JD Wetherspoon’s The Three Tun Tavern
1-5 Temple Road
Phone: 01 212 3644
Irish Daily Mail
19 September 2015
The slow death of the Irish pub continues. There are fine exceptions of course, but the average licensed premises is a charmless space in which people drink a very limited range of booze, eat crisps and, if they are lucky, get to watch sport on tv. Frankly, you would need to be pretty desperate to go to one.
Wetherspoon’s, the UK chain that is circling over the corpse of the Irish pub industry, has been in the news. I think we all know at this stage that they intend to open lots more branches here; what is less well known is that they charge more for some beers in Cork than in Dublin, even for the Leeside brew Beamish.
A spokesman told a local radio station that prices throughout the country will all be aligned in time; it’s Cork’s privilege to be the pioneers, so to speak, as far as paying more is concerned.
It’s interesting that Wetherspoon’s don’t stock Guinness or Heineken. This is because neither of these brewers will play ball on price, but there are lots of producers who are very happy with Wetherspoon’s terms. The chain did not become champions of the microbreweries just for the good of their own health; microbreweries live in the real world and want to sell their wares, hence realistic pricing.
So, with cheap booze – we’re talking €2.50 for a pint of Carlsberg or Beamish, and the same for a pint of the lovely Cornish Doom Bar – Wetherspoon’s are wooing people back from the supermarkets and the off-licences and away from the consumption of hooch in the home. But more so in Dublin than in Cork at the moment.
The Three Tun Inn (Wetherspoon’s tend to keep the names of the pubs they acquire) sells oceans of vapid rubbish like Foster’s and WKD, but it carries a cracking selection of proper beers, from small producers like Eight Degrees in Mitchelstown at an extraordinary €2.45 for a pint. And this, I can’t help thinking, is rather an attractive feature.
It also serves food from a vast menu. That’s the first clue that this experience is not going to be one of unalloyed pleasure. A big, printed menu is never a good sign. And so it proved.
Prices for food are similarly modest and part of the deal is that you go up to the counter, order, pay, state your table number and the stuff is brought to you (not with great grace, in our experience, but I don’t know how much these youngsters are paid).
We kicked off with chicken wings, a good assay of quality in any establishment. They had the virtue of being crisp and hot with chilli; but they were overcooked to a deep brown, dried out and a little gamey. If I wanted to get the same effect at home, I’d keep them in the fridge just a little too long. How Wetherspoon’s manage it, I have no idea.
And then we tried the scampi. Looking on the bright side, the peas were okay and the chips were as good as you get in mass catering, especially if liberally anointed with Heinz ketchup. The scampi were, in themselves, okay as frozen prawns go, but only when removed from the thick blanket of breadcrumbs in which each was enveloped. This industrial grade casing had all the charm of a beermat.
A half rack of pork ribs was, we felt, hideous. It sat, limply and forlornly, in a puddle of brown liquid that tasted of sugar and despair. The meat clung relentlessly to the bones in a final rubbery embrace. I have encountered few things as unattractive as these ribs in years of doing this job.
In desperation, we thought we would give the culinary repertoire of Wetherspoon’s one final chance. Foolish, I know, but we were enjoying the beer which, I’ve now concluded, is the only reason I’ll ever go to a Wetherspoon’s.
We ordered grilled halloumi with sweet chilli sauce. What can possibly go wrong with that, we wondered? The first slice of this Cypriot cheese that takes cooking so well was nicely charred and blistered, as halloumi is meant to be. The other pieces had been left in contact with the griddle long enough only to take the chill of the fridge off them. It was as if the unfortunate kitchen person who had been charged with the task had just lost the will to live. And possibly with good reason.