Words: Oisín Murphy-Hall / Images: Adam Hartley
Anton is taking on all comers on the Street Fighter 2 machine at the back of P. Mac’s. He has just ‘hustled’ (his own term) a young Spanish man out of twenty euro, which he agrees to collect in Jaeger-bombs (‘Three Jaegers, one Red Bull, hombre!’) while I sit at a large and empty table behind him, admiring both his skill and the practiced, growing disdain with which he treats every competitor, the mark of a man with supreme confidence in his ability, as well as an enthusiasm for the Jaeger-bombs it begets. ‘Who’s your daddy?!’ he says, disgustingly, for the fifth time in as many minutes.
P. Mac’s, formerly Bia Bar, is a sister pub to Cassidy’s of Westmoreland Street, both watering holes of relative renown remade in the image of a post-Macken Dublin. Where its sibling is unconscionably loud (and maybe a little too much like the Bernard Shaw), P. Mac’s strikes an altogether more tasteful note, with decor matched thoughtfully to the existing architecture: the impressive oriel window is embraced, in a corner which is home to the venue’s largest table, looking out onto Stephen’s Street. An embossed black ceiling coupled with candlelight gives the once airy and cavernous space a much cosier feel than before, while also going some way to taking the sharpness off of some of the more unusual adornments on the walls (including golden mirrors, and a mural of Luke Skywalker riding a bantha). Four nicely partitioned, separate snugs (three small, one large) are an indication of the more relaxed, after-work vibe the place is aiming for, and an extensive range of beers on tap (including Asahi, not bad) put it a notch above other nearby venues for an evening drink, for variety’s sake alone.
On the negative side, however, the tables, though pretty, are too large (both in terms of surface area and height relative to the available seating) to sustain conversation that doesn’t involve raising one’s voice, while the unavoidably long walk to the bathroom you may recall from the Bia Bar days remains as tedious as ever. The Guinness, too, is of the mealy sort you’d expect from an airport bar, or somewhere in central Europe and, while P. Mac’s is decidedly not aimed at the Guinness crowd, it pays to get something so simple and ubiquitous right. In spite of these minor flaws, it’s instantly one of the nicer (read: not tourist-oriented, not Kehoe’s) places to go for a south city centre drink, and manages to feel decidedly un-hectic even on the busy Friday night we attend.
Having run out of people to hustle, Anton eventually sidles back over to our table. His shoes rasp up off the Red Bull-stained floor. ‘That’s the Pax Bisonica, baby,’ he tells me. ‘One.’
28/30 Lower Stephens Street