Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Washing Up is a Pain in the Glass

Hardly the Porterhouse kitchen, eh?The last time An Spailpín Fánach patronised The Porterhouse on Parliament Street, Dublin 2, I was having none of their nonsense. The Porterhouse builds its dubious fame on the fact that it brews its own beer, to the delight of the delicate and highly educated palate of its clientele. An Spailpín Fánach has been throwing back strong porter for quite some time now, and I’m pretty dang sure that any and all taste buds that a porter drinker may possess - that have not been coated over with tar from PJ Carroll’s tobaccos, of course – are as frogs before the harrow when those waves of porter go flooding back the throat. The man that smacks his lips in a gourmand’s delight after a sip of the Porterhouse’s Oyster Stout, or its foul and blasphemous Wrassler, is a man that wants a good smack himself – on the point of the chin, ideally. I spent that long ago evening drinking cans of Scrumpy, grateful that the company so far excelled the local brew.

Yesterday, however, An Spailpín returned to the Porterhouse, this time the new joint that now exists in Phibsboro, opposite the Brian Boru, to sample their lunch. Two Sisters of Mercy, who have waited on An Spailpín when he just couldn’t go on more times than I care to remember, arrived at my lair yesterday to drag me away from my Buffy DVDs and Christian Brothers’ New Irish Grammar, insisting that I return to the World, starting with an elegant Bank Holiday lunch by the Royal Canal.

We ordered the feed – An Spailpín, being about the most un-reconstructed redneck you could imagine, ordered the burger. We also ordered drinks for the party – a sparkling water, and two cokes.

The drinks arrived. It seems that The Porterhouse sells the most of its Coca-cola to gentlemen of limited stature answering to the names Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy and Sneezy – how else can one explain the fact that the soda was delivered in 200ml bottles, instead of the pub standard 250? An Spailpín was in the process of inflating his lungs to question the waiter on this very issue, when he noticed, from the corner of his eye, the brunette Sister holding her glass to the light, with an air of piqued curiosity.

“Excuse me,” she remarked, “this glass is dirty. Can you replace it, please?”

And so it was – the youth hurried off, and came back with a replacement. It was not to be his lucky day.

“I’m sorry,” remarked the blonde Sister on his return, gently but firmly, “but this glass is also dirty.”

Banagher was taking a severe beating by this stage of the afternoon's entertainment. The youth returned to the bar, where he started frantically going through glasses – holding them to the light, noting them dirty, returning them the tray (as opposed to, say, loading the dishwasher with them), and continuing his search, in the manner of Jimmy Durante’s lifelong search for The Lost Chord. Eventually, he picked a winner, and returned to the table.

“This glass,” continued the blonde Sister, with that infinite patience that only comes to one who has taught for a living, “is also dirty.”

The stripling held the glass to the light.

“Ah yeah,” he said, “that doesn’t come off in the dishwasher. You see, you’d have to scrub that.”

Three eyebrows – one brunette, one blonde and one property of An Spailpín Fánach – involuntarily elevated at this intelligence. We knew, of course, that staff in the catering industry are often over-worked, but never had we dreamed that this would extend to actual scrubbing. The young man spoke on.

“I mean, we do scrub them ever week, but otherwise that won’t come off.” Well, that’s not so bad then. How rude of us to have come in at the wrong time of the week. We resolved to make the best of it. It all proved too much for the juvenile, who disappeared at that point, leaving our food to be delivered by someone else, and the bill collected by someone else again. The young man’s buzz had clearly been wrecked by two witches and a seventeenth century homeless agricultural labourer in rural Ireland, and that's more than any child should be asked to withstand.

How was the food? Well, considering that An Spailpín was able to count his chips – seventeen – you may think the portions were less than generous, but perhaps that is unfair. An Spailpín Fánach sat Honours Mathematics for the Leaving Cert in the last century and as such is very, very good at counting indeed. To a mind less mathematically inclined, the chips may have seemed as limitless as the stars in the night sky – who knows? The mustard on the burger packed a rather stronger punch than An Spailpín would have preferred, but it could be that chef thought the burger might be washed down with that awful Oyster stout, and as such anything to kill the taste would be gratefully received.

We shall never know, of course. The bill paid, An Spailpín Fánach and the Sisters of Mercy quickly exited the Porter House and beat a hasty path to a house of porter, John Kavanagh’s excellent Gravediggers bar of Glasnevin, where memories of scrubbing and slavery were gently washed away by a half-gallon of stout each. We happily passed the evening away in the Diggers, nuzzling out stouts and giving thanks for our lucky escape, like the Scotch hymn-singer who once was lost but now is found, was blind but now could see. No more Porterhouse for An Spailpín Fánach and party, methinks. Unless we sees signs posted on all incoming roads informing us that today is Scrubbing Day.

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