The bar within a bar has emerged as an ultra niche micro-genre in Dublin: The Rag Trader on Drury Street presents a different face to South William Street’s Dakota, while the Dingle Whiskey Bar on Nassau Street is the alternate barrel-aged reality to its noisier Porterhouse Central mothership. Bourke’s* is what used to be the off-license within the ever-unfolding labyrinth of Whelan’s, a small bar with about 30 seats, that links into Whelan’s half-way down the staircase to the toilets from the main bar.
Like its mothership, Bourke’s is unfussily finished with darkened wood and a selection of gig posters from the many millions that Whelan’s has hosted through the years. The bar specialises in Irish produce – in craft beers and whiskies in particular – and the staff were only too happy to dig out a bottle of Writer’s Tears from the basement to accommodate our request (albeit not before we had unwittingly ordered a scotch, morto.) This dark pre-Christmas evening was not one for craft beers so we stayed on the Guinness (a fiver, stellar) which was helpfully dropped over to our table after it settled.
Given its location, it’s somewhat unusual that no music plays here, but, I guess, that is really the charm of the place. The Camden Street-Wexford Street strip is not known for its quietude, and why should it? But even amongst the more old-fashioned pubs – your Ryanses, your Devittses – such solemnity is difficult to find. And perhaps, operated without much fanfare and having flown mainly under the radar for the first few months of its existence, Bourke’s will eventually court the kind of popularity that the rest of Whelan’s, or maybe, just maybe there’ll be a corner of Wexford Street carved out especially for preternaturally grumpy cunts like me.
*Whelan’s was called Bourke’s before it was called Whelan’s apparently.
23 Wexford Street, Dublin
Words: Ian Lamont
Photos: Killian Broderick