Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dinner: Brazen Head

Originally posted on Posterous, April 30, 2012

Husband still asleep; tea and time to think. Still full from dinner last night, which we ate at the Brazen Head—the oldest pub in Dublin, and possibly, as Marie so rightly points out, in Europe. According to the books, there's been some kind of pub/ tavern/eatery on the site since 1198—which beats Vienna's Gosser Bierklinik by a good 500 years.

We went out of our way to walk along the Liffey on the way—and had it to ourselves, since rain only deters lesser mortals. On arriving, you fend for yourself by poking your head into one after another of the warren of small rooms to find an empty table. We ended up in a cozy side room, at a small table against the an iron stove that looked as though it used to do duty as both heat and cooking. It was snug and warm enough without, thanks to the crowd, and the candle atop it was an inviting touch. A bit more disconcerting was the coffin against which I was leaning. Propped against the wall, it's apparently been there long enough to be part of the decor.

What to drink? Guinness, of course—and the books are right; it's an entirely different critter here than in the States. It's a great deal smoother, and far less bitter. No clue if it's less hops, or a different kind of them, but it was very suave, with a velvety head that clung to the sides of the glass like a cold egg to a plate as I drained it. If the gods drink beer, surely this is their choice.

The first glass done, we had another with the meal. Since the venue was so traditional, we went that way with the food, as well: beef-and-Guinness stew for me, and lamb stew for Tom. Mine came served inside the biggest Yorkshire pudding I've ever seen, and had chunks of meat half the size of my palm, tender enough to knock apart with the spoon it arrived with. Jostling with mushrooms, celery, carrots, and a few other veggies in a rich brown gravy, and topped by a double scoop of mashed potatoes, it was redolent of rosemary and thyme—indescribably delicious. Tom's Irish stew was nearly as good, though he had to twist my arm to make me honor my promise to swap plates with him halfway through the meal. I could only manage one slice of the excellent wholemeal bread that arrived with it, and dessert unthinkable. (Famous first....)

The ambience was friendly and low-key, with a blend of local and foreign folk. I caught French, Canadian English, and what I think was Polish in addition to the local accent, and conversation amongst tables was easy and companionable—hard not to be, considering their proximity.
The music was interestingly eclectic and not loud enough to impede conversation. I caught the Stones (Angie), Blondie (Heart of Glass), Dire Straits (Money for Nothing), the Beatles (All You Need is Love), and Dido (Two Little Gods).

The food was good enough to have carried the evening by itself—but the people made it an experience. Going back before we leave town? Hellz, yeah.

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