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Review: O'Neill's, Blackheath
Emerald-clad dancers, an abundance of Guinness, constant live music and raucous laughter cloud my mind when I think of Irish pubs.
I’m being extraordinarily clichéd I know, but surely these stereotypes exist for a reason?
When I walked into O’Neill’s in Blackheath I wasn’t expecting to stumble into the midst of a Céilí but a tune from The Cranberries would not have gone amiss.
This fresh, bright and homely bar full of middle-class trendy winos might be a far cry from a typical, warm-hearted Dublin city boozer, but nonetheless it’s a lovely place to go for lunch.
Green hints of stained glass in the window and lyrics from Molly Malone on the wall are the only things reminding you this place is meant to be Irish.
And this slipped further from my mind when I went to the bar to order the chicken, spinach, mayo and tomato sandwich (£4.99) from the ever-so-slightly chunky barman.
Rather than flash me a charming, lucky grin complete with cheeky wink, I got totally ignored as this heavy Londoner chatted to his mate while taking my money and pouring my cranberry juice (£1.70).
And while I found this more than a little rude, I discovered his heart really wasn’t in the job because he is training to become a bouncer – and a fine doorman he would make indeed.
But apparently, as I learnt from eavesdropping, (is it really wrong to listen in when the person is meant to be catering to your every need?) anyone can be a bouncer including skinny, short men like his friend – fascinating.
Taking my numbered wooden spoon to one of the tables I came over with extreme chair envy when I noticed the fully occupied cream sofa near the pub’s entrance.
To my left a group of stylish 50-somethings were enjoying a girly reunion, spoiled only by the fact they had been waiting for food so long they’d forgotten what they ordered.
An extremely apologetic waitress came rushing over shortly with their grub and all was forgiven as my stomach starting growling at me for choosing such a tardy lunch spot.
My wait was around 25 minutes for what came as a slightly disappointing meal.
The chicken was perfect but the burnt ciabatta bread brushed a layer of skin off the roof my mouth – kind of like a hot pizza but without the luxurious flavours.
The place was heaving, so perhaps I can forgive a little burnt bread.
Next time I will just eat carefully to protect myself.
My gaze drifted over to the bar where an old man kept taking it in turns to swig from his pint and stare at the blonde’s bum next to him.
He glanced over at her voluptuous behind that many times that I thought I must be missing out on something and had a good old butcher’s myself.
It was alright, but I have to admit I was more entertained watching the busy waitress scream “Any plans for today?” four times at a near-deaf elderly customer before she replied “No” – priceless.
Overall this is a lovely pub and a credit to the successful chain.
Just don’t expect wild Celtic afternoons, fast food or focused barmen.
How O’Neill’s rates:
DECOR: **** (fresh, bright, modern and homely with hints of the Emerald Isle)
DRINK: **** (loads of beer and lager on tap as well as hot drinks)
PRICE: **** (good lunch deals, meals from £3.99)
ATMOSPHERE: *** (busy, trendy but not very Irish)
STAFF: *** (barman distracted but waitress very attentive and even called me sweetheart)
Address: 52 Tranquil Vale, Blackheath, London, SE3 0BH