Saturday, April 30, 2011

Schull Meanderings

It’s curious the way outsiders (mostly French) have taken over a lot of the businesses in Schull. As you walk down the main street you start with a tapas bar (Casa Diageo) that is run by a Spaniard with very rudimentary English – not bad but a very dodgy wine list. Next comes Gwen’s selling designer chocolates run by a French couple – hardly a viable business you would have thought but it seems to be enduring. A few doors down is The Fish Shop run by a tall, young French guy who will spend time preparing the fish to your liking – often to the chagrin of the next person in the queue. Further down is the Paradise Creperie, again French run, which seems to charge Parisian prices - €8 for a filled crepe. Then there’s the takeaway (the Punjab something or other) that I’ve never been in but is manned by a team of unhappy looking Asians. Down towards the harbour (during the summer only) is L’Escale, the very popular fish and chip shop run by a middle-aged French man deficient in the social graces. Nice fish – shame about the batter. As you leave town there’s the New Haven run by another French guy – a noisy but serviceable bistro. No gourmets need apply. Then if you want a pint in Hackett’s you are likely to be served by an Australian, a surly Czech girl, or a couple of French lads.

The pubs in Schull are pretty well segregated in terms of clientele. The Courtyard, once the heart of the village, shows no sign of reopening. Its various incarnations since Denis Quinlan left have not been successful. The Black Sheep is the venue of choice for the brasher younger locals. They serve dodgy pub food and sport on TV dominates. I don’t darken its door. The Tigin seems popular with families, but it lacks character and the large taciturn owner seems to imbue the place with a brooding presence. The Bunratty does food and attracts the middle-aged Derby and Joan types and families. The owner is a charmless Brit. Newman’s was burnt out recently and is only back in a limited way. It’s popular with the sailing fraternity and the Cork professional classes. To be avoided. – too much braying Across the road is Hackett’s, hang out for artists, crusties, slumming sailing types, and bohemians from the hinterland. It has an appealing grunginess and tolerates dogs. If it weren’t so busy most of the time I would give it my imprimatur. So I have taken to frequenting O’Regan’s, around the corner from Newman’s and down towards the harbour. It’s run by a personable young local couple. Its customers are local fishermen and old snedgers mainly. A feature of all these pubs is the superb quality of the Guinness. Why can’t we enjoy the same quality around Dublin? One of life’s great mysteries