Last Friday I found myself wandering the great, blue sky bathed, City of Dublin. I was in Town for a concert and with a few hours to spare before the doors of the venue opened, I was dandering along O’Connell Street in search of an attractive watering hole. I wasn’t alone on my travels, yet had been left to my own devices by my better half, who on arriving in the City had decided that although I was keen to visit St James Gate, the Jameson Factory or even Temple Bar, we should in fact head to the City Centre.
That’s where Penny’s department store is located and the lure of cheap clothes and even cheaper underwear, a 1 euro bra anyone?, was too great to pass up.
Bars, it seems, in this part of Dublin are few and far between. McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, you will find more than one along that famous street. The iconic GPO is even neighbour to a dodgy looking slot machine style joint. Pubs however, should I say decent pubs, seem to be a rarity. Yet just across from Penney’s on the corner of Abbey Street, sits the Grand Central Café & Bar. Grand in both location and title, it sounded like the spot to stop for a pint of the Black Stuff while people watching, so with a quick Google search displaying fairly positive reviews of this former bank turned Saloon, I made my way across for a recce.
Recon is important? I don’t just walk straight in for a number of reasons. So loitering outside I waited for someone to emerge so I could grab a quick but intentional look through the doors. That was to establish two things 1, The crowd, if any, inside 2, The dress code, if any, inside. After a quick glance I was content that my unfashionable fashion sense was up to the mark & I wouldn’t look out of place, content it was an option I made my way through the historic doors.
Its certainly Central. In fact considering the title Grand Central Cafe & Bar, I’ll be generous & admit it achieves 3 out of those 4! Grand however is not a word you would use to describe it!
It certainly has the potential to be, with an abundance of original features & plenty of character, that said Is it possible the owner employs the cleaner who worked there in 1916, as the place was in dire need of an overhaul, even bringing it into 1996 would be something
1916 & the events in Dublin at that time are obviously part of the Bars history, albeit back when it was a bank. It’s Irish history that tourists especially American tourists visit for, so the Grand Central should be a top tourist spot for that reason alone. Yet it misses the mark, it feels grubby, tired & in desperate need of an overhaul.
The adjoining restaurant held as much appeal as the bar area did, with all customers having to pass through the diners to make their way down to the toilets, another outdated area of the venue. It was down stairs while spending my penny that I saw the function space, the only area which looked clean, inviting & fit for the modern customer.
Grand Central felt like a completely missed opportunity, but why? Belfast has several examples of historic former banks that are now bars & hotels, which if anything the renovation of added to their existing character & grandeur.
The one redeeming feature of the Bar was its staff, so welcoming & amenable! Every drink I ordered at the Bar ended with me being sent a way in the friendliest manner with the instance that they would bring it down to me!
I sampled a pint of Guinness & a Pint of Chieftain from Franciscan Well. Both beers tasted fine and were well presented. My better half had a Pink Gin & Sprite which she insisted was watered down