Davy Byrnes, Dublin, Ireland Designer: Original 1941 art deco designer unknown, extended by Cantrell & Crowley in 1987.
Never judge a book by its cover, the proverb suggests and this is especially true of a discrete facade just off Dublin’s Grafton Street that conceals the divine art deco Davy Byrnes pub. It’s a walloping surprise to walk in off the street and see the exquisite hand painted floral wooden and stained glass ceiling, black wall-hugging bench seats and booths, lily-like brass light fixtures and undulating bar servery faced with dozens of black dots that on close examination turn out to be the bottoms of champagne bottles. Gorgeous does not describe it.
And that’s not all. Walk further into the pub – it stretches back and back – onto a red carpet heralding another section with a curvilinear bar servery and mirrored curved walls. Wooden panels and frames are trimmed with black plastic swirling shapes; a polished wood column is crowned with a modern brass sculpture of flying doves and above it, a stained glass cupola filters multi-coloured light into the room. There is no clue that this back area of the pub was added to the original 1941 art deco front 46 years later. It melds seamlessly and enhances the glamour of this singular spot. Utterly va-va-voom!
Casual visitors on June 16th each year may wonder why hundreds of people squeeze into the premises and order a gorgonzola and mustard sandwich and glass of burgundy. They are on the Bloomsday Trail, doing exactly what Leopold Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses did on that day. Joyce was a regular at Davy Byrnes and wrote of his character Bloom: “He entered Davy Byrnes. Moral pub. He doesn’t chat. Stands a drink now and then. But in a leap year once in four. Cashed a cheque for me once.” Bloom’s thoughts about the pub that he described as “Nice quiet bar. Nice piece of wood in that counter. Nicely planed. Like the way it curves” referred to the pre-art deco interior when it was an unremarkable Irish boozer.
Dublin has some unforgettable pubs, but none look like Davy Byrnes and that makes it even more special.Jayne Peyton, Writer