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A strange phenomenon is gripping our cities the Irish theme pub. Jonathon Trew does the rounds in search of the perfect pint of Guinness.

A colleague was interviewing Shane MacGowan in Filthy McNasty's in London recently and before settling down to business the inimitable MacGowan politely enquired as to


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where the interviewer had come froru.

E ‘Edinburgh.’ she replied. With a

lifetime of boozing behind him one

thought sprung to the London/Irish

troubador's mind ‘Ah. Scruffy

Murphy's.‘ The journalist explained there was a bit more to Auld Reekie than one pub and that a city had in fact

been built around the establishment but

Mr MacGowan was having none of it.

High praise indeed fora pub that‘s been

open just over a year. In that time two other Irish theme pubs have opened their doors to a




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Ye Old: World: charm thirsty Edinburgh public Biddy Mulligan’s which opened in December in the Grassmarket last year and Finnegan‘s Wake on the site of the former Preservation Hall in Victoria Street which started dispensing the

three hostelries are owned by three different breweries. they are all within two hundred yards of each other and Joe Public seems intent on packing them out tighter than a charter flight from Dublin to the States during the World Cup.

This is all somewhat bizarre in a city with a small Irish population and no cohesive Irish community on the scale of Glasgow‘s. Correspondineg there is no Edinburgh eqrrivalcnt of Glasgow‘s Sharkey‘s, Heraghty‘s or Queen‘s Park Bar Irish bars. run by Irish people. frequented by Glaswegian Irish and where. until relatively recently. you could always hear Gaelic being spoken by someone. The triangle of themed bars around Victoria Street don‘t form the epicentre of a Little Eiretown in the way that Glasgow‘s southsidc does. yet something is attracting the punters to the bars in numbers sufficient to turn other pubs green with envy.

Scottish and Irish culture have much in common they have the same Celtic origins. yet to attribute the popularity

TEL: 041-334 5007

8{The List l8 November—l December I994

of these three pubs to some form of

black stuff at the end of September. The

lingering atavistic memory would be both woolly and more than a little out of date. All the bars lay a heavy emphasis on the authentic Irish nature of their interiors. Biddy Mulligan's has a superb collection of old Guinness memorabilia featuring the once ubiquitous toucan and the unforgettable ‘Guinness is good for you' slogan. The decor of Finnegan's Wake took several trips to the Old Country to perfect the collage on the walls and ceilings. a mixture of brie-a-brac detailing both the modern and traditional face of Ireland. The interior of Scruffy l‘vlurphy‘s is based on the design of the pub of the same name in Dublin. The decor was faithfully reproduced in Ireland by the Irish Ptrb company, then dismantled. transported overseas and rebuilt in the shell of the former Bridges Bar. These artefacts of another time in another country inspire an atmosphere of long established taverns imbued with a hint of the foreign. People drink there because they aren't flash and trendy. they're solid and reliable. They feel as if they have always been there and always will.

In keeping with the design ofthc three bars the music policy of them all is firmly geared towards the traditional. ()ut goes the cutting edge of modern music and in comes live. updated folk with real instruments and not a sampler within hearing distance. People who would rather have their toe nails ripped off than admit to liking folk music find themselves tapping their feet and drumming on the table in time to the music. I-leads start nodding and then the moment that a traditional song that's been covered relatively recently. like ‘Whisky in the Jar" or ‘Wild

i Rover". launches into life the punters

rediscover their vocal chords and start belting out the chorus as though their next pint of stout depended on it.

The normal rules of pub etiquette are abandoned. sporadic bouts of dancing on the tables have been known to break out and lifelong lager drinkers switch their allegiance to stout whether it be lVlurphys. Guinness or Gillespies. The bars take a pride in the stotrt they serve. paying meticulous attention to the cellar conditions. the temperature at which the beer is served and the all important two stage pouring process allowing a half pint to settle properly before topping it up to the ftrll whack. Usually a bar will work their way through three to four kegs of stout a week: all three of Edinburgh's Irish

I bars are shifting upwards of 25 kegs of

stout a week. That's a liver crippling quantity of at least 2200 pints per pub per week.

All of which helps add to that ill- defrned and elusive ‘erack' an arnbience that can't be distilled into a bottle. although a drink or two may help. and is a mixture of good conversation. relaxed company. familiar surroundings and a pervasive will to let the good times roll. (Jonathan Trew)

Birlrly illul/igmr 's 96 (Imswmrker. 220 1246.

Finnegan 's Il’irke Victoria Street. 226 38/6.

Sent/Iv [Murphy '3‘ 49—50 George I V Bridge. 225 168/.