The Gravediggers

March 26, 2010

I was recently dragged down Baggot Street, kicking, screaming and cursing my colleagues for signing me up to one of those horrid 12 Pints of Christmas thingies. Stepping over the vomit laced dregs of society, making their annual trip out of the suburbs to whoop it up at their work Christmas dos, I wished desperately that I was wrapped up safe and sound in the comfort of my local boozer.

Free of the paradoxical drink promotions that give you bang for buck but leave you more than a little crooked when morning, like you, has broken. Free of the wretched rebel anthems that would sour the milk in ones tit and whose sentiment is seriously undermined by the fact its delivered by an 18 stone west Brit in a Manchester United jersey. And free of the underlying fear that in any given minute my night or my life can  be brought to an untimely end by any one of the cretins-or their sun hags- who seem determined to prove our Minister for Justice’s belief that we are incapable of enjoying a good night sensibly.

Devoid of a television set and any form of music, its the gift of the gab one is left with to build an evenings entertainment at John Kavanagh’s in Glasnevin aka The Gravediggers. Age 50 and over the majority of the locals can certainly spin a yarn and bring to life a Dublin not seen since the rare auld times. But plenty of young ones too frequent the Northsides oldest family run watering hole, renowned for its spectacular pint of the black stuff. At e4.13 its also one of the cheapest.

Its not the easiest place to find, tucked away off the beat in track  in the middle of a residential area. However it is well serviced by a number of different bus routes(40/A/B/C/D,140, 19/A, 83, 13/A). It’s situated next to the old entrance to the Glasnevin cemetery, and right behind the Botanic Gardens, giving you two further reasons to visit one of Dublin’s most salubrious suburbs. But if you bring the rugrats, bare in mind that you must have them of the premises by 7PM.

Featured in several Irish movies and advertisements( including My Left Foot and The Commitments) its a pub steeped in tradition. Its been in the Kavanagh family for six generations and the back lounge has managed to hold onto much of the rustic charm that made it a hit when it first opened its doors in 1833.With saloon doors, wooden tables and large benches its best visited on a Friday evening when its hopping with the after work crowd, though there are a steady stream of regulars who can be seen propping up the bar no matter when you drop by.

It gets its nickname by proxy of the workmen who used to bang their shovels off the wall when they wanted a pint-which they then shoved in through a hole in the wall, where a barman placed a jar of stout on them so they could take them with them when they  returned to work, bringing into existence that old Dublin colloquialism “Going for a jar”.

There isn’t a vast amount of choice when it comes to the alcohol (I was laughed at when I asked for a Tequila) and payment must be by cash only (no laser) but ironically the larger front lounge has a terrific tapas menu, written up daily on a blackboard. It’s only available Monday to Friday but it’s a refreshing alternative to the dull, flavourless pub grub offered by some of their local rivals.

And last, but by no means least, there is the terrific front green where on bright sunny days you can while away the hours sipping your pint and enjoying one of the finest front gardens offered by any pub in the city.

Its just far enough away from town and difficult enough to find to save it from being over run by the same hipsters who taint the Long Haul and other such establishments and with its mix of tourists and locals it’s a guaranteed good time, perfect to ease you into the weekends festivities.

The Gravediggers

1 Prospect Square , Glasnevin Telephone:

01 830 7978

ait Ait

February 1, 2010

As yet another gay night exalts the joys of dressing and acting up, it would appear that there is no place left for gays to be here, queer and get on with it. But, jazz hands aside, there is no point in criticising Ait Ait for what it is not. Lets look at what it is.

Formed last year by Ciaran Rua and friends it bloomed out of a mutual disdain for the restrictiveness of Dublin’s Gay scene. Dominated by places that played really generic pop music, it was stagnant and limited. Great for a certain type of person who lived a certain lifestyle but if your head was in anyway outside the box the whole thing got old. FAST.Queer and Alternative was rarely on (and rarely alternative) while many of the other clubs were male dominated, intensely shallow and intimidating .

