An English pub in Ireland – sure, what could go wrong?
HONESTLY, will those bloody English ever leave us alone? We've had 800 years of oppression, only to finally throw off the yoke of perfidious Albion and how do they repay us?
They stealth bomb us with a famously Brit boozer that doesn't even sell Guinness.
Yes, JD Wetherspoons opened in Blackrock, Co Dublin, last week and we all knew what to expect – wall-to-wall Premier League football and some angry bald man with a dangerously red face shouting at a peroxide blonde called Sharon while people gather around to scream "leave it ahhht" at the warring parties.
Well, that's what we have come to expect from English pubs, is it not? Or is that just the Queen Vic?
As it turns out, Wetherspoons – or The Three Tun as the appalled residents of Blackrock village now have to call it – is notable for the things it lacks, rather than the things it actually has.
So, for starters, there were no angry, puffing, red-faced geezers of a certain age shouting at some hapless slapper, which is always a relief. But then it was a Thursday afternoon and they tend to sniff at that class of behaviour in 'Rock. Well, at that time of the day they do, anyway.
In fact, the thing that strikes you most when you walk in is that it looks remarkably like the kind of pub you could expect to find in a place like, oh I dunno, Blackrock.
It's clean, with the still freshly painted smell that will, like all other pubs, soon be replaced by the pungent whiff of stale beer and unfulfilled dreams.
And there's no denying that the staff are as friendly and welcoming as you would expect from anybody who works in a joint which is expected to have an even more abysmal future than one of those saps who invested five grand in Garth Brooks cowboy hats.
But they offer craft beers! They are cheaper than the competition! The only thing that's likely to be battered in this place is the scampi!
And yes, all these things are true and all are very commendable. In fact, when you walk into the place for the first time, you may as well be walking into any upper mid-market hostelry.
An averagely diligent bar fly will be disconcerted by the fact that there is no bar to drink at – and a bar with no bar is not, as far as I'm concerned, a proper bar.
Sure, you can order your drink from that spot but must then retreat to a table and sit there like you're waiting for a date. Or just killing time. It's wrong. Every pub should have a bar.
But what about the Guinness, I hear you burp?
Well, they took that away and replaced it with weak and insipid hipster imports - in this case, they have managed to somehow unearth obscure stouts like, um, Murphy's, and something vile and unpronounceable called 'Beamish'.
But when the going gets tough, the tough get drinking, and so I sampled ales and lagers with names like 'Ghost Ship' and 'Broadside' and tried to conceal my disappointment when I discovered they were out of Hobgoblin, if only on the grounds that anything with a name like that must be sampled.
Wetherspoons ... sorry, the Three Tun, have been quick to boast about their food and there's no denying that the menu is extensive. I went for the chicken and ribs combo on the grounds that any place that can mess up that dish can't be trusted. It was grand – and better than you have any right to expect for €11.95.
In fact, everything about the place is ... grand. It's not some terrifying English drinking den that looks like Hitler's bunker manned by EDL cast-offs and none of the punters started to either cry or projectile vomit when I was there, which is always a good sign. And you can eat well and have a few pints for 20 quid.
So, English pub chain comes to Ireland, dumps our national tipple from the menu and still the world keeps on turning?
I was about to say that maybe this means we're growing up.
And then I remembered the whole Garth Brooks thing.