The Shakespeare, or The Hop House on Parnell Street is the perfect embodiment of the duality that the street now represents. Once a dingy local that was the favourite haunt of councillors alongside the now defunct Paddy Conway’s, the Shakespeare has now turned into a pub-cum-restaurant that serves good beer and tasty food in a decidedly unpretentious atmosphere.
The mix in influences is visible throughout the décor, when you step inside you’re greeted with the typical interior of a cosy Dublin pub, albeit with the walls knocked into the adjacent Kimchi restaurant. The Guinness is expertly poured by the Korean bartenders, who seem to flit between roles as waiters for Kimchi and Shakespeare bar staff with ease. Head out to the spacious smoking area and you’ll find traditional Korean murals covering the high walls. Sitting at the far end of the smoking area we found some of the kitchen staff popping round behind us to grab some mint from a makeshift window box. It’s clear that these guys know how to utilise the space they have to their advantage.
One element of proceedings that has continued to astound me is the incredibly felicitous loyalty scheme. Buy yourself just six pints and you can avail of either one free or a free meal – pretty much the ideal state of affair for cash-strapped students on the tear, or lazy piss-heads who would prefer to have some Korean chicken wings delivered straight to their tables instead of making the one-minute journey over to Kimchi. The beer selection has broadened considerably in recent times also, with more craft options available to complement the Asian beer choice as standard.
Considering that most of Parnell Street’s pubs verge on scary – the nearby Welcome Inn was used as a set for Love/Hate – the Shakespeare boasts a much more congenial atmosphere, as well as a refreshing riff on the city centre pub that isn’t trying to create a certain affectation. Instead it’s managed to successfully mesh the two businesses it’s trying to run without compromising the quality of either. As a result it’s probably the only place in town where you can get both a great pint and a side of edamame without having to sit on mismatched chairs and eat them out of a vintage gramophone while feeling like an arsehole. If you were looking for a city-centre haven in which to spend your hard-earned cash then look no further, you’re home.
Words: Emily Carson
160/161 Parnell Street, Dublin 1