My editor obviously thought that I needed a shake-up of some sort, a forcible removal from my comfort zone. Reviews of my local, the bar from my old alma mater and The Horseshoe apparently offered insufficient challenge or scope. I needed to be tested. When he suggested (as a fait accompli) that my next Barfly should feature Dicey’s, home of Dublin’s biggest beer garden, I felt a cold bead of sweat migrate from the nape of my neck to the small of my back.
When I think of a beer garden it’s a bucolic scene, perhaps a couple of miles outside Bath behind a place called the hound and something, or the something arms. The bewhiskered landlord can be crotchety but he’ll always stand you a half a bitter should you need it. It might be poured by Polly or Sally or Beth, one of his buxom, endlessly accommodating daughters, with a saucy wink. Ploughmen eat lunches that have been designed just for them. An old collie raises his greying muzzle from the rug by the fire whenever somebody enters. Dusk glows with marmalade warmth over the rickety picnic tables. You want me to paint you a picture?
The beer garden at Dicey’s diverges greatly from the scenario above. This is the beer-garden as envisaged by Hieronymus Bosch. It’s getting on for seven bells on a warm July evening when we stride down Harcourt St to begin the ordeal and there are at least 20 people queueing to get in. On a Tuesday. At seven o’clock. Both hands stamped we enter be almost blown backwards by the volume of music and humans within. There is nothing to suggest the notion of a garden. It is more like a multi-level carpark with bars at each corner. People communicate by bellowing at full volume into each other’s ears, point blank. It’s four deep at the bar so I suggest a double round. We reach one of the balconies for a better vantage point into the seething mass of sweaty youth below and as I check my bar receipt all becomes clear. Four pints and two gins and tonics come in at twelve euro. That’s right. We drink these and other drinks, it doesn’t matter what they are, just that they cost less than a cup of tea in a service station. The crowd is young, mainly Brazilian and doesn’t give a fuck. The music is beyond deplorable.
Security is at Gilead levels of authoritarian menace and this is almost certainly to be welcomed. You get the impression that at any moment, if a moth lit down upon a lily in the Turks and Caicos islands perhaps that the whole thing could erupt into a scene of Jägermeister-fuelled fucking carnage. Chicks foaming at the mouth clutching fistfuls of hair, dudes smashing bottles over their own heads etc. The worst we see is an Irish guy in a suit being manhandled to the ground. As he is dragged toward the exit a hand reaches out from the throng and deftly removes the wayfarers from his head. So there you have it. If you are cheap, have no taste in music and little concern for your genital health, this is the place for you. As if you didn’t know.
Words: Conor Stevens
Photo: Killian Broderick
Dicey’s Garden @ The Russell Court Hotel