Okay, so you’re headed to Parkgate Street anyway, to check Ryan’s out (previous post). Stall the ball. (That’s Hiberno-English for “hold on”. We want to keep this authentic folks.) There’s a noteworthy neighbouring haunt here worth a visit: Nancy Hands. A much larger venue than its quaint Parkgate Street companion, and much younger in its current form – although refurbishments were in keeping with the original Victorian style. The beauty of Nancy Hands is that, despite the vast scale of the two-storey premises, it manages to keep that cosy, almost ‘country pub’ feel to it. This is down to the division of the place into areas, the downstairs has three bars referred to as the Coffee Bar, the Whiskey and Cocktail Bar and The Snug Bar. The restaurant and piano bar are on the second floor.
‘Coffee Bar’ undersells it a bit, it’s definitely not a coffee bar, and you don’t need to have lived in Italy to know that. Yes it serves coffee, but so do petrol stations, and I have my doubts over whether anyone comes here for that purpose. (And if you do, that’s your own fault really.) My mother, who grew up a few miles down the road from Nancy Hands, says she had “the best beef & Guinness stew of my life” here, and actually we’ve eaten in the bar and upstairs in the restaurant many times, I’ll happily endorse the food (fantastic steak). A small, casual area with average barstools and tables, what stands out here are the fabulous Victorian glass cabinets behind the bar, bought from a chemist when Nancy Hand’s current owners took over. And they do lend a sort of apothecary feel to the bar, full of jars and glass vials and potion bottles. There’s a lovely old cashier’s desk sitting on the countertop, a wooden and glass casing with ‘cashier’ painted on the glass.
The Coffee Bar gives way down a few steps to the Whiskey and Cocktail bar, a dimly-lit, raw brick, cellar-like space with a gorgeous brick archway and fireplace. Vintage Guinness memorabilia is hanging everywhere – or to use the correct term (I learnt a new word): Guinntiques.
Traditionally, the snug or the snug bar was where the ladies would sit in Victorian pubs, while men would sit at the bar. The Snug Bar (believe it or not) is a great example of this – a lovely little pub in its own entity, with a separate entrance – keeping in line with the open fire, bare brick, memorabilia-laden atmosphere of the Whiskey and Cocktail bar, on a cosier scale. I think I might like to have a girls-only area of the pub nowadays…
The staircase is most definitely worth a mention, it was once housed in Trinity College, believe it or not, and featured in the movie ‘Educating Rita’ with Mr Michael Caine. They’re some pretty impressive staircase credentials.
Upstairs – what can only be described as a galley-like Guinntiquesville – has less of an authentic Victorian feel than downstairs, more of a mixed-bag and definitely more modern, but that’s okay too. Bit too much wood/pine for my taste but it definitely has character, and in fairness it’s the dining area rather than the pub. Lots of little gems to take it – the antique clocks and furniture, and a really jazzy archway I think looks like a 1950’s jukebox!
Very warm, chatty staff and a nice crowd – locals, people working nearby and in the courts, tourists.
30-32 Parkgate Street, Dublin 8