On his return from London, Rua found the scene more conductive to his dreams of a club night that didn’t take itself to seriously; where the crowd got something more than thrusting groins and grinding jaws and where the performance element,  a really important part of queer culture and identity, was thrust into the limelight, equal in stature to the heaving dance floor. This in part, had to do with the newly opened Panti Bar which apparently appealed to their less pretentious side.

Held, generally, on the third Friday of every month, Ait Ait is a free night which isn’t run for profit. Each night is themed, thoughthis is more of an indicator for the type of performances you are going to see and the type of music your going to hear, than a call to fancy dress arms. Although Rua himself parades about in costume most of Ait Ait’s regulars are spectators rather than participants.

Among the past themes have been ait Ait celebrates Blooms Day(where they wore Edwardian style costumes and brought a cake out on photocopied sheets from Ulysses’s);  ait Ait celebrates Marie Antoinette (where they reenacted the great Queens beheading to “Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s); and ait Ait celebrates the Holy Stump of Rathkeale (where they had an apparition of the Virgin Mary going around the bar with a bishop giving out holy bread in the form of white chocolate buttons).

Making sure not to miss any trick in the big book of homosexual stereotypes the ait Ait lads are also fabulous bakers providing

tasty treats that are as delicious as they are absurd; a tree stump with the Virgin Mary’s face on it, a golden pyramid for áit AIT celebrates Cleopatra, and the evil Disney princess with a decapitated prince’s head in her hands for ait Ait celebrates the Disney villain, all lovingly and creatively prepared by DJ HarleQuinn.

So what about the tunes? I beg to differ with their claim to avoid the floor filler. I’ve had my fill of them here. From boring electrostalwarths LCD Soundsystem to more predictable gay favorites Lady GaGa and her vastly superior(but rapidly deteriorating) predecessor Roisin Murphy. But to give the many DJ’s who play at ait Ait there due,  they do have the most eclectic music policy in the city. From Swing to Disco, show tunes and Eurovision classics the DJs have free reign todo as they please and have pulled some stonkers out of the bag. Some stinkers too, but so long as they raise a giggle then who cares.

All in all it’s its a little bit extravagant, but not to much so; a little off centre, but not to extreme; a little weird, but not totallymental. If you enjoy an evening of manic camp where crazy decorations, costumes and baked goods are as crucial to the ambiance as booze, bass and banter then this may well be your first port of call.

Partie Monster

January 31, 2010

There are those who would question the wisdom of paying homage to

Michael Alig and his club kids, a group famous for their outrageous

costumes and extensive drug use in early 90s Yonkers. A group as

fickle as they were anomalous, their behavior titillated and

terrified the city that never slept with their resourceful and

innovative approach to clubbing. Before Marylin Manson

they were  the go-too guys for television shock jocks who

wanted to prove that America was going to hell in a hand basket.

When Angel Melendez’s mutilated corpse was found floating in

the Hudson river, put their by Alig’s strung out hand, many thought

we just might be.

The closest Dublin has to Michael Alig is Brian Cowen and his

Parliamentary Party Monsters, so strung out on their own idiocy they

fail to recognise the quickest way out of this recession is through

the systematic destruction of our livers .Or to be less flippant

( and more honest) by removing the draconian licencing laws that

are scaring off our tourists and pissing on our nightlife, we might

be able, to quote a man greater than myself, “session through

the recession.”

Partie Monster, held in RiRa’s on the second Friday of every month,

offers an escape from the dreary surroundings of a social scene

struggling to survive. Dublin has been coasting on the exhausted fumes

of days gone by for long enough and while it is ironic that the most

refreshing night we’ve got was inspired by scenesters from the last

century it is not at all unwelcome.

Aimed at homos, hetros, boys and girls the only requirement is an open

and filthy mind.   Marquis D’Alton drops a scandalous mix of sleazy

electro and 80s synth pop to a packed and cracked dance floor. Moments

of united insanity are not at all uncommon so don’t be startled if the

entire dance floor drops to the ground and starts to gyrate before

you.

