Stoneybatter is surely not in need of another decent pub. There are entire suburbs without a stand-up boozer to their name (Terenure, I’m looking at you) and here comes Manor Street thumbing its nose at those of us who live across the city with another fine addition to its collection of watering holes. Indeed, that very fact is probably why this place sat rotting for so many years. Maybe it’s Grangegorman, maybe it’s the town’s general boominess, but the Belfry is back.
The Belfry stands directly opposite venerable warhorse J. Walsh’s. The red-and-blue paint job and big gold Celtic script that made it so noticeable as a derelict pub have all been ditched. On our visit the shop face was simply plain black and it’s not a bad look at all.
After an extremely bracing crosstown cycle in the biting December cold we stuck the head in to find the interior similarly minimal and dark, with black ceilings and walls, the floors uncarpeted wood. Many spots struggle to give themselves a new identity, missing the sweet-spot between maintaining a link to the past and giving themselves a new lick of paint. This Belfry is not, one imagines, the Belfry of old (some salvaged tables and chairs aside), or even the Daly’s of even older days that was there before that. But if Victoriana and snugs are your thing, there are four pubs you can see from the door of this place that will scratch that itch. What they have going on here is equally welcoming and nicely restrained.
We settle in a nook down the back, one of many places to hide away in a room that’s spacious without ever feeling too open. While resting our cold bones on the couch our pints of Guinness (€4.80 and absolutely cracking) are dropped over to us. Their selection of tunes includes lots of James Brown and then, randomly, Pavement’s Rattled by the Rush, which pleases me no end. There’s a yard to the side which is still being fixed up, but with mention of a food cart being installed down the line, which could work a treat.
The bar populated quickly, and they can’t all have been reviewing the place, so it looks like the Belfry was already ringing other peoples’ bells too. Despite the stiff local competition, I have a feeling this place will work just fine.
Words: Ian Lamont
Photo: Killina Broderick