Bar review: The Idle Hour
Our anonymous barfly trawls the country looking for the perfect pub, so you don't have to
The Idle Hour, Albert Quay, Cork/ 021 4965704
In Dublin, The Idle Hour would be vacuum-packed with h*psters, as it fulfils practically all the requirements of the classic dive-bar.
What's missing is the preening self-awareness – which, it turns out, is the crucial ingredient. Lacking ironic air quotes, what you get instead is a quirky outpost with an atmosphere unlike anything you will encounter in the rest of the country – or Cork, for that matter.
One of the reasons The Idle Hour has been allowed to carve out its own, exceedingly distinctive space is that Leeside has thus far resisted the cult of skinny pants and knowing beards. Seriously, you could pass an entire day in Cork without someone referring to you as 'duuude' (hashtag: incredible). In the shadow of the docklands, The Idle Hour has thus followed an evolutionary trail all of its own. And while at first inspection, you might mistake it for Munster's answer to Dice Bar or Anseo how wrong you would be.
Stepping through the doorway, you have the pleasantly disorientating sense of tumbling 40 years back in time – from the vintage wainscoting to the stick-like furniture, the Idle Hour feels like a carefully preserved example of a spit and sawdust local circa 1973. You can almost hear Mott the Hoople on the speakers, smell the lingering spirits of the cigarette smoke and room temperature stout.
All of which should prepare you for the slightly feverish atmosphere that can seem to take hold on a busy night. It's one of those watering holes, almost non-existent in Dublin now, where it can be difficult to discern where the dance floor ends and the seated area begins. Stuffed higgledy-piggledy into the irregular shaped lounge, regulars don't really do boundaries – on the way to the bar, you might have to push through an impromptu disco mosh or a Hen party singing along to Don Williams on the stereo (for good or ill, the music policy is anything goes with a vengeance).
Among natives, the Idle Hour has a reputation as a place to go for a crazy evening – on the understanding a crazy evening is what you're in the mood for. One of the city's few remaining early houses, it brings that faint whiff of the other-worldly you get with pubs where the clientele varies madly (the punters you'll find throwing back designer beers on Friday evening are a world removed from those chugging stout at 7am on Monday). The best – and maybe worst – thing we can say, is that truly there is nowhere like it. Sensitive suppers may not be inclined towards repeat visits – but its crazy, hazy atmosphere is worth sampling at least once.
Old school all the way.
Not exactly vast – but clean and functioning.
Beer served with a quip and a crinkled smile.
The Beamish is worth swooning over.