Friday 20 April 2018

Tell us: what's your favourite pub

Quiet pint: There are pubs to suit your every mood.
Quiet pint: There are pubs to suit your every mood.
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

They say the pubs are changing, that they're not what they used to be. But then, what is? Pubs are only changing because we are. Pubs are just a symptom.

But the beauty is you will always find one to suit your every mood. I've loved them all down the years - late ones, early ones, dirty ones, clean, shiny ones, old man's pubs, young women's pubs, gastro pubs, ghastly pubs, friendly ones, hostile ones, cheerful ones and even depressing ones. I have mixed with all sorts of men and women in pubs down the years, all brought together by the democracy of escaping into these fake communities of drink and idleness and foolish carry on.

Purists will date the decline of the pub from the introduction of women. Some believe that pubs were holy places before that. But, the narrative goes, once women were introduced into the equation, it was only a matter of time before they brought children and then it was only a matter of time before they insisted that proper nourishment be available. Then the windows became see-through and the pub was no longer an escape.

Mobile phones didn't help either, these people would argue, because the barman could always answer the pub phone and lie to your wife that you weren't there. But the mobile phone was like an ineluctable tracking device on these poor men who tried to escape into the pub for a few hours. And, in the end, between the phones, and the food and the families and the daylight, the poor old pub was ruined, the mystique was gone.

But there's still a mystique and an escape whenever you walk through the door of a pub. It is still very much a statement that you are switching off. The work is done and once there is drink taken, nothing else of serious intent will be done for the time being.

The pubs very much mirror our development as a nation too. For a time there we got the pubs we deserved - the bigger and the flashier the better. There were pubs where you could get lost over five floors. Pubs that changed hands for seven-figure sums, pubs that had millions spent kitting them out to have no atmosphere, to be cold, harsh, modern 'spaces'. These were pubs, that, like everything else at that time, could never pay for themselves. Their debt was, as they say, unsustainable.

And, of course, those went out of fashion too quickly for things that cost so much. Nowadays we all want warmth and intimacy and authenticity. And we want food apparently. There was a time when Tayto recognised the unique eating requirements of pub-dwellers. They had a special bag of crisps known as Pub Crisps, which were a larger and darker bag than your average bag of crisps. If that wasn't enough, certain establishments would provide you with a toasted sandwich that cooked, for some reason, in a plastic bag. If food didn't come in a bag back then, it was not seen as fit food for a pub.

Nowadays the only thing you might get in a bag in some pubs is a piece of fish steamed in a paper bag with ginger and soy sauce. Which is eaten with a proper glass of wine, from a regular-sized wine bottle, which may even come from a wine list, that might be written on a blackboard with some notes to tell you what to look for when you taste the wine. And you might only have one of those glasses of wine, if indeed any. You might even go to a pub now purely to eat and not to drink at all! Imagine!

But there are still pubs you might go into with the intention of blocking out the daylight and doing nothing except drinking and talking, or not talking, and you might go into them with the intention of not leaving until you have had a skinful.

There are places too where you might stop on a journey to have a quart, and places where you might go and sit and read the paper over a slow pint. And places where you might go to sit in the sunshine by water and drink cider, and places where you might go to get lost in throngs of noisy people and music.

There are pubs for every mood and occasion, and we want to know your favourites this week for our Great Little Country series.

Send your suggestions to A Great Little Country, c/o 27/32, Talbot St, D1 D01 X2E1, or email

There's a prize from for the best one.

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