Millions upon millions of people this evening will go to an Irish pub somewhere in the world. They are everywhere from Tel Aviv to Tokyo, and Barcelona is no exception, there are absolutely loads of them.
I’m sitting in one right now in fact, not because I particularly want to, but because they have free wi-fi and a kids playground outside, the two key factors which let me get some work done.
Now, I don’t have a problem with the principle of an Irish pub abroad, why not export a winning formula. They are, in Ireland at least, fun and convivial places, with decent beer and a great atmosphere.
The problem arises from the fact that you can’t just export atmosphere. Lots of badly fitting wood panelling, a shedload of Guinness signs, some tacky ‘mementos’ of Ireland, a leprechaun here and there, and hugely inflated bar prices just aren’t enough to do it.
But that’s fine, there is always the food and drink to rescue them, isn’t there?
The Guinness is usually shite to start with. It’s not the easiest ting in the world to keep and pour Guinness well, and the vast majority of Irish pubs abroad seem either to not know how, or just not care. This wouldn’t be such an insult if they didn’t insist on charging you double the price of any other beer in the place for the bitterly disappointing experience.
Apart from that they always seem to sell the very worst of generic lagers and ciders. Fosters, Heineken, Strongbow, etc. I mean, come on, how hard can it be to stock a decent local beer?
Which brings us on to the food.
Now, I don’t know a lot about Irish food, but I’d like to know more. I would have assumed that sitting in an Irish pub would seem like the best place to try some of it, but I’d be wrong.
A random selection of items from the menu in front of me might contain:
Spicy chicken wings
Chili con carne
Chicken tikka masala
Foot long hot dog
Cajun chicken burger
There is nothing wrong with any of those dishes, but none of them is great either. If I want a decent curry I’ll go to an Indian or Pakistani, if I want a pasta based dish I’ll head to one of the many Italian places in the city.
Where are the stews, the soda bread, the amazing seafood and the potato dishes?
The Irish produce some amazing cheeses, absolutely fantastic cheddar for example. Why then, do the burgers here come with a slice of Monterey Jack, an American cheese?
Oh, and surely a splash of whiskey in the cream does not suddenly turn a dessert into something Irish?
And after all of that little outpouring I’d love to be able to say that I won’t be setting foot in another pseudo Irish hostelry anytime soon, but we all know I’ll be back for the wi-fi and the quietness of child. You can rest assured though that I won’t be eating while here.