LOCALS won’t thank The Picky Eater for recommending it, but a trip to John Kavanagh’’s pub in Dublin 9 is well worth the trek.
On the map since the 1830s and perched on the edge of Glasnevin Cemetery, it offers a good helping of history with an old-style ambience to wash it down.
A tour of the cemetery will work up an appetite for the Kavanagh’s experience while offering you an exit directly into the arms of The Gravediggers, as it is more widely known.
Stepping inside this hostelry is like stepping into a film or theatre set.
The place has a thespian flavour.
This favourite haunt of the late actor Donal McCann is the setting for scenes from the BBC’s recent interpretation of John Banville’s Quirke (think Gabriel Byrne).
And no wonder.
A no-nonsense interior with little ornamentation is easy on the eye, with rough hewn tables and chairs, wooden floors and a variety of snugs designed for winter evenings of hot whiskeys and good conversation.
On a midweek evening full of seasonal traffic and frantic shoppers, The Picky Eater and companion were catching up in the sanctuary of the Gravediggers.
We began with conversation in the comfy hum and dimness of the old bar. The plan had not included food but on the night that was in it, hot and cold tapas Irish-style were on offer. What the heck, we thought, why not?
So we set out for the other side of the bar, wine in tow, thankful that we’d avoided the bags of crisps we’d considered at the outset. A blackboard on the wall behind the counter offered a disconcerting array of options. Choosing wasn’t easy, but we got on with it.
One helpful waiter’s intervention later and our minds were made up: a Greek salad; a hummus plate; a fancy potato cake and a dish of fried prawns. Hot flat bread and Italian bread sticks appeared. We were on our way and sharing was the order of the day.
The salad was crisp, the feta well salted, olives plump and juicy, flavoursome tomatoes and a clean single-tone dressing with a hint of sage saw us greedily forking up the last scraps. Meanwhile we made inroads into the hearty potato patty with its fried golden crust that gave way to hot mash with spinach and pine nuts. Again, we scrabbled over the last morsels…
The hummus with accompanying greenery was fragrant and fresh; hot prawns nicely doused in lime juice went down easily.
A mutual friend made an unexpected appearance and joined us to mop up our leftovers, proving that the portions were ample, filling and healthy. Feeling virtuous, we tucked into our wine with even more gusto.
Six generations later, this family run pub (still with the Kavanaghs) can hold its own its with bigger brasher competitors.
This year, the Lonely Planet singled it out for a special gong. Secret Europe, 50 Truly Unforgettable Experiences to Inspire Your Next Trip, puts The Gravediggers at number 46 on any visitor’s must-see list. And here’s a nugget from Glasnevin Cemetery tour: the gravediggers of yore took their porter through the cemetary gates in ceramic jars, hence the term going for a jar. Slainte mhor!
THANKS to some generous, tasty pub fare and its serving of pure atmosphere by one of Dublin’s most historical haunts, John Kavanagh/The Gravediggers (at 1 Prospect Square, Dublin 9; tel 01 830 7978) offers plenty for patrons to dig into …