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Dublin: 11 °C Thursday 21 February, 2019
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'We took over a careworn building': How L Mulligan Grocer made an unknown pub famous

Seaneen Sullivan, co-owner of the Stoneybatter landmark, on a whirlwind eight years.

ASK ANYONE FOR A pub recommendation in Stoneybatter and chances are they’ll mention L Mulligan Grocer. The beloved gastropub has been a fixture in the neighbourhood for the past eight years and is frequently cited as among the best bars in the country. But its history stretches back way further.

“We took over the old, careworn building in the summer of 2010 but there has been a pub here since the turn of the last century,” explains Seaneen Sullivan, who runs the pub with business partners Colin Hession and Michael Foggarty.

The pub was previously run by its namesake, Larry Mulligan, and also served as a grocers of sorts.

“He would have supplied tea and porter to many in the area,” says Sullivan. “A very kind local woman even brought us in a paper bag that her mum would have bought loose tea in from Larry Mulligan. It says ‘L Mulligan Stoneybatter, a lovely cup of tea’.”

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While the business may have changed hands, it has largely retained its traditional charms. The pub itself is dominated by an old curved bar, while there is no shortage of dark wood and upholstered seating.

Of course, L. Mulligan Grocer isn’t just home to a pub. It’s also home to an acclaimed restaurant. Sullivan says they made a conscious effort to give the restaurant a homely appearance.

“We worked with local carpenter Peter Jenkinson to have tables made that are a nod to old Irish kitchen tables, but with a modern update,” she explains.

The restaurant prides itself on showcasing the best in Irish produce.

“Our ethos is that Irish produce is special and worth celebrating,” says Sullivan. “Everything we do comes back to that. We are proud to work with farmers, growers, brewers and distillers to bring the best produce available on our island to the table. If we owned a sandwich shop, restaurant or even a lemonade stand I think we would have the same ethos.”

So, what’s the food like?

“Our menu has been described as nostalgic which I think is a good description,” says Sullivan. “We serve scotch eggs made with organic Irish pork meat and free range eggs; and chicken kiev made with butter chock-full of wild garlic from Phoenix Park and chickens reared in Athenry by a top lad named Ronan.”

“We also take fish and seafood really seriously and it is only this year that we put cod on our menu for the first time as it is sustainable again.”

Sustainability and seasonality inform the kitchen’s practices.

“The chefs in the kitchen and myself try and adopt a zero waste policy, using carrot tops for pesto and tested lemons for lemon oil and the like,” she says.

It’s all about working with the ebb and flow of the seasons and caring for the land and the environment that we rely on as well as supporting sustainable farming practices and diversity.

As everyone knows, there’s nothing like washing down a hearty meal with a drink. L. Mulligan Grocer have put as much thought and care into their drink offering as they have into their food offering.

Sullivan estimates that the pub stocks around 150 beers at any given time with 24 on tap. Tap takeovers are a regular occurrence, as are ‘beer dinners’.

“Once a month we host a beer dinner, creating a four course menu to match the beers of a particular brewery,” says Sullivan. This month’s dinner is with DOT Brew, a Dublin-based craft brewery.

There is also plenty in stock for non-beer drinkers.

“We also have a wine list of 20 bottles available by the glass and bottle,” says Sullivan. “We like slightly quirky wines with a story. We choose wines from small importers who work with us to source quality wines made by people who know and love their craft, soil and grapes.”

Elsewhere, they have an extensive whiskey list and stock 200 Irish and world whiskeys. (They also run a whiskey shop in Powerscourt Centre.) There’s also fresh apple juice from Louth, a wide array of Irish gins, and Irish mixers from Poachers.

We are really fortunate that there are so many dedicated brewers, distillers and cider makers operating in Ireland at the moment. There’s always something new to try.

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Since it opened eight years ago, the pub has become a destination of sorts, garnering mentions in the likes of The New York Times and Condé Nast Traveler. It welcomes tourists from all over the world and even operates an Airbnb above the pub.

Despite all that, it has never forgotten its Stoneybatter roots and continues to regard itself as a local.

“At our heart, we remain a community pub,” says Sullivan. “We have seen first dates, engagements, weddings, and those same people coming back for the first night out together after having babies. It is a lovely thing to be involved in celebrating with people and welcoming them back year after year.

Stoneybatter is such a great neighbourhood and we are lucky to be a part of it.

‘His life was saved by a rat’: The incredible stories behind MacCarthy’s Bar in Castletownbere>

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Amy O'Connor

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