Wednesday 26 June 2019

Oscar's banishes bad memories of Smithfield Square

Barfly

Glamour: Sophisticated ambiance and beautiful decor make for enchanting surroundings
Glamour: Sophisticated ambiance and beautiful decor make for enchanting surroundings

Ed Power

We still shudder at the memory of our visit many, many years ago to the space now occupied by Oscar's in Smithfield. Hands down it was one of the most dispiriting evenings we've passed in a pub.

Oscar's 6 Smithfield square, Dublin, (01) 529 7341

There were several blaring televisions and lots of people in loose-hanging replica sports shirts cheering on a soccerball team called 'Yoonited' (no idea). Nothing wrong with that but, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, patrons had thought to bring their very young children along, so that they could roam free between the seats, bored and scampish. There must have been half a dozen pre-schoolers larking about while their parents consumed endless trays of sloppy pints and jumped to their feet, the better to shout at the telly. What a depressing vista it was.

For these reasons we approached Oscar's with understandable trepidation – our unease fuelled by the knowledge that the Ireland international team was playing that very night. Would we be assailed by blaring commentary, roaring baldies and free-range toddlers? The first clue that things had moved on came as we approached the door: "Oscar's" was stenciled in smart art-deco lettering, conjuring, in Barfly's excitable mind at least, the jazz age sensibility of F Scott Fitzgerald.

Change, we sensed, was afoot (let's just say roaring twenties hat-tips were not a distinguishing feature the last occasion we passed this way). Further surprises awaited inside: gone were the offensive TVs, replaced by an Enya-load of fat, slow-burning candles and bustling staff.

There also were squidgy leather arm-chairs, gleaming whiskey and gin bottles arranged behind the bar like museum exhibits and lots of craft brew taps (as well as mainstream beers because, let's be honest, not everyone's a snob).

Any downsides? Well, the lounge crew are undoubtedly very attentive and maybe that will make you feel uncomfortable. Certainly all eyes darted towards the door as Barfly shambled in from the cold in what we would have liked to think was a non-menacing fashion (was it our bright orange back-pack?).

Apart from that it's hard to point out many actual flaws (we came to sup not to dine so cannot vouch for the menu, save to point out it is extensive).

Without question, part of the charm must be attributed to novelty – how strange to come upon a watering hole in this part of town that doesn't plumb the depths of dive bar cliche.

Yes we all love a decent dive bar – but does Smithfield/Stoneybatter truly require so many? Amid all the pitch black interiors and tattooed barmen, Oscar's offers something different – a silky, sophisticated ambiance quite unique for Dublin.

It is also a valuable addition to Smithfield which, with its art-house cinema, pizza joints and arts spaces, is finally, finally starting to gentrify in earnest.

There's an argument it may have lost some of its old charm in the process – but if that means more pubs like Oscar's, frankly the transformation can't proceed fast enough.

 

FINER DETAILS

Bling Factor
Oooh, exceedingly blingy — The Great Gatsby meets Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal video. What's not to enjoy?

Toilets
Very nice indeed — we would continue to wax enthusiastic but frankly we worry we'd sound a little weird banging on about a toilet in such a fashion.

Service

Extremely attentive — that's what you came for right?

Drinks
A fair and balanced mix of the Usual Suspects (Heino etc) and Franciscan Well/ O'Hara's craft brews.

Day & Night

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