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

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Ivy House

Outside The Ivy HouseWelcome to the new home for Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs! If you’re a regular visitor, you’ll notice we’ve spun off to a new, stand-alone site, just in time for the first anniversary of this series, and we’ll be adding some new features and categories as we go. With that bit of housekeeping out of the way, we’re back to normal service with another Northside pub – The Ivy House in Drumcondra.

The Ivy House is in a lovely three-storey building (with the date ‘1809’ above the pediment…we’ll get back to that), so it’s quite a substantial place, but it could easily be argued that it’s two pubs in one. Although most visual interest is drawn by the frontage, the smaller, one-storey structure to the side could almost be overlooked, were it not for the arresting image of an older man – one Patrick Carthy, formerly of Carthy’s Bar, painted on the wall, and this part of the business is still known by his name. Indeed, despite living nearby and walking past regularly a few times a week (it is, after all, just past The Cat & Cage), I’d not really noticed the separate entrance. However, I finally had a chance to stop in the other day, and given the bitterly cold snap we’ve been having, its fireplace was a very welcome find.

Patrick CarthyMy perception of The Ivy House before this visit was that is was more restaurant than pub; the larger main section is sleeky and modern – there’s a lot of dark blue – with many booths and tall tables, though there is a fireplace toward the back, albeit a large open and, again, very modern one. It’s less cozy and more efficient, with a large menu suiting most tastes (including my still-rather-picky younger offspring). Indeed, they always seem to be doing a roaring brunch trade at the weekends, and when I’m out and about for a solo pint, I frequently stop at The Cat & Cage, rather than The Ivy House, simply out of habit, but also because on those occasions I’m looking more for a nice spot to sit and relax, rather than go for a full meal.

Inside Carthy's BarBut as I happened to be in the area and wanted to get inside as soon as possible, I finally stopped in to the Carthy’s Bar side of The Ivy House, and ‘side’ is the key word here – it has an entirely separate entrance around the corner, complete with its own frontage. And, once inside, it’s quite the contrast from the other side of The Ivy House – it’s every bit the old-man-pub, complete with the aforementioned fireplace – not a woodburner, but lovely an warm. On my afternoon visit, there were at least 3 different sports on – possibly one for each person in the pub at that moment – but nothing was too loud or distracting. And as the bar serves both sides of the pub, it’s easy to order one of the local craft options – they always seem to have Hope Hop-on on tap – or a Guinness or Beamish from either spot.

There are also old photographs, press clippings and other memorabilia from the pub’s history on the walls within Carthy’s Bar; while the date mentioned above certainly doesn’t relate to the current building, which was built around 1910, there were buildings on this site long beforehand, so it’s not unreasonable to assume the earlier date does correspond to an earlier establishment.

And if you’re keen to make a pub crawl out of it, you can easily cheat by hitting both sides of the bar before moving on to The Cat & Cage and/or further afield – you do have to use the exterior doors, after all…

Where: The Ivy House, 114 Drumcondra Rd Upper, Drumcondra, Dublin, D09 CX74
Access from the city centre: Buses 1, 11, 13, 16, 44
Food: Extensive food menu, including brunch and children’s options
Sport: Football, GAA, snooker…everything seems to be covered
TVs: Quite a few around both sides of the pub
Music: Always seems to be a pleasant playlist of late ’90s-early 2000s jams when I’m in
Family-friendliness: Certainly on the larger main side; feels more adult-orientated on the snug side
Pub-crawl-ability: Medium – very short walk to the Cat & Cage, slightly longer to Fagan’s & Kennedy’s
Haunted: No obvious circulating lore, but why not? Brendan Behan does appear in some photos…
Local sites of note: Glasnevin Cemetery, National Botanic Gardens, DCU All Hallows & St Patrick’s campuses, Croke Park
Other notes: There’s also a beer garden for better weather
Socials: Instagram, Facebook

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Gravediggers

Outside The GravediggersIt had to be done.

Although I’m a relatively short walk away, I rarely make it up to The Gravediggers (aka John Kavanagh’s), but as it’s That Time of Year, it seemed only right and proper.

