There is something in all of us Irish abroad that makes us want to have something of what we left behind after making that fateful decision to leave our homes and our country behind for foreign shores.
Having lived in London for 15 years and travelled to many countries on the continent and beyond, I have walked through the doors of many Irish themed pubs. But none have ever had that touch of home that I always feel in the Auld Shillelagh in Stoke Newington.
The added-value attractions at this skinny little Church Street boozer are numerous: sporadic themed music nights (including the Bowie Bar on the second Thursday of the month, with films and food – Diamond Hot Dogs, anyone? – to go with the tunes), big-screen football, a surprisingly large beer garden.
But the Shillelagh is at its best when it keeps things simple, as an honest, uncomplicated Irish pub (as opposed to Irish-themed pub; the difference is crucial) that draws a devoted circle of boozed-up Stoke Newingtonians most nights of the week.
It’s the kind of pub where the wine list runs to ‘red or white’, and where the staff are so matey and hospitable that they’ll offer to bring your Guinness over to your table rather than have you hang around at the bar and wait for it to reach perfection. No wonder everybody here always seems to be in such a good mood.