While enjoying their Irish breakfast tomorrow, FEG delegates might like to ponder where to go for a drink, while exploring Dublin. From living abroad, I know that sitting down in a bar or restaurant at a table which is already occupied, can sometimes provoke strange glances, or furrowed eye-brows. Not so in Ireland, where not only is striking up a conversation with a complete stranger in a pub not frowned upon, it is positively welcomed. I would go so far as to say that your keeping to yourself and not stating “who your people are”, pouring forth your gems of wisdom on the state of the nation, and perhaps singing a tune to complete strangers, ( your new best friends), to be poor form, or worse, just downright bad mannered!
@Photo by Jessie Mc Donald 2017
Tourists are going to be attracted to that tourist Mecca, Temple Bar, as well they might, with its bustling medieval streets, plethora of traditional pubs, many with live Irish music, buskers, souvenir shops and general mayhem. My fellow tourist guides, however, might like to follow suggestions regarding a few of my favourite haunts in Dublin, beginning with one which was awarded “Best Pub in Ireland” by National Hospitality 2016, The Stag’s Head.
Photo courtesy of the Stag’s Head website
I’ve just come across a newspaper clipping from 40 years ago, telling of its being bought for a then incredible sum of £177,000, by Peter Shaffrey. [Disclosure: My sister was flower-girl at his wedding!] It was sold in 2005 for €5.8 million euro and is going from strength to strength. With its Victorian mahogany fittings, mosaic floors and snugs (small, private area behind the bar), it oozes charm. A tavern has existed here from the 1780’s and it was reincarnated in its present form in the 1830’s, when it was at the heart of theatre goers’ Dublin. Cinema buffs might recall the scene from Educating Rita, starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters, which was filmed there.
Robert Grogan & Anne Tyrrell of Strolling through Ulyssess
Should you be free on Sunday at 1.30 or 5.30, you could even catch the very last performance for 2017, of “Strolling through Ulysses”, written by fellow guide, Robert Gogan . Surprisingly accessible, even to the uninitiated to Joyce, it is as bawdy as it is entertaining. Going to see a play in the intimate surroundings of a Victorian pub, all the while sipping a pint of the black stuff (a local brew called Guinness), is just one of the things to enjoy in Dublin City.
Mystery at Guinness Storehouse © 2016 Jessie Mc Donald
Another gem, a 5 minute walk away, is the Library Bar, Central Hotel, Exchequer Street, “a haven of peaceful luxury, tucked away on the first floor” Here, you can relax in an armchair and converse or, better still, eavesdrop on the neighbour’s erudite conversation ; it’s that sort of establishment. If it’s a gastro pub you’re after, and then pop into The Exchequer, a few doors up.
Photo courtesy of The Library Bar Website
On the same street, you have Fallon & Bryne, where you can browse the best of Irish artisan food products. From award winning cheeses to award winning trout “caviar” , Ireland is enjoying a golden era of quality food products.
Photo courtesy of The Long Hall website
The Long Hall, at 51, South Great Georges street, is yet another Victorian original, with gold leaf enhancements, and ornate glass. Playing Cupid one night, I struck up a conversation with a lady there, in order to give two friends of mine a chance to get to know each other better. After an hour, I discovered that she was actually on a first date! Being Dublin, nobody seemed to mind, as the banter was flowing and the “craic” (Irish word for fun or amusement) was mighty!
The International Bar , another of Dublin’s Victorian bars to have retained their furniture from the 19th century. In fact, here you can see some hand-carved mahogany reredos (an ornamental carving) representing the River Gods of Ireland. Admire the brass taps and pink granite bar-tops, all while listening to live music, seven nights a week. This is the pub which not only features in James Joyce’s Ulysses, but is also where two of The Dubliners (one of Ireland’s most loved folk groups ever) met.
Photo courtesy of the Avoca website
The Avoca Food hall, on Suffolk Street, near the Molly Malone statue, is another example of where you can source not only freshly made soups, breads, salads and tarts, but a whole range of local and exotic artisan foods. Their food section started off with the sale of a few jams and chutneys in the corner of the Avoca Fashion Shop. Today, there are 12 locations all around Ireland, all selling high quality fabrics, fashion, ceramics, candles and soaps and all famous for their award-winning cafes and restaurants. Why not pop in for a quality coffee or a tasty treat? Listed by Vogue UK as one of the Best 100 Shops outside London, you might get some retail therapy done, while you are at it. Now there’s food for thought! Sláinte!