My more usual area haunts (I know) have a few things going for them: they are a bit more directly on the way to wherever I’m going, and they have at least a few local craft beers on tap – and while the first point is more variable, the second is an immovable fact – there is no craft beer at The Gravediggers. Most importantly, my other local spots are not usually full of tourists who have all been told that this is where they will find The Best Pint of Guinness in Ireland. However, sometimes that’s exactly what I’m in the mood for, and as I was walking around the area on a cool, intermittently rainy afternoon, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to stop in for a relaxing solo pint.

A pint by the fireplaceFor those who have never been to The Gravediggers – or, improbable though it seems, have never read anything about it – it’s exactly as you’ve likely heard: the pub is built into one of the walls of Glasnevin Cemetery (only a short stroll from the grave of Brendan Behan, though astonishingly, I couldn’t find much reference to him frequenting the spot – is it the only Northside pub he didn’t regularly drink in, à la The Cat and Cage? I am more than happy to be corrected on this point.), and it has been in the same family since 1833. The plain wood floors and swinging doors divide it into cosy snugs, and the tobacco-smoke-stained walls have certainly ‘seen some things.’ There is no music or television, though on more than one occasion, including this most recent visit, there may be an auld fella surreptitiously streaming a horse race or two on his phone.

Beer Ladies and Ladies of Beer at The GravediggersBut it’s by no means a museum piece – the right-hand side of the pub has more of a lively restaurant vibe, with all sorts of interesting tapas choices; it’s not typical pub grub, and it’s especially great if you’re in with a group. However, on this most recent visit, as it was just me (and I only had time for a brief sit-down), I hit the left-hand door to the bar and took my pint to the back, near the fireplace, where I found a few tourists (yes, even mid-day) as well as regulars. Most importantly, though, it was quiet, with only moderate conversation in the background, and I could properly enjoy my rare alone-time over a pint.

It was a far cry from my first visit to The Gravediggers on a drinky-drinky GhostBus tour some years ago with a group of then-fellow Amazon corporate revellers – I’m sure we were the literal worst kind of group (well, barring British stag parties), though we were largely kept in the back before being popped back onto our bus after another pint, which was entirely fair. I’m sure we were told many tales of the ghosts rumoured to haunt the pub, but I confess my memory of the event is a bit hazy…so I had to Google ‘ghost stories at The Gravediggers‘ – even though haunted pubs and breweries are things that live rent-free in my brain.

There was the typical-in-pubs spooky interference with the electronics – card machines are relatively new here, and there is still no wifi – though I’ve heard similar said of a number of Pennsylvania inns as well when they brought in new-fangled cash registers; perhaps it’s simply part of the long-time publican’s makeup, wherever they are (or whatever plane of existence they are theoretically on). Another story suggests a man in tweed enjoys a pint before disappearing (or heading back into the graveyard?), which seems a pleasant ghost story for a pub.

And is it The Best Pint of Guinness in Ireland? Well, I’d argue that it’s no different from the one you get at The Hut in terms of quality of tap lines and care in pouring, but it does have a lovely atmosphere – especially during the Samhain/Halloween season.

Where: John Kavanagh’s The Gravediggers, 1 Prospect Square, Glasnevin, Dublin, D09 CF72
Access from the city centre: Buses 4, 9, 16, 40, 122, 123, 140
Food: Tapas and coddle
Sport: No
TVs: Not a one
Music: Not a thing
Family-friendliness: Often a mac and cheese tapas option!
Pub-crawl-ability: Medium – about a 10 minute walk to the main Phibsboro pubs, including The Botanic, The Brian Boru, The Bald Eagle, Doyle’s Corner, The Hut and The Boh
Haunted: So they say…
Local sites of note: Glasnevin Cemetery, National Botanic Gardens
Other notes: So, why so few photos of such an iconic pub? Well, it just seems like it would be, frankly, weird, to be taking more than the odd photo or two…it’s more for enjoying the pint itself vs photographing the pint…and I say that as someone who can be very extra about photographing a pint…

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Botanic

Outside The BotanicWe’re back to normal Weirdo Dublin Pubs service this week, and we’re back in our normal Northside haunts (so seasonal!) with a new entrant to the field: The Botanic. Previously known as The Botanic House, this lovely early-20th-century pub had been dormant for some time, but it’s now very much back open, and very much back on theme, even if its name has been very slightly truncated.

