61 Upper O’Connell Street
Phone: 01 873 1388
Flanagan’s is all things to all people, cheerful, unpretentious, inexpensive and very properly run. In many ways, it’s the most Irish restaurant in Dublin. And if it had been around at the time, it would most certainly have featured in ‘Ulysses’.
When I enthuse about the kind of restaurant that doesn’t do crisp linen tablecloths or blindingly polished Riedel glasses but simply does what it does well, I often worry that I’ll be misunderstood. I’m concerned that certain people who may have hung on my every word about Chapter One or L’Ecrivain, for example, will rush off to one of my less illustrious favourites and be utterly horrified at what they find.
Well, more fool them, of course. The fact is that restaurants can be brilliant within their own category, within the objectives that they set out for themselves. And so it proves with Flanagan’s, the brainchild of Aidan Meyler (formerly FOH at L’Ecrivain, as it happens) and Karl Ryan, longtime chef here. The objective is simply to please as many people as possible, a commendable aim and one that is rarely attempted, let alone achieved.
But Flanagan’s pulls it off. My fellow restaurant critics, have not yet been beating a path to Flanagan’s and I suspect that it has something to do with the location and the history. I’m not sure that O’Connell Street has a fashionable end, but if it does, Flanagan’s is towards the unfashionable, northern end. It used to be, until quite recently, a superior kind of greasy spoon caff, the sort of place that did a busy trade in sound all day breakfasts. It has featured, as itself, in Tom Clancy’s novel Patriot Games, and in the films Ordinary Decent Criminal with Kevin Spacey and Colin Farrell and the recently released Patrick’s Day.
It’s now changed, changed utterly. And while it would be overegging the pudding to say that a terrible beauty has been born, the new Flanagan’s has a huge and wide appeal.
For a start, it’s the only ground level restaurant on the capital’s principal street that is not all about fast food or worse. It has been completely revamped and redesigned and the menu, while retaining its mass appeal, has been extended.
Now don’t run away with the idea that Flanagan’s will be chasing Michelin stars or even bibs gourmands. Flanagan’s is all things to all people, cheerful, unpretentious, inexpensive and very properly run.
It is, as I say, all things to all people. When I was last there I saw sitting around me the most diverse cross-section of diners I’ve ever come across in a Dublin restaurant. An elderly lady eating fish and chips with a big cup of strong tea. A young French couple larrupping into the excellent Irish stew with a bottle of Cotes du Rhone. Two country lads eating steaks with pints of Guinness. A sharp-suited young man having a quick pizza and a Coke while doing something complicated on his iPad.
They do bacon and cabbage (where else can you get this Irish staple in Dublin?) and beef and Guinness pie, and burgers and steaks. As far as I know, it’s the only place in Dublin where you can still get chicken Kiev while your partner has the moules mariniere.
My instinct is generally to hate big menus, and generally I’m right. Flanagan’s, on the other hand, somehow works its magic to do everything really rather well while being friendly and efficient too.
In many ways, it’s the most Irish restaurant in Dublin. And if it had been around at the time, it would most certainly have featured in Ulysses.