Tag Archives: bar

The joy of Mountjoy – Christmas lunch with the Irish convicts

Many years ago I made the mistake of booking a trip to Dublin for Christmas. I love Ireland and I love visiting Ireland – though I haven’t been back for a few years now – however it’s not really a good place to be on Christmas Day because everyone is with their family.

Literally everyone. There isn’t a bar or restaurant open on December the 25th so it’s difficult for a visitor trying to experience the city. Now this may all have changed in recent years, but 20 years ago Dublin was like a ghost town on Christmas Day. The only place to eat and get a drink was in the hotel you were staying in.

I went out there for Christmas with my girlfriend. We tried going out for Christmas lunch at a few nice hotels on Christmas day, but found that they were all just accepting residents for lunch – we would only be able to eat in our hotel.

So we went back and started on lunch. It wasn’t bad and there was a group of Australians in the restaurant all determined to have a party so the drink and conversation was flowing.

Then I noticed a couple of old homeless looking guys walking into the reception and quickly getting escorted out again by the security staff. I called over to the hotel staff and said ‘don’t worry about them; let them in for Christmas lunch and I’ll pay for whatever they order…’ I’d probably been enjoying the Christmas spirit quite a bit by then to make such a rash offer.

The two old guys were delighted. They came and joined our group and regaled us with some outlandish tales of their petty crime in and around Dublin. They claimed to be on Christmas day leave from Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, which we all doubted for a long time, but eventually one of them produced a document stating exactly that – they were prisoners who had been let out to enjoy Christmas day! They had to report back to jail the next day…

We let them continue enjoying the afternoon anyway and had a lot of fun talking to the two of them, however they both eventually passed out – probably from not having a drink on the inside then suddenly finding a free bar. The hotel staff carried them out and called a taxi to take them back to the jail that evening.

It was a crazy experience, but a very memorable Christmas day in Dublin.


Photo by William Murphy licensed under Creative Commons

Steel bars and shutters

I had visited Brazil a few times before I moved here to live, so I was aware that they take security pretty seriously. Supermarkets and banks have armed guards, apartment blocks are surrounded by impenetrable steel cages, and all the police are armed – even the humblest traffic cop.

But when I moved into my house, a few things struck me as unusual. Every window has steel bars – like a jail – and both the front and back doors are protected by big steel bars too.

When I moved in, it was unnerving and unusual. My front door in Muswell Hill opened onto the street, my front door in Ealing was not facing the street, but there was nothing to stop anyone walking up to the door. The open spaces at the front of houses, gardens for example, just don’t really exist here. If a house or apartment black has a garden then it is behind bars so only the residents can possibly access it.

Walking down a main street late at night is also strange. Every shop, bar or restaurant will have steel shutters. I know there are some shops in London that pull shutters down at night, but not every single shop. It’s quite normal to walk past shops late at night where only a pane of glass stands between you and their stock.

This sense of security makes me think of when I have visited Luxembourg. The head of state lives in a palace in the city centre that any member of the public can approach. You can walk up and have a look through the window. They don’t feel any need to erect barriers.

Quite a contrast to the average apartment-dweller in Brazil who only feels safe living inside a cage.

But, with the riots in London and across the UK over the past week, will this fear of the unknown and underclass pervade society so bars go up and steel shutters become essential?

I hope not, but I’m expecting the worst.

Palaisde Luxembourg

Be Seven, the hidden gem of Sumaré

For weeks, if not months, me and my wife have contemplated visiting a really low-key looking bar in Sumaré. It’s somewhere we often see from the bus – as we live locally.

Last night, we were heading home and decided to stop by just to see what it’s like and we got a huge surprise.

As you can see, the exterior is very understated. No neon. No big signs. Not even the name of the bar anywhere. I only realised there was a bar because I could see people drinking beer as I passed by on the bus.

But, go inside and it’s a really nice place with photos of musicians all over the walls, a pool table, and an amazing view from the back of the bar over the whole of São Paulo – even the lamp shades were made from empty bottles of Jack Daniels and a chess board was already laid with chess pieces made of shot glasses filled with Tequila. And it’s not just that it looks nice, the background music veered from Morrissey to The Cure to The Rolling Stones. It’s hard not to enjoy that kind of background muzak.

The cocktails are super tasty and the range is drinks is incredible. We spoke to the owner of the bar and asked her why there is no sign or anything to attract attention to the place and she just said that the people who go there all like it and tell their friends – she has no need to sell it more.

I’ll be back.
Sumaré, São Paulo, at dawn

No St Patrick’s day for me this year

It’s Paddy’s day. Usually that would mean some fun in the evening drinking Guinness and enjoying the several-gigs-in-one-day that the BibleCode Sundays are planning, but this year is a bit different.

It’s true that there are several Irish bars in São Paulo, but they are seen as upmarket joints and are very expensive. I don’t mind spending a lot when it’s a special location, like the bar at the top of the Italia building , with a view over the city from 44 floors up, but some flea-bitten Irish bar that is charging £10 a pint just because it’s “foreign” – no thanks.

The funny thing is that some of these bars even charge you just to get in because they see themselves as foreign and sophisticated. Can you imagine having to pay something like £10 just to walk into your local O’Neill’s Irish theme pub and then paying £10 for each pint of Guinness? And this is in Brazil where £10 goes a long way…

So I might put on my Ireland shirt later and have a quick Brahma before bedtime, after my Portuguese class finishes. Not quite the same, but I will be at the parties back in Europe in spirit.

Private Eye

The Grove opens today in Ealing

I walked past The Grove in Ealing last Friday and it looked open – so I went in. The manager came over and said that they were not really open – it was just a dry run to test all their systems and staff, the pub actually opens today – October 11th.

But, he did let me get a free drink, which was nice.

This is the pub that used to be Finnegan’s Wake. FW was not a bad place – usually full of TVU students and with a focus on live music and comedy. You never went to FW for a nice meal.

The Grove seems to have turned all that around. It’s much smarter and the emphasis is clearly on offering good food in a smart pub – although I never got to see the menu, it looks like a gastro-pub and I couldn’t see the old stage area anymore.

They will need to work hard to capture this entirely new audience, but it should work – good luck to them!

The Grove, Ealing