Anton’s sporadic work as a dog catcher has brought him a proficient working knowledge of Dublin geography, and its many diverse communities. “Without going into the suburbs, you’d catch probably the most expensive dogs up around here,” he tells me, as we walk up Stoneybatter’s Manor Street. “Or definitely the most expensive relative to size. The old street plan is a good environment for the chase as well: feels like it has a lot of history to it. Dogs, no matter how expensive, can’t understand history as a concept, and that gives you the advantage as a catcher.” He seems to know what he’s talking about, and his words betray a real admiration for the place. Of course, as with any gentrified/gentrifying community, Stoneybatter has to go with its upscale canine population its own flagship gastropub: The L Mulligan Grocer.
The conspicuous consumption of artisanal food and ale is beyond ironising in any meaningful sense. L Mulligan’s gourmet Scotch eggs and hugely impressive selection of authentic world beers are presented in an earthy decor that evokes the rusticity and self-sufficiency of the Manor farm along with the “Joycean”, gourmandised consumerism of the early 20th Century, in self-conscious reference to times when the ruling class, as Fredric Jameson puts it, “projected a class-conscious and unapologetic image of itself and enjoyed its privileges without guilt.” In the present day, this mode of consumption is a bulwark against the sense that bourgeois values may be being eroded, or have already been: of course, to be significantly bourgeois in the first instance, these values must reassert themselves against something, symbolised in this case by non-craft beer and normal Scotch eggs. Jameson was talking about certain reactionary ghost stories when he observed that they “[did] not so much express belief as project a longing to believe and the nostalgia for an era when belief seemed possible,” but, in fact, he may as well have been talking about L. Mulligan’s.
Its fantasy is possessed of a fierce ambivalence. Note the menus: A4 sheets which are woven into the pages of old books. This in stark contrast to the Golden era, when books and menus were kept strictly separate; it can be said with some certainty, however, that both certainly existed, in whatever conditions. Functionalising the nostalgic item in this way surely empties it of whatever significance it might have had, certainly as something to be read, but also as a symbol of the idealised past it represents. We seem to be occupying strange version of the past, in which familiar artifacts remain, but stripped of any purpose other than to aid modern-day patterns of consumption. A friendly barman fetches two bottles of Duvel (€6, excellent) from a fridge bearing the inscription: “Ceci n’est pas un beer fridge”. Of course, the sign saying “Grocer” on the front of the building performs a somewhat similar function.
Anton is talking about his on-off employment again. “The contract you’d get with the city is okay, but the reality is that private dog catching is the future,” he explains. “The nature of the game is we’ll be able to undercut them, while also providing a better service. That’s what matters to people nowadays.” We toast to private dog catching. He continues. “The boys who work for the city, they can do a job: sure. But they don’t know what it means to really catch a dog. I mean that. You could work for the city for years and never truly catch a dog.” I’ll believe it.
L. Mulligan Grocer
01 670 9889
Words: Oisín Murphy-Hall