If there is a problem with most Irish theme pubs, anywhere in the world, Ireland aside, it is that they tend not to look or feel very much like Irish pubs. Oh, they may have all the bric-a-brac: the tricolor flags, the fiddles on the walls, the bloody stupid oversized Guinness foam hats, but really, truth be told, that’s not really, well, Irish. It’s a stereotype, a marketing man’s cash-led wet dream of what Irish pubs represent. It is, to use the local vernacular, utter bollix. The reason for this is that most proprietors of these establishments have never actually been to Ireland, let alone one of its pubs, only to other Irish theme bars, and it is this that has sculpted their vision, and the industry becomes a self-perpetuating compunction, gathering apace like a steadily-growing green-dyed porter-flavoured snowball hurtling down a hill at t’irty t’ree and a t’ird miles an hour.
Which is why The Curragh is so refreshing. Oh, there are little tastes of theme pub decoration: a Guinness glass shaped salt and pepper shaker here, a miniature leprechaun there; but in their scarcity manage to steer away from the kitsch and are in fact souvenirs of bar owner Teri’s trip to the emerald isle, rather than a conscious affectation.
But the lack of green beer and diddlee-dee music (in fact while I was they were playing a personal favourite of mine, the seminal Pogues album If I Should Fall From Grace With God,) is not the only thing to recommend it. Being an Irish pub, perhaps the most important thing is the booze, and The Curragh definitely comes out on tops in that respect with an outstanding craft beer selection. From Hardcore Imperial IPA to Schiehallon, from Radical Road to Hoegaarden, the bottled beer choice is wonderful, however when there is Brew Dog’s Punk IPA on draft, the prized racehorses of the Irish area after which The Curragh is named couldn’t drag me towards anything else.
Of course not everyone is into craft beer, which is why they also have Guinness as well as Hartland, a vastly superior Japanese lager to the usual ‘Big 3’ choice found on draft elsewhere and, from the bar’s opening time at 6pm there is a happy hour where ¥150 is knocked off each to a staggering ¥750 and ¥450 per pint respectively. Happy hour also includes 30% off cocktails and lasts for two hours, but there is no need to stop the party there. Often the demographic will shift at this time, with the post-work drinkers making way for Nagoya’s cool kids, the oshantiest kids in town, packing the place out from about 9, and keeping a steady stream of post-partiers and post-post-partiers until kicking out time at 4am.
But if you are drinking all that booze for any length of time, you’re going to need something inside you to soak it up, which is where I felt spoilt for choice. For a one man operation, The Curragh has an impressive menu, all stemming from either Ireland or neighbouring Britain. Like a kid in a sweetshop, I couldn’t make my mind up. Fish and chips? Guinness beef stew? Cottage pie? Like a kid in a potato shop, really, I decided to go for two dishes and plumped for the cottage pie, the likes of which my half-Irish granny would have been proud and, keeping to my English roots, fish and chips.
Right, bear with me now, because I am going to wax lyrical about fish and chips. Are you ready? Are you perched on the edge of your seat? Most Japanese bars flounder when it comes to making proper fish and chips. They sometimes come in multiple bite-sized chinks, but if there is a sole piece, they tend to take a tough breadcrumb batter and fillet with dry, substandard fish. But not at The Curragh. Having watched Teri mix the batter with beer from the tap, I waited with baited breath. When he brought it to my table, it was brill-iant, completely off the scale. In all honesty, and all puns aside, it was the best fish and chips I have had in this country, by far. It was large, the batter was light and crispy, the fish just melted and it came with vinegar. Truly wonderful. But if you can find better, do let minnow.
At only six months old, Teri’s The Curragh is one of the newest, and perhaps most independent Irish boys on the block, and I have to say it has fast become my favourite. When it comes to Irish theme pubs it is difficult to maintain a balance. Too many concentrate on the ‘Irish’ rather then the ‘pub’. The Curragh is one of the few that put the emphasis in the latter, and they do it bloody well. To be sure, to be sure.
Moriman Bldg. B1F,
Nishiki 3-16-8, Naka-ku
Tel: (052) 265-9737
Open 18:00~5:00 Mon-Sat. Closed Sun