About to get hammered by the English?

A Wetherspoon’s pub has opened in Dublin as the Brits attempt to take us on at what we do best.

WHEN it was announced that the English chain Wetherspoon’s were to open a pub on our hallowed turf, there were raised eyebrows. Some people said they heard the creaking of funeral casks in Glasnevin Cemetery, as the spirits of Irish rebel leaders turned in their graves.

“They can come here and take our high streets, with their H&Ms and their M&Ss,” went the refrain. “They can take our handsome men and put them in their boy bands. But never, never shall their pubs invade our nation.”

The theory was that nobody does pubs better than the Irish, so why would we need an English pub here. Was there a plot to get us all hooked on warm bitter and slot machines? What exactly were Wetherspoon’s playing at? Last Wednesday, I ventured out to Blackrock, in south Dublin, to Wetherspoon’s first pub in Ireland, The Three Tun Tavern, which had recently opened.

The pub dominates the village. That could be down to the pretty window boxes or maybe the curious name, but it is hard to miss. Having bouncers outside the door at 7pm is a little strange, but that’s obviously the policy and perhaps Wetherspoon’s don’t want to get tagged in Ireland with the ‘rugged’ image they have in Britain. Judging by one or two of the pot-bellied characters that I spotted when walking in, that might prove a little difficult, but there was a curiously eclectic mix of people.

Of course, the skinny-jeans brigade are nowhere near the place, and it was still too early for the mini-skirted umpa-lumpas, but young families and pensioners sat happily among post-work suits, and almost everyone was ordering food. For a Wednesday evening, in what is normally a slightly dead village, the place was packed and, for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why. Was it that weird curiosity we have about all things British? Maybe it was the rumoured low cost.

Anyway, I sat at my table, number 38, and looked at the menu, which was presented on an A4 piece of paper. It informed me, along with pictures, in case I was illiterate, that I was, or would be when I ordered, part of the Wednesday Chicken Club. “Get in,” I muttered before checking myself for such blatant Anglomania.

I was informed that to order I had to go up to the bar and give my number, where I’d also get my drink. The bar staff, who were probably still finding their feet, were all dressed in white shirts and black trousers, and they all had cards around their necks. That had the slightly numbing effect of making me think I was getting a flight somewhere and I was worried my meal might be interrupted by bing-boings and inaudible announcements. As I approached the counter, I fully expected the barman to greet me with an ‘All-woy guvna’, but he just said ‘Hello, can I take your order.’ Disappointed, I moved on to my next attempt at getting a bit of banter going and asked for a pint of Guinness. Of course, as has been well-documented, Wetherspoon’s are not stocking it and I think they knew I knew. In fact, the barman’s face read something like: ‘Number 38, go back to your table’. So I just got a glass of Beamish (€1.98) and did exactly that.

There, I got talking to 38-year-old Barra O’Gallachoir, who lives nearby.

“Really, it’s more of a restaurant, in a way,” he said. “It has the carpets like the English pubs, doesn’t it. It seems grand. What’s the food like?”

I had ordered the chicken strips and chips, which came after 15 minutes. The patterned, blue plate was rather scantily clad for €9.95, but it did the trick and actually filled a gap for the rest of the evening — maybe even a little too much.

Right next to me, Sally Joyce was having food with a friend. Sally was born in Galway, but spent her formative years in London.

“I think it’s nice,” she said with a shrug of her shoulders. “Nicely decorated, cosy and welcoming. It was better than I expected. Wetherspoon’s have been around a long time in England, there is one in nearly every town and village. Over here, it’s new, it’s a novelty; an English pub in Ireland. I think people are generally curious.”

With the chain expected to open a pub on Paul St, in Cork City, Corkonians can expect something along the same lines soon.

In terms of an invasion, there’s nothing to worry about. Not just yet, anyway.


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