Is it a pub or a Korean restaurant? Why not both? Indeed, the Kimchi Hophouse is resolutely two things at the same time – a slightly scruffy, traditional Irish pub, and a thriving Korean restaurant, in one slightly-creaky building. The former Shakespeare Pub still bears its previous branding, with the small addition of a small rectangular sign with the current name just under the gilt Victorian (Edwardian?) one.
Parnell Street is sometimes called Dublin’s Chinatown, in that there is a pretty decent concentration of restaurants and supermarkets representing many different Asian cultures and cuisines, and you could do little better than listen to the excellent Three Castles Burning episode on the street and its history, which also highlights its many African and other influences – there’s a lot going on here.
And in this case, it seems that it’s entirely accurate that Kimchi Hophouse is the oldest Korean restaurant in Dublin – it’s so rare for an ‘oldest’ anything to pan out, yet here we are. The pub can feel a bit warren-like – there’s the main bar when you walk in, which shows signs of various configurations over the years, plus a dining room off to the side, as well as a curving hallway to the extremely pleasant beer garden – something of a hidden oasis in this part of the city. Indeed, tidy outdoor space is hard to find in much of Dublin, but especially so around here, so the covered space with the colourful murals is most welcome.
But while there’s plenty of authentic bibimbap and other deliciousness, punters are equally welcome to simply come into the pub for pints – being au fait with the latest Korean food trends is by no means required, and on a typical day, you see the full spectrum of pub-goers here, from old-man pub denizens to hipsters on a night out. And while there’s naturally the well-poured pint of Guinness, plus all the other usual suspects, local craft options pop up, too, most recently Rye River and a bit of Galway Hooker.
Where: Kimchi HopHouse, 160-161 Parnell St, Rotunda, Dublin, D01 Y4A7
Access from the city centre: Buses 1, 9, 11, 13, 16, 44, 46A, Luas Green Line, 12-ish minute walk
Food: Korean (obvs), and a nice break from potato-heavy bar snacks elsewhere
Sport: Football & rugby are both represented, one presumes other sports pop up as well
TVs: A fair few scattered around for the footy
Music: Seems to always be ’80s hits when I’m in
Family-friendliness: Likely depends on the time of day
Pub-crawl-ability: High – a short walk to The Big Romance, Mema’s, The Confession Box, Piper’s Corner, The Flowing Tide…even the Spoons isn’t too far away, in case you wanted to downgrade your food options
Local sites of note: Parnell Monument, The Spire, GPO, Garden of Remembrance, Gate Theatre, Rotunda Hospital, Hugh Lane Gallery
Haunted: Definitely an atmosphere
Other notes: Don’t hesitate to order things extra-spicy if that’s your preference – some things are dialed a long way down