It goes without saying that Irish culture doesn't lack for originality or regional nuance. But a history of economic subjugation and misfortune has resulted in narrowly controlled industries of some of Ireland's most famous products, like whiskey and stout. The virtual monopolies of Guinness-Diageo (Guinness, Bushmills) and Pernod-Ricard (Jameson, Power's, Paddy's, Green Spot, Redbreast...) in these markets enforce a sameness in Irish pubs. For evidence, look no further than the template for potential pub owners called the Irish Pub Concept, codified by Guinness Brewing Co. in 1992 and still in circulation today.
Given the structure of the industry, I consider the opening of an original, characterful Irish pub anywhere a relatively courageous act.
To open one in Paris, a desert of decent pints, as Kieran Loughney has just done with his 11ème arrondissement gastro-pub The Green Goose, is almost heroic. There's not a Guinness or a shamrock in sight in the lovingly recreated Dublin-style wooden space. Instead he offers, every day of the week, a solid pub menu, every insanely underrated O'Hara's beer on tap, and the inimitably frank hospitality of a proper Irish pub.
After discovering the pub on a tip from my friend Kai Lorch of Demory Beer, I returned thrice the same week, so overjoyed was I to find a good Irish pub. Owner Kieran Loughney comes from a family of restaurateurs; his father owns the nearby Patrick's Le Ballon Vert, which until the Green Goose opened, was as fine an Irish pub as existed in Paris, enormously roomy and well-stocked with the genre's staples. The Green Goose operates on a different register.
One might still reasonably ask why I feel prepared to say anything at all about the authenticity of an Irish pub, since I am a Japanese-Jewish American living in Paris who has only visited Dublin once, for a weekend.
|Matt Murphy's Pub, Brookline Village, circa 2005|
As it happens I had Irish pub culture drummed into me, at times literally, by the owner of a Boston pub where I worked during college years and again slightly after. She was and as far as I know still is a wily flame-haired force of nature with a rapier-wit and a banshee's temper, who always paid her cooks before her contractors, and whose cash-only businesses, were, like glaciers, 90% untraceable and underwater at all times. She espoused - indeed, personified - a gonzo hospitality ethos in which no expense was too great for the sake of keeping everyone in the establishment - especially herself - entertained.
We had one regular who, due to a combination of stomach ailments and a fearsomely tedious personality, would show up and just sit at the bar chewing ice. So devoted was my old boss to her hospitality principles that she would order me, whenever this fellow arrived, to make elaborate efforts at chit-chat. In her establishments, even irredeemable losers had a right to feel welcome. (Also, I think she found the sight entertaining.)
The Green Goose evinces similar generosity of spirit, right down to its spacious design, most elements of which were shipped over from Dublin. Upon entering the bar I remembered why most Paris establishments make me claustrophobic. A good Irish pub is a place with a lot of space to lean and enough air flow that leaves can blow through the room like bons mots.
I also consider it generosity to serve O'Hara's beers in Paris. It's a brand of Irish craft beers founded in the early 1990's in Carlow by the O'Hara's family. How many Anglophones, let alone Frenchmen, can name more than one stout? And how many know that O'Hara's velvety, coffee-toned stout is vastly purer and more beautiful than the one everyone can name?
The Green Goose also serves all the brand's other beers, including the terrific, slightly stronger, and more carbonated Extra Stout. A few of the more niche Irish whiskies are also available, and Loughney tells me he'll soon source the impeccably light and sherry-like Power's, the one whiskey I would wholly endorse drinking with a meal. (Not pictured.)
The Green Goose's kitchen, while sticking to standards, punches several notches above above typical pub food. The house-smoked salmon accompanying a mixed appetiser plate is surprisingly affecting, and a steak-and-stout pie was hearty and satisfying enough for me to overlook what appeared to be frozen peas.
But it's worth remembering that the place only opened a month ago. Certain dishes are still in tinkering stages, like a mincingly tiny mackerel main course, or the sad mini-fries undergirding an otherwise splendid Scotch egg.
A chive-embedded cheddar was the highlight of an Irish cheese plate. But the dish overall suffered from poncey over-plating. (When introducing presenting unfamiliar cheeses to a French audience - or, for that matter, when presenting any cheeses to anyone at all - seems best just to place the cheeses in clean wedges beside each other, with whatever optional accompaniments relegated to the plate periphery.)
The Green Goose's wine and cocktails aren't spectacular. There is no need for them to be, of course: it's a pub. But it could only speed the general improvement of the Irish pub genre to put as much thought into the selection of these elements as into the staples of beer and whiskey.
But at the end of the day, Paris contains a surfeit of places to get good wine, cocktails, and dainty multi-course market menus. What it hasn't contained, until now, is a magnificent welcoming Irish pub that effortlessly transcends the conventions of the genre.
The Green Goose
19, rue des Boulets
Métro: Rue des Boulets
Tel: 09 82 37 73 41
Paris' other good beer bars:
La Fine Mousse, 75011
Les Trois 8, 75020