The evenings are getting longer and the pints are getting more tempting. February and March brought random, discordant days of mildness that complimented the sunshine now stretching past office hours. People are getting more notions of staying in the city for an outdoor after-work pint.
Yet for a city that Leopold Bloom said offered a puzzle of crossing without passing a pub, there are very few establishments where one can sit outside without being plunged in shade. Given its low-rise aspect and most streets’ narrowness, you would think there’d be more. My uneducated guess is there are two reasons. Firstly, very few establishments have spacious plots at the back that can accommodate much sun. Look at how narrow smoking gardens are. Secondly, our climate discourages such spaces, front or back.
The consequence? On bright evenings you can walk through the city as the sun travels westward thinking this is the perfect evening to enjoy an outdoor pint. You walk further and further across Dublin 1 or 2, thinking every front area is too shaded, that the noisy standing-only gathering in front of you can be bettered. But by the time you cut your losses and stop somewhere, the sun is in injury time and your chance is gone.
Yet there are diamonds in the dark, like the Schoolhouse Bar.
The building was a school during Victoriana. Primary school children learnt there until 1969, when it closed after 108 years. After almost 30 years of dereliction, a hotel group bought it and converted it into a hotel, pub and restaurant.
The Schoolhouse looks and feels more like a church. Walking or driving down Northumberland Road, the turret and entrance suggest a space for the spiritual. Inside, the wooden interior and the acutely pitched roof of white and dark wood suggest matters spiritual.
Back on terra temporal, the ambience is relaxed, the layout spacious for high or low-seated chat or a quiet pint and read of the pub’s complimentary newspaper. The background music is soft. Food is served all day and evening, the evening bar menu including fish or burgers and chips, chicken curry, lamb pie as well as casual bites. To the left of the bar is a restaurant. The hotel is around the corner.
Outside, a row of small tables are lined below the green window ledges. Here you can enjoy the sun spilling across from the sky between Northumberland Road and the canal as it travels the western horizon. The orb (when it’s out) is not one that ducks in and out behind buildings beside you, or changes your experience moment by moment from sunglasses to farce. It’s a trapped sun, giving light to an area set back from the main road.
The church-like look raises another issue: its suitability as a post-wedding venue. Many who marry in the city, either in churches or in the registry office, five minutes’ walk away, contemplate Dublin’s glitziest restaurants for the celebrations and the renowned Shelbourne or Merrion hotels for the first night of marriage. For some, the choice of accommodation is a connection with the wedding night choice of parents or grandparents. The Schoolhouse is an alternative for meal, reception or accommodation – one that could involve less cost and no change of venue during the evening. For the laid back party the following afternoon or evening the ambience is good. I remember enjoying one such Sunday night ‘afters’, the venue so mellow it sucked the ‘end of weekend’ feel out of Sunday.
But from Sunday to sun days. Dublin 4 gets at least 1,300 hours of sunshine most years. Keep an eye on the forecast. If some of those hours are due this evening make sure you’re in the area.
I could not see a drinks price list on display (27 March 2019).
Evening menu: Beef burger and fries €15.95
Casual bites on evening menu: Homemade Chicken Goujon & chips €11.50