run by the same team behind Doyle’s Corner in Phibsborough, but it’s a very different vibe; smaller and quirkier, and a bit less like a ‘traditional’ pub, but still very welcoming. And while some of the kitschier décor may suggest the visitor has taken a trip to Craftonia (Homage to Craftonia? I’ll get me coat…), there are still only a few local craft taps, albeit very nice ones – Kinnegar’s always-tasty Scraggy Bay and Ambush from Trouble, along with Guinness and the other usual offerings – so, essentially a smaller version of the Doyle’s Corner beer lineup.

Doggie portraits at The Barber's BarBut back to the dogs – they are very much catered for here, with their own little snugs and corners, photo wall (there is much to be said for a pet-focused feature wall vs a human-centred ‘Instagram wall’ in a pub) and even a little bed tucked away within some of the seating, for the sleepier or simply more retiring Good Pupper. On my recent visit, all the canine customers were very well-behaved indeed – and the same went for their human counterparts.

Doggie snug at The Barber's BarI’d been told by a regular that the food (served in the late afternoons and evenings) was worth the trip too; while I’m generally a fan of most standard pub food, it’s nice to have alternatives, too, and the Tokyo Kitchen-powered menu offered a great selection of Asian-inspired tapas and more; gyoza and beer make a great combination, far superior (in my opinion, of course) to crisps for a snack or even a smaller meal, though you could certainly size up for more.

All in all, though, The Barber’s Bar is very close to my ideal sort of spot for a chilled out solo pint: just enough of a walk that it’s a destination, comfortable surroundings that don’t take themselves too seriously, cute companion animals and some excellent, unfussy beers on tap.

I seem to be craving gyoza and a Scraggy Bay now…

Where: The Barber’s Bar, 19 Lower Grangegorman Road, Stoneybatter, Dublin, D07 H583
Access from the city centre: Buses 9, 37, 39 39A, 70, 83, 83A, Luas Green Line (Broadstone), 30ish minute walk
Food: Tokyo Kitchen – gyoza, spring rolls, Japanese curry & more
Sport: Not so much
TVs: Nope
Music: FELT SEEN – 70s/80s/90s tunes that seemed ripped from my own collection of indie and electronica; occasional live music advertised on the socials
Family-friendliness: If they like dogs and it’s not late, sure
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Stoneybatter and Smithfield are both handy: L. Mulligan, Grocer, The Belfry, Fidelity, Hynes’ Bar, Walsh’s, The Cobblestone, Bonobo…even Underdog isn’t too far, or you could cut back across the Grangegorman campus to Phibsborough and Doyle’s Corner, The Boh, The Hut, The Bald Eagle
Haunted: Does the Doyle’s Corner ghost make visits? There is a Sheela-na-gig up the road…
Local sites of note: TUD Grangegorman, Collins Barracks, Lighthouse Cinema
Other notes: So many doggos!
Socials: Instagram, Facebook, Former Twitter

*Perhaps Dublin’s best example of thoughtful reuse of a historic site, turning something with a dark past into a modern space for community and learning, with (mostly) creative new architecture mixed with (mostly) well-conserved historic buildings – a great place for a stroll, and well worth taking one of the occasional walking tours to learn more