- 11 Oct 2023 5:27 AM
First, the location. Longer-term expats might well remember this being the flagship outlet of the John Bull chain, which now extends to cities such as Győr, Szeged and Nyíregyháza. Its 1990s’ heyday here in Budapest, however, has long gone.
Not only that, but the character of the square around it has also changed. Podmaniczky Frigyes tér was once pretty shabby, as shabby as the fast-food kiosks that lined the authentically retro Arany János utca metro station in the middle. With its renovation came the relandscaping of the square, now a pleasant, pedestrianised space benefitting an ever-growing cluster of terrace cafés and eateries.
One such is James Joyce. When the cheery trio of Brian Tuohy, Barry Gallagher and Nick Doyle opened it this spring, they were moving into a ready-made pub overlooking an urban piazza frequented by salaried passers-by seeking lunch and/or a post-work pint.
Each of the three, Brian from Kildare, Barry from Donegal and Nick from Liverpool, steeped in the hospitality trade, have personal connections with the city they’ve chosen to call home: they’re all married to Hungarians.
James Joyce is therefore a labour of love in more ways than one, and it shows. Cosy upon entering, it comprises a large front-bar area blessed with, but not dominated by, sport on TV. A long bar counter, lined with taps of Guinness, O’Hara’s Red and Pale Ales, Falling Apple cider, Heineken, Kronenbourg and Hungarian Soproni, also now features a small-batch IPA produced by Cece Brewing from the rustic village of the same name in Fejér County.
Behind beckons an array of whiskeys (Redbreast, Green Spot, Connemara) and other quality spirits, Grey Goose vodka, Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva rum, Drumshanbo Gunpowder gin. Just in front, they’ve placed a little basket of Tayto crisps for that small taste of Ireland.
Those after a plateful of hearty home-cooked fare can tuck into the all-day Irish breakfast or bangers & mash, both featuring authentic Irish sausages, or perhaps the fish & chips, delightfully crispy thanks to the Kronenbourg batter. Burgers, nachos and BBQ wings round out this fine selection of pub grub, often put to the test by staff of the Irish Embassy just round the corner. Look out, too, for the weekly specials, and warming dishes for autumn.
In the snug at the back of the pub, couples can natter and groups may gather, most notably Budapest’s own Aussie rules sports team, for whom this is a home from home. With the Rugby World Cup now down to the quarter-final stage, vital games coming up in soccer’s Euro qualifying stage and regular Premier League action, autumn should see the James Joyce as lively as it was in spring and summer. Which is just how the trio visualised it when they were dusting down and putting up the rare beer advertising from a previous era.
James Joyce Irish Bar & Gastro
1054 Budapest, Podmaniczky Frigyes tér 4.
Open Mon-Thur 4pm-midnight, Fri-Sun noon-midnight.
Words by Peterjon Cresswell for Xpatloop.com
Peterjon has been researching the byways of Budapest for 30 years, extending his expertise across Europe to produce guidebooks for Time Out and his own website liberoguide.com