Restaurant Review: Delightful Anti-Social experience in Dublin 8

Leslie Williams visited two pubs that serve food - one of Dublin’s most traditional pubs, Ryans, on Parkgate St, and one of Dublin’s newest, Anti Social, on Francis St.
Restaurant Review: Delightful Anti-Social experience in Dublin 8
Anti-Social bar on Francis Street. Photograph Moya Nolan

Irish people love their pubs, not because we drink too much, but because we love to talk. The point of the pub is a conversation; the beer just helps it along.

It is distressing to hear pub owners on the radio fighting back tears about the loss of business during the pandemic, but as they say themselves, they need our support, not sympathy. I visited two pubs that serve food to see how they were coping. I chose one of Dublin’s most traditional pubs, Ryans, on  Parkgate St, and one of Dublin’s newest, Anti Social, on Francis St.

Anti Social is the brainchild of Marcus O’Laoire. Marcus has been a musician, a comedian, and a chef, but he found fame as a DJ and promoter. In a Hot Press interview last year (he was on the cover), Marcus talked of the "generosity of hospitality" and "inclusive... community-focused club nights". So in 2019, he  opened a pub on Francis St (I thought he was mad).

I visited Anti Social on a Tuesday, expecting a quiet night, but every socially-distant seat was occupied all evening. One of the coolest guys in Ireland has opened one of  its coolest pubs. Our big, button-back armchairs offered gentleman’s club comfort in a room that felt more like a dance club’s chill-out space (eg, neon palm trees and a Donkey Kong machine). Staff were supremely hospitable and welcoming and checked on us regularly — we loved the place and so, clearly, did  the beautiful young people  who were our fellow patrons.

When Anti Social opened, late in 2019, it was more craft-beer-focused, but with the success of their cocktail delivery service,  since they reopened up to 60% of their sales are of cocktails, including dramatic 'tower drinks' (€45 for Aperol Spritz; €38 for beer).

As well as conventional macro-beers on draught, there is a diverse craft range from Ireland, Belgium, the US, and Germany. My guest’s Westmalle Dubbel was as good as always and my Rothaus Pils as good as I remember from that summer I worked as a dishwasher in the Black Forest. Rothaus is from the state brewery of Baden-Württemberg. That's  a worthy pursuit of any State: Quality beer.

Toasties are made with fine-quality Bretzel bread and Irish farmhouse cheeses and, inevitably, cost €9. My 'Big Daddy Buff' had tangy, spicy barbecue chicken, Cashel Blue and Scallion cream cheese; yet, its gooey gorgeousness was surpassed by the 'Big Cheese' toastie — Cashel Blue bechamel, smoked Gubbeen, Coolea, and Derg cheddar. All those marvelous cheeses did, perhaps, meld together, but with a little concentration I could pick out the salty Cashel from the smoky Gubbeen from the punchy Coolea and Derg. As this is a pub, we  had more drinks before our time was up: Kinnegar Rustbucket, Orval, Green Spot Whiskey, and creamy, bitter-sweet espresso martini for dessert. The bill came to under €75 and included two drinks gratis, as it was our first visit.

Ryan's Parkgate St is a gorgeous  Victorian pub, full of mahogany and brass, built between 1905 and 1910 — these days, it is part of the FX Buckley group, which has restored it beautifully.

Ryans, 28 Parkgate Street, Dublin 8. Tel: 01677 6096
Ryans, 28 Parkgate Street, Dublin 8. Tel: 01677 6096

Ryan’s has a claim to the 'best pint in Dublin', mainly, it was said, because executives from the brewery across the road ate their lunch there. I don’t drink that  brand these days, because most craft brewers (and breweries in Cork) do it better, but for tradition's sake, I succumbed and  it was as good as I’ve tasted.

FX Buckley runs a full restaurant upstairs, but we were looking for pub food. Slow-roast chicken wings (€8), with a maple-and-sesame glaze, were sticky, sweet, and meaty and a perfect foil for my bitter black beer; and my guest’s chowder was properly creamy and packed with shellfish.

For mains, a steak sandwich (€16) was correctly cooked and came on good bread, with a side of fat, crispy, beef-dripping chips — I might just come back and order two portions of these, they were so good. My beef-and-Guinness pie (€16) was also excellent — meaty, tender beef in a rich sauce, under a puff-pastry topping. Desserts of crème brûlée and lemon tart were also good and our  bill came to just €98 — exceptional value, given that I added in a glass of Castelnau de Suduiraut Sauternes.

The Irish pub is a precious, glorious thing and desperately needs proper support: Every one we lose creates a wound in a community and in our very souls.

  • Anti Social, 101 Francis St, Dublin 8; Tel: 087 7082848;; Intstagram: @antisocial.dublin;

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