Clubbing in Dublin has suffered in recent years from a failure on the

part of the promoters to distinguish their nights from the rest with

one mad out of it night coming down into another. Partie Monster, with

its outlandish dress, may have the unfair advantage but it certainly

doesn’t rest on its laurels. From the Pottie Monster cocktails (€5)

served in actual potties to the hand popped popcorn and Vodka jelly

shots, Mistress Mimi Rouge has spared no expense in insuring her night

is one you’ll remember once the Amyl Nitrate throbs off.

It’s a come as you feel night so if you feel like like strolling

through the doors basted in baby oil and little else then do just

that. Equally if you rock up in your everyday skinny jean glory you’ll

be as accepted. I was shocked by how many people actually went for it.

Gold onsies, hot pants and gimp masks were accoutered with illuminous

wigs, full body paint and every kind of tiara, boa, garter and

suspender invented. There are make up artists and hair dressers on

hand to spruce you up should you decide to come as four equal sides

and four equal angles and a variety of beauty pageants and photo

booths to show of your reinvented bootie.

From Fanci’s tee shirts to their whimsical fanzine their is no excuse

to leave the club empty handed. Even If your short on cash be the best

partie monster you can be and you may be gifted with what’s in Mimis

goody bag, a gaudy array of treasures salvaged from the nearest €2

shop.

Partie Monster

2nd Friday of every month, RiRa’s

Pygmalion Review

January 31, 2010

Hunched underneath the Powerscourt Shopping Centre, in the same space where Ba Mizu once stood deathly still, night after night, Pygmalion is the latest in a line of disco bars rearing its head in this fair city of ours. With neither the space of the POD nor the comfort of Grogans this new upstart is a curiosity. Trying to placate the club kids with their thirst for house music (seven nights a week!) yet still pulled by the sluttish purse strings of the rugby set, they have failed (so far) to really satisfy anyone.

For a bar that goes by the nom de plume Pygmalion there’s been very little done to spruce the place up. Like its predecessor it’s a labyrinth of white walled rooms, dark lighting and leather couches. There are a few questionable pieces of art flung up but it’s so sparsely done you’ve got to wonder why they bothered in the first place.

The clientele  (pill popping Backlash babies and beer swilling jocks with their perma tanned hags) make for uncomfortable booze buddies, with glances- ranging from irritated to appalled- shot back and forth during the never ending queue for the bar. The staff seem to be having the time of their life, while we waste ours trying to get a pint out of them, which at €5 a pop can hardly be worth it. They either need to hire more staff or adequately train the ones they have to deal with the preening masses.

It’s open late (10pm-3am) Friday’s and Saturdays, but it doesn’t really get going till 12:30. Before this the music is either piped in or bass heavy. But when it kicks off, the back room can be great fun, with the music and the masses reminiscent of Hospital at its height (i.e. in Traffic).

The problem with Pygmalion is that it is still caught between a rock and a crap place. It hasn’t fully shed its gaudy past, or fully embraced its desire to be another Bernard Shaw or a cover-charge-free Kennedys. It ‘ll take more than a lick of paint and word from (closely associated) mouths to help Pygmalion make its mark in a town already crowded with places to go and people to be. Lets hope they can.

Pygmalion

Powerscourt Shopping Centre, 
Dublin 1.

Tel: + 353 (1) 6746712

Conradh Na Gaeilge Review

January 31, 2010

A pub is a terrible thing to waste, an all to regular occurrence in this nation of drunks. Be it fabulous structures brimming with conventional bores to poorly executed stabs at originality you might not be able to swing a dick in this town without getting it pissed in the process but finding one that is a genuine pleasure over an affable convenience is a rare treat. Conradh Na Gaielge is a genuine joy but it’s also a genuine disappointment, a wasted opportunity that could so easily be corrected.

