The Pub. One of the best aspect of living in Britain or Ireland. Something I really miss every time I spend even just a few days in Poland. I have to admit that there are periods when I might visit them a bit too often (from my liver’s perspective at least) but it is such a fantastic institution, how could one resist?
So during my recent trip to Ireland I couldn’t miss the opportunity of visiting a good Dublin pub. Our choice (based on a recommendation of one former Dubliner) was The Stags Head. Located at 1 Dame Court, it is not far from the touristy Temple Bar area but far enough to escape the worst aspects of its mass tourism. At first glance it looked like many other historic pubs; dark wood panelling, stained glass, and a real stag’s head above the bar. It could even be seen as kitschy if it wasn’t also so real at the same time. It is hard to explain what I mean but it was different than all those bland corporate pubs which try to look like the “real deal”. Surprisingly it is actually run by a pub chain.
But the best aspect of this fantastic watering hole was the bar staff. I have to say they offered the best service I have ever experienced in any pub, in any country. Ever. On the night we popped in there were only two guys serving but they managed without the slightest issue, despite quite a sizeable crowd of tourists and locals. They were even collecting and washing glasses themselves. One would expect a frenzied chaos or unfriendliness in such situation. And one couldn’t be more wrong.
First, they were fast, really fast. I have never experienced such a speedy service in well over 8 years of living in London, in fact I wish we had bar staff at least half as fast as those guys. But, at the same time, they were not running about like headless chickens. No, you could see that their moves were perfected over years of experience so it almost resembled some sort of ballet performance. They were definitely not the typical students behind a bar, like in many pubs, nor were they underpaid temporary staff who hate the job. No, they were true professionals who definitely knew what they were doing and they genuinely looked like they were enjoying it.
Second, they really knew their drinks. Of course the Guinness was poured perfectly (according to my cousin who is a bit of a Guinness enthusiast) but they also recommended us some good Irish whiskeys. I’m recently developing a bit of a whisky passion so I really appreciated some knowledgeable advice about the large selection they had. And they weren’t simply trying to sell me the most expensive one, no it was a genuine advice based on questions about my personal preferences. I started my whiskey session with a Red Breast, followed by a Green Spot before trying the incredibly peaty (and delicious) Connemara. At the end I was recommended a glass of Powers 12 years old. It was damn good.
Most importantly they were a really fun guys. They were cracking jokes almost every second sentence but it wasn’t an artificial performance. They really were the masters of the good banter. It didn’t matter if patrons were the stereotypical American tourists or locals, they were chatting and joking with everyone.
For example one American woman wanted to order an Irish whiskey with ice and a slice of lemon. This weird request started a chain of great jokes and exchanges between the barman and some locals. I really couldn’t stop laughing. The whole situation could in some other place be interpreted as rudeness but somehow here it made a perfect sense. Most importantly the woman herself didn’t seem to be offended.
Also, when I asked for a jug of water, so I could add few drops to my whiskey, the barman noted that you only add water to Scotch whisky as it is so horribly you can’t drink it without it. The Irish whiskey is good on its own. When I was trying to insist saying that if I don’t add water then I drink too fast the barman philosophically said: “Life’s not a race.” It became the catchphrase of our whole trip around Ireland.
We have spend a good few hours in the Stags Head and it was definitely the highlight of our brief visit do Dublin. Any time I’m in 100 miles radius of Dublin I will make sure I’ have time to visit this true gem and you should do likewise.
Remember, life’s not a race.