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Stéphane Moussie
the story of my pub

'It’s kind of like when you go to Tuscany and you get a nice Chianti': The Gravediggers on their €4.60 pints of Guinness

And how the landlord pranked his brother in front of Roger Moore.

TUCKED AWAY IN leafy Glasnevin is one of Dublin’s most iconic pubs. It’s known for serving a mean pint of the black stuff and has welcomed illustrious patrons like Eddie Vedder, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan through its doors over the years.

We are, of course, talking about John Kavanagh’s in Glasnevin. It’s also known as The Gravediggers thanks to its proximity to Glasnevin Cemetery.

Established in 1833, the pub can lay claim to being the oldest family pub in Dublin. Ciaran Kavanagh is the seventh generation of his family to work in the popular watering hole. His late father Eugene was the sixth generation proprietor of the pub and took it over in 1973.

We moved here in 1973 and nobody had lived in the pub since the 1950s. It was kind of dilapidated upstairs and wasn’t much better downstairs. So in 1973, he did a bit of renovation in the bar. He put in new toilets and moved the counter back a little bit. That was really it.

In the last 185 years, not much has changed. There is no television and no music, a rule instituted by Ciaran’s late father.

That kind of started when my Dad took over because he had young kids living upstairs. Before that there were really good sessions with my uncles and stuff. So in the mid 1970s, it became no music and no TV.

Fortunately customers seem to appreciate the lack of distractions.

“They can withdraw from modern society in a way and just kind of leave their phones off, hang out with their friends and just talk,” says Kavanagh.

You might think that there may be some exceptions made for the ‘no music’ rule, but not so. Kavanagh tells a story of a recent night when Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Glen Hansard popped in for one.

I told them a story about when The Dubliners came in here after Luke Kelly’s funeral – they wanted to sing and my Dad wouldn’t let them sing and they all left. He asked me would I do the same now and I said, ‘Yeah, pretty much.’ And they’re two guys I really respect, you know?

Eddie Vedder and Anthony Bourdain aren’t the only notable faces to come in over the years. In fact, The Gravediggers is a veritable celebrity hotspot with famous faces like Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Pierce Brosnan and Roger Moore frequenting the bar over the years.

Indeed, Kavanagh recalls that when Roger Moore came to visit, his brother’s ringtone was the James Bond theme music. So he did what any good brother would do and rang him while he was standing next to Roger Moore.

As a Dublin institution, local delicacies like coddle and colcannon are most definitely on the menu. (In fact, Anthony Bourdain visited the pub on his show The Layover and sampled some coddle, which he described as “f**king awesome”.)

But it’s not just old comfort foods that are on the menu. Kavanagh has worked as a chef with the pub since 2005 and has diversified the offering to include tapas like Irish spring rolls and vegetable pakoras alongside traditional ham and cheese sambos.

The pub is arguably best known for its Guinness and has made a concerted effort to keep prices down over the past few years. This means that punters can still get a pint of the black stuff for €4.60.

The family all agree that Guinness is a Dublin product. We’re well known for it, we sell quite a lot of it. It’s kind of like when you go to Tuscany and you get a nice Chianti as opposed to getting an expensive bottle. You might put your lagers up to €5, €5.20 or whatever. But the Guinness is still at a reasonable price.

At 185 years old, The Gravediggers is still going strong. Kavanagh says that visitors regularly compliment it on its old world charm and unique atmosphere.

Perhaps other pubs would be better served if they adopted a ‘no TV, no music’ rule, eh?

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