Thursday, 15 January 2015

Kate's Cottage and the early houses

A question for your next pub quiz: "What was the name of the very last old 'cottage' by Busáras in the centre of Dublin?"

Despite its tacky "crazy paving" exterior walls and daft "cottage" title, Kate's Cottage on the corner of Store Street and Amiens Street was a city-centre pub with a surprisingly spacious interior, excellent pints of stout and a mean hang-an'-cheese sandwich.

It was what you might call a no-nonsense, slightly down-at-heel joint that catered for the working man. And the unemployed man. And quite a few women too. But not that many tourists. No, hardly a tourist trap.

So the place was admittedly a bit rough at the edges, yet quite cosy and homely and unpretentious in its own little way. On weekend nights it had traditional music sessions; throughout the week it was a handy watering hole for roving Shelbourne FC fans (especially on Fridays), and for other weary travellers from Busáras (the central bus station) and Connolly (train station) respectively.

The pub - or rather one of its predecessors - even featured in Ulysses. In James Joyce's day it was known as the Dock Tavern; it later became the Master Mariner. 

The Squealing Pig

Legend has it that for a brief time this very same hostelry was also known as The Squealing Pig because there had been an abattoir on the site. But it had to change back to the Mariner after the local copshop in Store Street complained. The pub started calling itself Kate's Cottage around nine or ten years ago.

Perhaps you can see more than enough reasons why I had it lined up as a likely location for an episode or two in a Moss Reid novel.

Yet despite being smack bang in the middle of a major transport hub (trains, buses, trams and taxis) and being at a sort of crossroads between the hubbub of O'Connell Street's environs and the quays and the IFSC, the pub was whacked by the recession.

A liquidator was appointed in January 2012. After that it was Kate's Cottage no more.

A few months later it morphed into a craft beer emporium. It is now part of the Galway Bay Brewery chain, with a new black exterior, new taps, a new gastropub menu and a new name too: The Brew Dock. No doubt it is the height of trendiness.

I haven't managed to visit it yet in this latest incarnation, so neither has Moss Reid. Will keep you posted.

Robert Reade's

Meanwhile here's a general view in the direction of the pub from the opposite end of Store Street. It's taken from inside the window of another pub, Robert Reade's.

(The large building on the right is Busáras and the social welfare office; the one immediately on the left is Store Street Garda Station; in the far distance, after a silly pointy sculpture thing, are the Luas tram platform and the IFSC - the International Financial Services Centre. Crime fiction writers take note: what you can't see on the left-hand side of the street is the coroner's court, and the site of the old morgue that was demolished in 1999).

Talking of Robert Reade's, that pub does pop up very briefly in book #3 of the Moss Reid series, Ghost Flight. A man called Reid in a pub called Reade's? Yeah, that sounds suitably confusing...

Many moons ago Reade's used to be an "early house" called Keatings, and was a popular watering hole of soccer fans travelling to games across the water.

Early houses

But what, you might ask, was (or is) an "early house"? It's one of a small, select set of pubs that are specially licensed to open their doors around seven in the morning to cater for workers who have just come off a night shift - gardai, firemen, mail sorters, bakers, nurses, hotel workers, along with the lonely and sleepless.

And back as the nineteenth century the local pubs in Smithfield and Stoneybatter all had a licence to open at 7 am to cater for the early-rising market crowd.

Be warned, though: nowadays most of these establishments don't take kindly to loud young people who have obviously been up all night partying.

The Come Here To Me cultural history blog estimated a year ago that

"There are around 50 early-houses left around the country, including 12 in Dublin, three in Cork city and seven in the Killybegs fishing port in Donegal. In 2004, the Sunday Independent reckoned there were 16 early-houses in Dublin. In 2008, the Government scrapped plans to abolish them in a forthcoming overhaul of drinking laws but no new ‘early house’ licences will be handed out to pubs."
From 16 down to 12 in less than a decade? If all those figures tally it seems Dublin's early houses are not gone, but might well be gradually dwindling away.

Kate's Cottage / The Brew Dock
1 Store Street, Dublin 1
Phone +353 (0)1 888 1842

Keatings / Robert Reade Bar and Cafe
19 Store Street, Dublin 1
Phone +353 (0)1 855 9992