A brightly lit warren of nooks and crannies under the actual Conradh, an organisation whose purpose is to keep the Irish language spoken in Ireland, this whimsical establishment was once a home away from home for Gaelgors who sold their soul to the Jackeen pound. Officially opened in the 1970s, after years of flouting the licensing law, the Conradh is a linguistic Lourdes, a Meca in these internationalistic times. Where once the barmen were like the Gestapo, cracking down on those who flout our adoptive tongue, now they’re more liberal and many of the people who drink there are beginners who have dripped down from the Irish classes upstairs. You’ll get away with talking in English but it’s a bit like wiping your arse on hosts bed sheet. It’s simply not done.

Many people I know are too afraid to go to the Conradh because they lack confidence in their abilities but once the staff sees you are making an effort they are as warm and as courteous as they come. It’s not your typical night out and the challenge of speaking in a second language opens some wonderful doors of discourse that usually lie dormant. Once you get into the swing of things the chatter flows as freely as the cheap as chips booze and you find yourself getting off on how much you can recall from those bygone days of “pog mo thoin” agus “leigh anois go curamach na ceisteanna agus treoracha a bhaineann le chuid A”.

If only the management capitalised on the rich tradition and culture that seeps out of the walls. With so many people desperate to connect with their inner Seoige’s it’s a shame that the place isn’t hopping night after night with traditional Irish songs and dance. This being the only place where you can natter in your native tongue you’d think they’d use the same stone to take out a few more traditional birds.

That’s not to say that this never happens it’s just so hit and miss that you never know if you are walking into a morgue or a mardis gras. Term time is more predictable with Trinity’s trad soc taking over Tuesday nights. If the management followed this lead and organized a more regular and thought through series of events this place could easily be one of the cities best.

It so very nearly is.

Conradh Na Gaeilge

6 Hardcourt St

Dublin 2

The Ocean Bar Review

January 31, 2010

As the last drop of sun is squeezed from our rexy summer sponge there are few places I like to plop my 9-5’d arse down outside more than the Ocean Bar and Restaurant. On the corner, looking out on one of Dublin’s prettiest and most architecturally stunning areas, The Ocean Bar is all windows, which doesn’t bring much to the table by way of décor.

But when the lapping waters of Charlotte Quay and all she has to offer are on your doorstep that’s no big loss. From Manuel Aires Mateus’s luxury hotel staking its claim to Bus Aras’s “What were we thinking” throne to the still being constructed Grand Canal Theatre, a battalion of angled glowing light sticks bathing her in red, there’s no shortage of fascinating design to keep your visual insulin levels up. If you’re in there on payday you can also see an array of shapes being tossed from the suits that work in the surrounding IFSC. But generally the crowd is unpretentious.

The jetties outside make for an excellent place to dip your toes off while having a smoke and there is a pool table down stairs for those whom a pleasant conversation is never complete without knocking a few balls around.

The staff is excellent. Friendly, courteous and showing no sign of the stress they must be under from the baying crowds. The drink isn’t cheap (€8.30 for a Morgan Spiced and Coke and €10.30 for two pint bottles of Bulmers) but it’s not the low prices you’re here for. It’s the top-notch atmosphere.

During the week is obviously quieter. In fact it’s just far enough out of town to bring your dogs dinner of a mistress and not get caught. Mid week it attracts a mixed bag of locals and foreigners. But , buoyed by weekend hysteria, the Friday and Saturday crowds spill out in each direction and it’s hard not to get caught up in the jubilee of temporary secretaries and last chance saloon brokers.

Out of consideration to the residents in the apartments above (who you just know are waiting, fingers on phone, waiting to wreck whatever fun is to be had by any outsiders in their area, as learned by the good people of Croke Park and Lansdowne) you must move back indoors after 10pm. The bar is kitted out with simple, diner like chairs while the couches are comfy-ish. The hard back means you can’t help but sit up straight when all you want to do is sink into what should be plush interiors.

