Something different this week – Dublin on a Shoestring, my new book co-authored with Katherine Farmar, has been out now for a couple of weeks – and I’ve hardly promoted it here at all! It’s shocking! So, to rectify that, The Everyday Irishman presents Ben’s ten favourite Dublin bars from the 50 or so featured in the book…
10. The Sackville Lounge, 16 Sackville Place, Dublin 1, Guinness €4.40
The Sackville is a great place to end up, though it’s small and often busy so you may not get a seat. There is one long, wine leather couch with knee-height tables placed along it, and a TV at either end. If there’s horse racing on it’ll be on here – and with a bookies next door you’re set up for the afternoon.
9. The Bank, 20-22 College Green, Dublin 2, Guinness €4.80
The building was designed by one of the British Empire’s foremost architects, and the interior is richly Victorian: mosaic floors, marble pillars, hand-carved plasterwork. It’s bright and airy and buzzing on a Friday night, and it is kind of interesting that the men’s toilets are located in the old vaults.
8. Kavanagh’s, Prospect Square, Glasnevin, Dublin 9, Guinness €4.25
Walk into the dark of the bar, through a set of swinging cowboy-style doors, and you enter the perfect place to put everything on hold for a pint of contemplation. Kavanagh’s nickname ‘The Gravediggers’ comes from the fact that this was where the gravediggers at Glasnevin Cemetery would refresh themselves – poking the blade of a spade through the window to have it laden with pints.
7. Doheny & Nesbitt’s, 5 Lr Baggot St, Dublin 2, Guinness €4.80
A favourite with politicians and civil servants. The narrow bar and the back room are decked out in traditional wooden furnishings, and even early in the week you’ll have to weave your way through the pint-bearing masses. In style and atmosphere this is a classic, complete with hide-away side rooms originally for women drinkers.
6. The Stag’s Head, 1 Dame Court, Dublin 2, Guinness €4.70
On a quiet afternoon go to The Stag’s Head with one friend, order two pints and sit in the plush seating in the heavily mirrored back room. Say nothing, take a long, careful first draw on your pint, and breathe. Nobody following these instructions could find a single fault with the world.
5. Sin É, 14-15 Ormond Quay, Dublin 1, Guinness €4.20
The cottage/barn feel clashes with modern touches such as the red lights lighting up the upturned glasses behind the bar, but this is still a fantastic spot. Sin É is always home to some themed night or other, and there’s always great music playing.
4. The Long Hall, 51 Sth Great George’s St, Dublin 2, Guinness €4.50
The mahogany interior, the rich red walls, the real chandeliers, the colonial portraits and old copper pots… This is a classic straight from Victorian times.
3. McNeill’s, 140 Capel St, Dublin 1, Guinness €4.60
McNeill’s recently reopened as a pub, though the music shop upstairs has been around a long time. The instruments in the window almost seem to invite you in. This is a back-to-basics gem – and with its musical pedigree, you’ll find real trad sessions here too.
2. The Palace, 21 Fleet St, Dublin 2, Guinness €4.60
Empty it is a little bedraggled looking, but the Palace comes to life when it fills up with nattering punters at night. With mini-booths along the bar to allow small groups to gather, and a little parlour room at the back for more relaxed groups, the Palace is charm itself.
1. Grogan’s, 15 Sth William St, Dublin 2, Guinness €4.60
You will find all sorts here – from carpenters discussing Greek tragedy outside at the silver tables, to students curled up with books, to politicians huddled with advisers at the bar. There is no music, unless you count the clink of glasses and the sound of conversation, and the walls are covered in wonderful art. Grogan’s is Everybody’s Local.
The oldest pub in Dublin – The Brazen Head, 20 Lr Bridge St, Dublin 8
Apparently there’s been an inn or a pub here since before the Norman invasion of 1171!
The smallest pub in Dublin – The Dawson Lounge, 25 Dawson St, Dublin 2
Ten people equals a crowd.
The hardest pub to find in Dublin – The Hideout House (we’re not giving any clues!)
Okay – it’s on the northside, near Mountjoy Square, down an alley that isn’t named on most maps and on the edge of a housing estate. Never say the Irish aren’t pioneers when it comes to pub building!
Dublin on a Shoestring contains loads more pubs (including where to find the cheapest pint in Dublin), along with countless other tips for anyone visiting or living in the city – where to find the best value restaurants, entertainment for free, and where to shop without a gold card!
Dublin on a Shoestring, by Katherine Farmar and Ben Murnane, is published by A&A Farmar (www.aafarmar.ie), €9.99, and is in bookshops now.
You can also buy it on Ben’s website here.