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

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