Let me tell you about the restaurant. It’s fabulous. You haven’t dined in Dublin until you have sat out on the covered terrace and watched the rain batter the Quay before you. Starters range from the mixed olives with chili and lemon zest (€3.50) to the hot and spicy chicken wings and blue cheese dip (€9.95). I had the tiger prawns in filo pastry and sweet chili jam (€7.25) and the creamy, ocean chowder (€8.25). Both were excellent.

Mains range from the caser salad with Cajun chicken (€10.95) to the Irish sirloin (€17.50). The spuds with my Roast mozzarella and spinach stuffed chicken wrapped in bacon (€13.50) were more whipped than mashed but if that’s my only complaint you can imagine the quality of the main itself.

Deep Into The Bowels Of House have started a new day meets night event running, generally, from one a to pm Sundays, playing a mixture of minimal techno and groovy house with pitchers of Heineken from €12 a pop while each Wednesday the shirt will be leaving someone’s back at the pubs weekly poker night.

The Ocean Bar and Restaurant

Ground Floor Millennium Tower Charlotte Quay Dock Dublin 4.

Bia Bar

January 30, 2010

I like the Bia Bar. I don’t know many people who don’t. It’s managed to become a staple of Irish nightlife without disappearing up its own hole maintaining a decent reputation. Situated between two of the seven portals of social hell (the Capitol and Break For The Border) it’s the perfect place to start an evening before descending into the usual squabbles over where to go next. The crowd is largely unpretentious and a little less excitable than their fresh-faced counterparts and the staff is efficient, unassuming and thankfully free of attitude that has soured many a similar venue.

It gets rammed at the weekend but during the week it empties out. That’s not to say it’s dead. Its cushy chairs make it the perfect place to curl up with a book and watch the world bustle by. It also has free Internet connection which makes it a favorite with Dublin’s cost cutting movers and shakers, who like to be seen and heard going about their business.

It serves food seven nights a week and, for this city, is reasonably priced. Two cocktails and two pizzas will set you back €30(if ordered between the hours of three and ten) and its choice menu has pretty much everything else covered for no more than €4.50 for lite bites (Delicious chicken wings. soup of the day, garlic bread) or €12.50 for a main (pastas, prawns, burgers and pies). There are also a number of sides (chips, veg, salad) or deserts (apple or berry crumble, chocolate cake) for €3.90.

The decor is womb like with plush purples and reds offsetting the smooth vanishings, with the large bay windows at the front giving way to a deep alcove at the side and a heightened platform at the back.

Its eclectic music policy was leading the way way back when the Sth William was still up to mischief. Every Friday, from 8pm till its late close Mark and Aiden Kelly host the Stephens Street Social Club playing a mix of raucous funk, soul and a classic or two. Saturday’s Sidesteppin fits a similar oeuvre, if with a slightly more reggae-cum-hip-hop bent, while the last Sunday of every month see’s French Friday (on Sunday) a homage of all things Gallic.

Bia Bar gives me little cause to grumble. Any concerns that it’s to cool for school are dismissed on entry and, while it’s light on the surprises, it achieves with little effort where so many others have failed.

Monday – Wednesday            11am until 11.30pm

Thursday – Saturday            11am until 2.30am

Sunday-                  12am until 11pm

FOOD TIMES

Monday – Friday            12pm until 9.30pm

Saturday            1pm until 9pm

Sunday                 1pm until 9pm

Bia Bar,

Lower Stephens Street

Dublin 2

O Briens of Leeson Street

January 30, 2010

In a country where every nook and cranny can be found between two pubs its no wonder we have one to suit every occasion. From monolithic sport bars with giant sport filled screens to private members clubs with brandy and eye candy; strip clubs, gay pubs and pubs where fancy dress is de jour. We’ve got ‘ra pubs, GAA pubs and pubs you wouldn’t let your cean comhairle step into. From karaoke bars to library bars, teachers clubs and student pubs there is a ying to every yang, a perfect boozer for each and every stereotype.

