I've tried several times over the last couple of years to review O'Donoghues but I've never been able to get past the front door. The place is simply too packed.
I could have tried to review it on the basis of past memories but the fact of the matter is that those recollections are simply too hazy. Night is O'Donoghue's (back in the days when it was possible to spend a night there) were invariably fleeting half remembered affairs. Booze-ups in other words.
The other concern about raiding the memory banks for a review , of course, is that O'Donoghue's might have been razed and rebuilt in the interime. Its happened to so many other places, after all.
But I finally made it past the rickety wooden door last week, by adopting a cunning tactic of going along in the afternoon, and i'm happy to say that O'Donoghue's looks much the same as it ever did ( I think).
One of the worlds greatest bars is a place in New Orleans called Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, at the dark end of Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, and O'Donoghue's would be Dublin's nearest equivalent.
Like Lafitte's, O'Donoghue's has been built without reference to any architectural guide, or even a casual glance at a geometry text book. The lines slant all over the place - particularly the floor, which bucks and slopes like a newspaper that's been left too long in the sun.
And like it's legendary New Orleans counterpart, O'Donoghue's is pleasingly gloomy, both by day and night. It's never possible to be certain just exactly what is going on in the various nooks and crannies but i guess that adds to the charm of both places.
Similarities with Backsmith Shop end there, however. Dublin doesn't have the swampy heat of the Big Easy and, particularly at this time of the year. O'Donoghues can be nippy. Fortunately they know not to serve Guinness too cold but even that can't save you in January; hot whiskeys are the order of the day.
The other thing that reminds you that you're in Dublin rather than Dixieland is the complete absence of jazz, blues or Cajun references-instead there are copious posters of Ronnie Drew. The place is a virtual shrine to the Dubliners, reflecting the fact that the band were, and for all I know still are, regular visitors to O'Donoghue's. The framed copy of a 1987 front page from the Irish Press is not there because of the picture of the unshaven young Bartholemew Ahern, amusing though the shot is. No it's there for the far more important reason that Ronnie and friends are also in the photo, teaching Bertie a few chords.
But whatever about kitsch points-and there's a lot in O'Donoghue's, right down to the Galouiese-smoking french tourists-it's a great place.
I'd rate O'Donoghue's the best pub in the Baggot Street area, a compliment that has less value than it might have when Doheny and Nesbitt's was in its prime, but which I think is still high.
The Pint : A throwback to a more civilised ear: the Guinness is not too cold and relatively affordable at £2.49
The Food : Big ham and cheese rolls are about as sophisticated as it gets, but they're tasty enough and reasonable value at £2
The Music : Traditional music sessions are apparently famous in O'Donoghue's.
The Hours : Normal pub hours.