In this world of Blackberrys and iPhones and super-sized TVs, the eating and drinking experience has changed in the last decade. Along with the arrival of the “real time” technology, some would argue, is the loss of one of the main reasons people went out to eat or stopped at a bar — to meet with people over a beer or a good meal.
Enter Hanafin’s Public House in Glastonbury, a new Irish-themed restaurant that serves up something else with its Guinness, Kilkenny and bangers and rashers: a place to congregate and communicate.
That’s the intent, according to “pub landlord,” Diarmuid Hanafin, whose family also owns the top-rated Hanafin’s in New London.
“We do have a couple of TVs installed out of the way, but that is not the focus,” says Hanafin, who was born and raised in Dublin. “We want a place that feels like an Irish pub and serves the same purpose, a place to meet friends or talk to strangers, and at the same time, enjoy good food and drink.”
The pub setting sets that stage. Angela Murphy, a well-known pub designer from Ireland, transformed the space, once the site of the landmark Parma Italian restaurant, into a neighborhood pub house that if you didn’t know better, was on the other side of the Big Pond.
The end result is a cottage-like space that includes the main room, which is the place to be, and a separate dining room that is used for private events, large parties and pub overflow. But it is the main room, with its hardwood bar, and Irish ambience that is the crowd-pleaser. An Irish currach (canoe) hangs over the long hardwood bar, and it might look familiar to those who go to Glastonbury’s annual Irish Festival. “We have brought it up in the past for the Irish celebration here,” says Hanafin. “Putting it here permanently seemed perfect.”
The room includes the perfunctory assortment of pub tables and stools, beer kegs band and interesting assortment of vintage pub signs and family pictures, an assortment of collectibles and antiques that the younger Hanafin has been accumulating for years with an eye on opening that second Hanafin’s.
What you won’t find are any neon beer signs or other bric-a-brac that take away from the intimate Irish pub feel. Among the treasures: a vintage church pew, an antique Waterford spirit jug and a 1920s telephone, all adding to the “sit back and enjoy it a while” feel of the place.
But Hanafin and partner Jimmy Kelly are quick to point out that while it’s a place to gather and chat, it is also a place to eat. And the non-so-Irish Lewie Jump is making that happen in the kitchen.
The Glastonbury menu includes some of Hanafin’s already established popular Irish offerings, including a classic ground beef and potato shepherd’s pie, lean corned beef reuben with swiss cheese and sauerkraut, Guinness beef stew over mashed potatoes, stout braised lamb, bangers and champ featuring Irish sausage, and the Jimmy Mac and cheese with macaroni baked in Harp Larger.
“Irish food is about meat and potatoes, just goof food,” saysHanafin, noting that family recipes are used in several of the entrees.
“We are surprised that we are as popular a restaurant as we are a gathering place,” says Kelly. “And we are different so we are not in direct competition with all the other restaurants around here” in the Rankin Road Plaza.
And then of course there is the beer. Lots of imported and local drafts with choices including Carlsberg, Imperial 20-ounce pints, Magners, Palm and Stella. There are happy-hour specials and Irish entertainment karaoke and trivia games featured throughout the week.