As I walk past the pub quite frequently on my usual meanderings, I had often wondered about its history, and have more than once fallen down a rabbit hole, looking for information – it’s a handsome building, with ‘AD 1913’ confidently displayed over the door. The small bits and pieces I have uncovered in this rather cursory digging are that The Botanic House re-opened in 1914, and that the current building replaced a previous incarnation (or two? Or more?) from the 1850s – there’s clearly more to get into there. Its more recent experience, though, has been rather more episodic – it closed in 2014, after more or less a continued century in business in the current site, re-opened after a renovation in 2018, then closed again with Covid restrictions in 2021, remaining shuttered while others around re-opened – until a few weeks ago.

Chili and a pintI’d seen the flowers outside (see? A THEME) and the new signage appear not long ago, and had been making a point of heading in that direction more often to keep an eye on things. We tried popping in shortly after they officially re-opened, but it was absolutely slammed – likely a good thing – and so left it a few weeks, before making reservations to give it another try. An ideal opportunity presented itself with the smaller offspring’s birthday, as The Botanic’s Instagram leans heavily into social media-friendly large milkshakes, desserts and cocktails – she was exceptionally keen to try said milkshakes and cakes (though more on that in a moment).

A view toward the main barWhen we duly arrived for our booking, the floral theme outside continues everywhere inside, and to good effect; given the proximity to the National Botanic Gardens and at least 100 years of the old name, there’s no harm in leaning all the way in with the plants; it’s very colourful and well-executed, and it complements the broadly-Edwardian interior well. Most importantly from my perspective is the beer lineup, and it’s rather respectable: several Rye River and BRÚ taps, plus some Galway Bay options, in addition to the usual suspects. As mentioned, the wildly Instagrammable cocktails also looked rather tempting (well, many of them – I’ll pass on some of the more candy-themed options, but there were plenty of perfectly reasonable choices), but the real standout was the food. I had an excellent chili – something that isn’t always well-interpreted in Europe – and there’s a good mix of other choices beyond the typical pub menu, from sirloins to stir-fry. You could even eat in a reasonably healthy way, and then undo it all with a big dessert (cough) – and again, there are the mega-milkshakes, which proved so filling that the birthday girl couldn’t manage a separate dessert.

Pretty dessertMy only complaint was that the service was very slow in terms of initial ordering or getting refills (though the food came quickly), and the waitstaff didn’t seem to be very knowledgeable about the beers on tap; for example, it seemed to be a surprise to them that they had more than one IPA, or more than one kind of beer from the individual breweries, and we had to remind them several times that we’d ordered drinks, but I would put that down to everything still being quite new.

All told, it feels more on the ‘restaurant’ side of the fence, but I would be curious to wander over some less-crowded afternoon for a post-walk pint, though now that I know there’s a good chili available nearby, I may struggle to pass that up…

Where: The Botanic, 22-26 Botanic Rd, Glasnevin, Ireland, Co. Dublin, D09 AK26
Access from the city centre: Buses 9, 16, 40, 46A, 83, 122, 140
Food: Gastropub, with so many desserts
Sport: Lots of sporting options
TVs: Many televisions, but well-placed so as not to be overwhelming
Music: Live music Friday & Saturday nights; the soundtrack our visit was a little MOR for my personal taste
Family-friendliness: Very child-friendly, with an extensive and more-interesting-than-most children’s menu
Pub-crawl-ability: Medium-high – very handy for all of the main Phibsboro pubs, including The Bald Eagle, The Brian Boru, Doyle’s Corner, The Hut, The Boh, The Back Page and even a short stroll from The Gravediggers
Haunted: It was accidentally involved in an entirely unrelated kidnap case in 1917, so maybe!
Local sites of note: National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin Cemetery, Royal Canal, Dalymount Park
Other notes: Reservations seem to be a must on weekends at the moment

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Brickyard Gastropub

The Brickyard signThis week in Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs, we’re not just crossing the Liffey – we’re going Far Away, to the suburbs (though still via public transit – we’re not monsters here). While I had been told by many people that The Brickyard was a must-visit, not just for the beer selection but for the food, as someone with a violent aversion to most suburbs, I had not made my way down there in the nearly four years we’ve lived in Dublin. And, to be fair, it’s a very accessible suburb; indeed, the pub is situated right above the Luas tracks, only steps from a station.

