Brand New Retro: Forty Shades of Brown – Five Classic Dublin Pubs

Posted September 8, 2020 in Bar Reviews, More

NCH – 25 sep-3 oct-22 Desktop

“Grogan’s is the only pub in Dublin that includes its own sobriety test: if you find yourself thinking of buying some of the art on the walls, it’s time to call for a taxi.”

While strolling through a deserted Dublin city centre during lockdown, I bumped into Ben Walsh, an old friend and pub reviewer with Totally Dublin. But, with the pubs all shut, we had to settle for catching up over a takeaway coffee.

“John Lennon was right with, You don’t know what you got, until you lose it,” I said, before asking, “Which pub would we have gone to, if they were open?” Ben replied immediately with a list of classic, cosy, pre-19th century pubs all within a stone’s throw of Grafton St. When I went home later, I dug out some old photos and reviews to compare with Ben’s favourites. Here’s Ben on his top five:

I grew up going to The Stag’s and Dame Lane is still my favourite outdoor boozing spot. Even with the slightly sterile Louis Fitzgerald vibe inside, it’s a champion pub. The Parlour Bar upstairs has been beautifully restored with vintage flocked wallpaper and is a great place to meet people in the run-up to Christmas – but the less said about the basement the better.

I got used to going to Toner’s when I lived on Baggot St, and on a quiet evening when I could bagsie the snug, nowhere better.

Kehoe’s is a beauty and a standout racing bar, with the staff running a tipping competition every Cheltenham.

Grogan’s is the only pub in Dublin that includes its own sobriety test: if you find yourself thinking of buying some of the art on the walls, it’s time to call for a taxi.

The Long Hall is a rarity: a “Gin Palace” in the old London style, with fragmented mirrors and a clock proclaiming “Correct Time” – no messing with sneaky fifteen-minute adjustments.

It still looks much as it did in Phil Lynott’s day when it was the interior setting for the video to “Old Town”.


And here are the reviews from the 1960s/70s…



Extract from A Guide to Dublin Pubs 1976

If you want to find a rich medley of Dublin pub-goers, encompassing artists and artisans, poets and postmen, you’ll find them mingling here in this great and friendly hostelry. Under the mastermind of genial manager Paddy O’Brien all goes hummingly. After all, Paddy used to cope with the torn-shirted Brendan Behan exercising his lungs in rebel songs, with poet Patrick Kavanagh in his gloom insulting any innocent by-stander or the gentle giant painter Sean O’Sullivan inadvertently upsetting six tables. Yes, this is indeed a place for real Dublin company – and excellent drink.



Extract from Publin 1969

Its forty shades of brown, from nicotine ceiling to mahogany counter (not an inch of plastic in sight) stamps it as the genuine article, and the details are such as to delight the eye of the solitary drinker with historical appreciation: match strikers, orotund barrels, a signal-box row of pump-handles, alas now for decoration only, and a businesslike bank of grocery drawers. It begins with a snug, continues with a long bar properly partitioned, and ends in a kind of lounge with a couple of soft seats. Something of a split personality pub – solid pint drinkers by day, writers, artists and their entourage by night, particularly Saturdays. Attractively-priced pints



Extract from Publin 1969

This splendid pub is the doyen of Publin traditional: largely on account of its sheer scale. There is a comforting solidity about it which bespeaks the leisure, self confidence and ostentation of a bygone age with the woodwork as massive as the marble counter.



Extract from Irish Pubs of Character 1969

One of Ireland’s oldest and most attractive pubs, well worth a visit. It has one of the best collections of antique glass and paintings to be seen in any pub. It is full of characters and is over 200 years old, still maintaining a genuine atmosphere.



Extract from A Guide to Dublin Pubs 1976

Surrounded by chic boutiques and elegant lounges, Kehoe’s makes a refreshing change. You are once more back in old Dublin, untouched by trendiness or the vagaries of vogue. Apart from the richly-carved woodwork, dating back well over a century, there are no concessions to contemporary gimmickry. It’s an honest-to-goodness pub of the tried and true variety.

Words: Brian McMahon

Photos/Drawings Credits:

Grogan’s 1977 Roy Esmonde for A Guide To Dublin Pubs

The Long Hall from Geo Special Magazine 1986 Photographer Unknown

Other images from Publin, photographers not credited


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