26-May-07 at 2:47pm
Imagine it’s the Middle Ages and you are a spice merchant travelling through the green, boggy lands of Ireland. You might just take time to stop into an Irish pub for a drink and a rest. Pubs — short for public houses — were places that did not require a membership to enter, unlike private houses. So while the rich had memberships to other establishments, pubs were frequented by the hard working lower classes.
The history of the Irish pub is steeped in culture and folklore. An Irish pub of the Middle Ages was a rough-hewn place of natural wood furniture and stone walls. They bore large fireplaces and hanging oil lamps over wood or cobblestone floors. In addition to ale, an Irish pub usually sold essential food and hardware items. The Irish pub was a warm, welcoming place where people, including entire families, socialized, sang, relaxed, told stories, and exchanged gossip and rumours.
In the 19th century, under British rule, the Irish pub was prohibited. So, under the aggressive, independent spirit of the Irish, illegal pubs started to flourish during this time. Pubs became places where rebels gathered to grumble about British rule — some to release frustrations, others to coordinate full-scale rebellions.
And so to the Shamrock in Hangzhou: It takes much more than an Irish name and a neon Shamrock sign to be an Irish Pub. By definition a real Irish pub must have real Irish people in it once in awhile – on either side of the bar, and great great crowds enjoying the craic (a good conversation among equals). Some other requirements are: a two pour Guinness stout, (an imperial pint glass is a given) Kilkenny ale, a decent selection of Irish Whiskey (Power’s and Tullamore Dew), Tayto’s (the best crisps in the world) or Crunchies (chocolate covered toffee) for sale behind the bar, extra points for a fireplace (even if pseudo), live Irish sessiun, an open jam where musicians play traditional Irish instruments, and Irish food.
While it is relatively easy to import bar fixtures from Ireland, hire staff members with Irish accents and serve the requisite drinks, as is the case with the Shamrock in Hangzhou, good banter and craic can be harder to come by, especially if the strategy is to overcharge customers with high prices so that they don’t come back a second time. And yes real Irish Pubs exist are very successful in China: The Blarney Stone in Shanghai, Delaney’s and the Dublin Jacks in Hong Kong are heaving with fun, there’s always a hearty welcome, or a nod from the barman, and if he knows you well enough, or takes a keen interest in your story, a drink or two on the house. He definitely remembers what you drink. Great places to hang out with friends or have a quiet drink on your own, listen to Irish music and relax. Enough said about the Shamrock in Hangzhou.