The words “Irish pub” are enough to strike fear into the heart of any discerning drinker. The global proliferation of ambiance-free, shamrock-festooned drinking barns blasting U2 and the Proclaimers (yes, we know they’re Scots), run by staff who couldn’t point to Ireland on a map, has left a stench hanging over the phrase. So we won’t call the Drunken Poet an Irish pub. Let’s call it a pub that resembles those you might actually find in Ireland – eternal home of fine, friendly drinking establishments.
Situated opposite the vegetable sheds of Queen Victoria Market, it draws a mixed crowd of fluoro-jacketed working men and sensitive music lovers. The reason for the latter is its championing of live, mainly acoustic music. Wednesdays are the Wine, Whisky, Women showcase of female songwriters; there’s an open-mic night once a month; and regular Irish Traditional music sessions.
It’s a lovely, old-fashioned little bar, with aged unpolished floorboards, fresh flowers and cream walls covered with portraits of writers and lyricists, many of whom famously liked a tipple. A major draw is the owner and bartender, a tiny, feisty Irish lass by the name of Siobhan who knows the punters by name, has a remarkable memory for orders and makes excellent toasted sandwiches at the bar.
Also on offer to help soak up the drink are pickled eggs and somewhat battered bags of Taytos, Ireland’s finest crisps. The Guinness, as one would expect, is poured to perfection and there are spirits in abundance.
Pull a stool up to the bar if you’re in the mood to make new acquaintances – the atmosphere is always warm and convivial. The Drunken Poet is a proper Irish gem – if only there were more like it.