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: 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…