Although I had not previously actually visited, I have been using their beer delivery service, Yards & Crafts, ever since it launched, as they have always had an excellent selection of beer from Ireland, the UK and beyond, including their own label, Two Sides, originally a collaborative effort with the recently-shuttered restaurant 57 The Headline (though in that case, they should be re-opening in a new form in the not-too-distant future). And while that part of the business is winding down – it sprang to life during the Covid shutdowns – the Brickyard Gastropub itself has recently undergone a major renovation, and the attention to detail is evident; it’s a bright, open space with a variety of seating options, both indoor and on the covered patio.

Hops. In a cage.Now that I have finally visited, I was rather regretting not having experienced the previous look and feel, simply for comparison, but what is there now very much reminds me of some of the places we used to frequent in the Philly area, especially TJ’s Restaurant & Drinkery. Both spots have an emphasis on great craft beer from near and far (plus the usual macros for good measure), and an excellent and varied food selection – yes, the usual burgers, but also a changing variety of other options – as well as a similar exposed-brick decor. The other obvious similarity is that both are in relatively far-out suburbs, but with handy train connections – the broader unprepossessing exterior doesn’t give an obvious hit of what’s inside until you’ve made your way past the ‘shopping centre’ surrounds and find the ‘semi-industrial with hops’ look inside.

I was finally motivated to make the trip down to The Brickyard for their Oktoberfest offering – one with real pretzels, a rarity around these parts. I know few people want to hear my Grand Unified Theory on why all pubs the world over should always offer soft pretzels (not hard pretzels, which are garbage), but I will say these more than met with my approval. And I was certainly not disappointed in the beer offering; indeed, it’s probably one of the best in Dublin. I especially appreciated the attention to detail on the beer menu, separating out the low- and no-alcohol options (of which there were many – more on this in a moment), as well as gluten-free choices and useful broad categories beyond that would appeal to the beer newbie and jaded expert alike. In short, they make great use of all 27 taps, with a wide range of styles and strengths. This is not the spot you find 25 basically-identical hazy IPAs and a Guinness, and thank goodness for that.

At the barBut back to the impressive non-alcoholic beer list for a moment; our Beer Ladies Podcast episode this week is on the topic of ‘sober-curious,’ – both mindful drinking and simply drinking, well, less. Having such a great lineup, including the brewed-with-a-unique-NZ-yeast Dot Brew Non-Alcoholic IPA, but also a no-booze sour, hefeweizen and some lagers and stouts, really offered something for everyone, whether they were off the drink for the evening, or just choosing to swap a ‘real’ beer for a non-alcoholic one on the odd round. Given the relatively long trip back into town for me, I liked the idea of being able to keep things on the light side, while still enjoying some good flavours – and having a real choice in that regard was a lovely novelty.

All told, this is the sort of place that would absolutely be my regular spot if I lived nearby, but now that I know it’s very much worth the trip, I will certainly be back. I mean, the Luas is free, right?

Where: Brickyard Gastropub, Ground Floor, North Block, Rockfield Central, Dundrum, Dublin 16
Access from the city centre: Luas Green Line – no walking unless you are incredibly ambitious
Food: Gastropub, with many specials
Sport: All the sport! Sport for all!
TVs: So very many TVs!
Music: Felt explicitly targeted as a specific GenX sub-group; so much early ’90s indie joy
Family-friendliness: Lots of families, and a thoroughly welcoming atmosphere
Pub-crawl-ability: Low – this is the suburbs, after all – but you could hop the Luas back toward the city…
Haunted: Perhaps in a sort of late-stage capitalism, Municipal Gothic sense
Local sites of note: Dundrum Town Centre, Airfield Estate
Other notes: Walk-ins only, unless your group is large