It’s St Patrick’s day on 17th March – and Cillian has a few pointers on how to get the most out of Irish food and drink this March.
Before we get into the detail, there are three golden rules for an Irish night out in London:
- Have Craic: It’s the golden rule of the Irish Pub: Sing, Converse, Have Fun.
- Drink Stout: Guinness is the classic, but Murphy’s, while harder to find, offers something for those with a sweeter tooth.
- Look out for Taytos: A cultural emblem similar to that of Barry’s Tea and Club Orange, these crisps are loved by Irish people across the globe – and we are lucky enough to have a few pubs where they can be located.
The Islington cocktail bar serving up authentic Irish stew
When I think of Ireland, I think of many things: rainy summer holidays, gaelic football and the plight of my beloved County Down – but nothing to me is more synonymous with my own experience of Ireland than the memory of my Granny’s Irish stew. Consisting of mutton or lamb and a variety of root vegetables, this dish represents all that is great about Irish cuisine: it’s simple, tasty, filling – and even better with a large dollop of brown sauce. Not to mention that it’s great if you’re going to have a few pints of the Black Stuff.
Now it may seem weird to find a dish mostly associated with cold winter evenings at a North London cocktail bar. However, Homeboy is so much more than that. Priding itself on Irish hospitality “without the twee”, this bar reminds me of those rainy summer holidays in the sense of no fuss hospitality I’ve ever experienced across the water. What this bar does well: it mixes the traditional with the modern – you will end up chowing down on Irish Stew while listening to Jurassic 5. And on top of that, you get some Barry’s Tea with your bill and the soda bread is fantastic! So simple to make, but never a disappointment when caked in properly salted butter. We have a great recipe here!
But, let’s not forget that Homeboy is primarily a cocktail bar, offering a decent selection of mixed drinks. I like the Taoiseach (Redbreast 12 Potstill Irish Whiskey, Cointreau, Martini Rosso, Pomegranate Syrup, Angostura, Orange) named after the Irish word for Prime Minister and Wogan (Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey, Apricot Brandy, Lime, Sugar, Saline). Both are sharp with heavy-hitting citrus present alongside the oaky and smooth hit of some high quality Irish Whiskey.
The star of the show at Homeboy is the Bán Poitin. This 48% spirit packs a punch and while not the traditional stuff your grandparents would make, which is illegal, it’ll put hair on your chest. Indeed, it is certainly an instigator of Ireland’s biggest global export: craic.
Try the Faltering Fullback for some of the best Black Stuff in London
Originally borrowed from the Middle English “crak”meaning “loud conversation, bragging talk”, “craic” is the Irishized form of the word and London’s Irish pubs are its natural habitat. We all have our favourites and mine is The Faltering Fullback off of Stroud Green Road. With its beautiful winding Garden area, this is very much a community-based pub with craic available in droves. One can expect fantastic Guinness, a thoroughly decent selection of Tayto Crisps – and surprisingly some great Thai food.
Like all good pubs in Dublin, the Black Stuff at The Fullback is better than anything you will get in your average boozer. All manner of myths and legends exist about why this is the case: a different recipe/something in the water/lighting? Ambiance has been touted as the main reason for this – and certainly plays a big role. However, there’s actually a duller reason for why it’s better: it is fresher, since more people naturally order Guinness in an Irish bar than the average pub.
How to celebrate at home
If you’d like to sup back a similar brew in the comfort of your own home: please do go for the The Porter from Anspach and Hobday or for a jazzed-up experience look into Crate Brewery’s Sticky Toffee Pudding Stout, which really takes the Irish Stout style and runs amok with it. However, don’t get me wrong – it works!