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Pub Crawler

The Church – holy hell!

This month Pub Crawler stopped off at The Church for a refreshing Saturday afternoon drink, but there was no sign of Jesus turning water into wine.

For a place that’s calling itself The Church, there is something remarkably unholy about the café/bar/restaurant/night club on Dublin’s Mary Street. The atmosphere is far from sacred, something we can live with, but when it comes to the welcome, well it’s about as iniquitous as it gets.
I had been to The Church twice before my recent Saturday visit and I must admit I was never impressed. That didn’t put me off going again, mind you – third time lucky, I figured. It’s slap, bang in the midst of the city’s northside shopping zone, and if the sun is shining its outdoor terrace makes it a perfect spot for a break and a refreshing drink. If you can get one that is, but more of that soon.
So, it happened just like that. We were shopping around Henry Street, wanted to take a breather, and seeing as we were having one of those rare summer days, we decided the ideal venue for our sojourn would be the seats outside The Church. It was busy, busy but we eventually found a table – unoccupied because it was in the shade but hey, beggars can’t be choosers. Our next dilemma was finding a waiter, a problem that was swiftly solved by a passing member of staff.
“Excuse me,” I called out to him. “Can we order when you have a moment?”
(I stress that I did say ‘when you have a moment’.)
“Yes,” he told me. “From the bar.”
“What?” I said. “From the bar?”
“Yes,” he almost snarled. “There is only one waiter serving outside, so if you can order from him you will be lucky.”
“What?” I repeated, astonished. “That’s not a very good attitude.”
“There is nothing wrong with ordering from the bar,” he actually snarled this time, before disappearing off inside the side door.
Right, we thought, we were not in the presence of a charm school graduate. After taking a few deep breaths and deciding that the only way we were going to get our much needed drinks was to actually enter the building, I chose to brave it, leaving my friend to mind our sunless table as I went to follow my nemesis in the direction he took. Big mistake. Mr Hospitality had locked the door behind him, meaning I had to go right around to the front and seek out the bar that way. What a guy.
The atmosphere inside was not much calmer. OK, so it was Saturday and a sunny one at that – but wouldn’t you think that would inspire management to put on some extra staff? Obviously not. I witnessed bemused folk at the bar, trying to order food from the staff, who in turn demanded to know the number of the table they were sitting at before any discussion could take place. In fairness, who remembers – or even knows in the first place – what number table they are sitting at – inside or outside? In the midst of all the furore, a guy sauntered along and asked for one pint of Guinness, which he then paid for with a credit card that had a bite taken out of it. While the chewed on Visa was being processed, another poor soul was asking for a pint of Smithwicks but sadly they were all out and he was told, without an apology in sight, to make a more appropriate choice of beverage. Fast. I was still waiting for my glass of wine and mojito and to be honest at this stage I was actually amused. On this particular Saturday, the service in The Church was so bad it was funny, which I’m sure is not quite the impression they want to make.
In any case, I got my drinks and legged it. Surprise, surprise, the side door had been reopened, and my friend was waiting patiently for me,having saved my seat from being whipped away by another aspiring punter. We drank and we laughed but it was a one off. Three times now I’ve been to The Church, and that’s thrice too many. It was tepid enough the first two times, but the final visit took the biscuit. It’s a fabulous building and the terrace is absolutely lovely. But that service? Oh God, just sinful.

The Church Café, Bar, Restaurant & Club (www.thechurch.ie) is located at the junction of Mary Street and Jervis Street, Dublin 1, tel: +353 (0)1 8280102.

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