So why, at the end of the day, does nothing beat a pint in an old school Dublin boozer. No dress code required just an open wallet and a bit of a spiel. You might miss out on your White Russians and your Cosmopolitans, your ‘blacks in the jacks’ and whatever other racially insensitive ‘luxuries’ came and went with the Celtic Tiger but the laid back, no BS atmosphere that preceded it makes such pubs a preferable place to kick start an evenings inebriation.

M O Briens is one such bar. Comprised of the old (and by far superior) bar, which had remained untouched for over 100 years and a more modern lounge which caters to the suits who work in the area, sure O’Brien’s has adapted more to the modern age than say, Grogans, but it retains enough of its past life to ensure that you can avoid it if you wish.

There is no piped music and no TV so you have to provide your own entertainment. There’s a healthy enough crowd on weeknights, which spills out onto the street between Thursday and Friday. Its just far enough outside town to ensure you get yourself a seat and close enough so that you don’t have to rely on taxis or busses to take the next logical step.

The back lounge is pleasant enough (though I wouldn’t recommend the Smitchicks) but it does tend to attract the more money loving patrons, your lawyers, bankers and insurance brokers. It’s also where the live music occurs (starting between 9.30-10.00pm) which very few pubs in this country seem to make-work. O Briens is no exception. Its incredibly touristy with its mix of jazz, trad, folk and-heavens to Betsy-the dreaded open mike night.

For me, its gotta be the old bar. It’s been manned for the past god knows how long by Tony and PJ, who by all accounts are two of the longest and most loyal barmen in the city. Its quite and cosy and populated with the type of characters better suited to a Beehan novel. The drink is fairly priced and there’s even Snuff to be purchased behind the bar (as in ground or pulverized tobacco, which is inhaled or “snuffed” through the nose, not the movies).

The toilets have maintained what can most kindly be described as rustic, wheelchair inaccessible charm while its 2004 facelift means you could now celebrate your weddings, anniversary’s or the death of a financially endowed loved one in their upstairs lounge.

Better yet is the fantastic lunch menu drawn up by Oliver Quenet, director of La Maison des Gourmets with a fantastic selection of wine selected by Charles Derain, French master of wine and ex-sommelier of the restaurant Patrick Guilbaud.

O’Brien’s is proof of the old and the new working side by side with one not intruding much on what the other is doing.

Bar Polski

January 30, 2010

Tucked away in the back streets of Holborn, Bar Polski is not so much a blink and you’ll miss it as a stare and you’ll pass on it kind of place.

A giant, garish rooster holds court on the otherwise bare, grey  walls while the uncomfortable, metallic furniture make it resemble a train station waiting room rather than a trendy Eastern European bar.

A quick look at the clientele fails to still your beating heart. Nervy, academic types clutter in groups who seem overly familiar with the world of the shire compete with nondescript music for aural appreciation.

But wipe the sneer off your face and your feet on the welcome mat and enter a world where angels spread their wings at the back of your throat. Treat your inner drunk to a fantasy world of flavoured vodkas, cheap Polish beers and traditional Eastern European snacks all priced as if the Iron Curtain never opened.

You haven’t started your first drink before your eyes lustfully glance at the well stacked menu for another. With 45 different flavours of Vodka to choose from, split into “dry and interesting” and “nice and sweet”, a little division of labour between you and your partner will let you sample as much of the menu as possible – without slurring your words and hitting on the bar stool.

My favourite was the Krupnik – a honey and spiced vodka with ginger ale. A culinary Cluedo, a gustative whodunnit, you’ll be too busy draining your glass to scratch your head, its hidden appeal so frustratingly locked on the tip of your tounge.

The Wybrowa (dry green apple) and the Jurzeback (Rowan berry, vine and fruit) are also highy recommended though Zlota Woda – vodka flecked with gold leaf, infused with aniseed and herbs- is not for the faint hearted.

At £2.50 a shot, Bar Polski is the perfect place to instigate the inebriation. Just don’t expext to pull anything tastier than a pint.

11 Little Turnstile
Holborn
London
WC1V 7DX

Opening hours:

12pm – 11pm Monday to Friday
6pm – 11pm on Saturdays
Closed on Sundays