Dice Bar has long held a lofty position amongst a certain stripe of drinker in the north city-centre. Over the course of 15 years, the dark and divey bar a stone’s throw from Smithfield Square has managed to organically build a community around itself. Drawn in – and held in place – by reasonable pricing, quality home brew and one of the most discerning music policies in the city, the Dice Bar’s regulars display a dedication rarely seen elsewhere. So, when word came out that the folks running it had decided to expand to sister location only around the corner – the former site of Big’s Bar, amongst others now extinguished establishments – intrigue was abound.
Our visit coincided with the second weekend of the bar’s soft opening. In keeping with it’s “softly, softly” approach the venue remained ostensibly unnamed, though ultimately the name of its wifi network gave the game away to this sleuthing reporter.
As we settled down with our pints of their famously (dangerously?) drinkable Revolution Red Ale (€4.70), we bore witness to the pub’s first ever peanut delivery. However, the list of essentials still arriving on site were not restricted to ready salted or dry roasted varieties: By the time we were few glugs into our respective pints, the shelves lining the bar, which had been entirely barren on our arrival, were being populated with a relatively scant collection of liquors. By comparison to usual menagerie of glass-encased potions, the relatively meagre supplies giving the serving area more the air of a friend’s well-stocked cabinet than that of an actual pub. Judging by the obvious rapport between the staff and the handful of other patrons propping up the bar, the “mate’s gaff” ambiance was the first thing successfully installed, comfortably established before the smell of fresh paint had dissipated.
Speaking of décor, Mission Bar is markedly different in appearance to its sister pub, or most other pubs for that matter. Bright and airy, the white walls and blue accents furnish the place with a distinctly seafaring flavour, an impression further cemented by the snug, below-decks quality of the low-lit and cosier downstairs section. Crucially though, the Mission Bar’s assets, unfinished as it may be, are not restricted to the realm of promise alone. Pubs that are much longer in the tooth have failed to ever arrive at as pleasantly effortless a vibe, even those that go to such great pains to present an impression of laid-back cool.
The work-in-progress nature truly hammers home the idea that you don’t need buy out an entire car-boot sale and adhere your haul to the walls to create the impression of relaxed bohemianism. As it turns out, well priced pints, genial staff and a Velvet Underground-heavy playlist will do the lion’s share of the work.
30 Ellis Quay, Dublin 7
Words: Danny Wilson
Photos: Megan Killeen