From my original series posted on 14th March 2011, click here to see the original comments - miss these members!
3 Days left to get your Irish on . . .
No visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland would be complete without calling in to The Crown Bar for a pint or two or even a cup of tea, for in the Crown Liquor Saloon "there are no strangers, only friends who have yet to meet."
As one of the oldest and most loved landmarks in Belfast, where else would you find "a lovely burnished primrose yellow, red and gold ceiling, a floor laid in a myriad of mosaic tiles, brocaded walls ubiquitous highly patterned tiles, vigorous wood carvings throughout, ornate mirrors, wooden columns with Corinthian capitals and feathered motifs in gold? Painted and etched glass is everywhere you look, vivid in amber and carmine painted shells, fairies, pineapples, fleurs-de-lis and clowns. Incidentally, the colourful decorative windows fronting the bar were originally intended to shield customers from inquisitive passers-by. The long Balmoral red granite-topped 'Alter' bar is divided by columns and faced with gaily coloured tiles and a heated foot rest.
Another great delight in this magical place is the ten different shaped, cosy and elaborately carved wooden Booths, lettered from A-J. In the snugs you will find gun metal plates for striking matches, and an antique bell system (this used to be very common in Victorian Houses where servants were employed), which alerts bar staff to your liquid needs. Drinking snugs according to old records were not originally built for comfort, but to accommodate those people who preferred to drink quietly and unseen."
I've enjoyed many, many a fine meal in these snugs. The menu caters to what people expect Irish food to be as compared to what is normally eaten in an irish household but it is great fun to take visiting family and tourists and have them enjoy a beautiful plate of Bangers and Mash (my fave) called Crown Champ or perhaps a Braised Lamb Shank or the traditional Irish Stew!
The year 1885 was an era of emancipation in Ireland, which saw a sharp increase in the building of Catholic churches. Skilled craftsmen from Italy were brought into the North of Ireland and were persuaded to supplement their income by moonlighting on the building of this saloon. These Italian craftsmen were responsible for the tiling, glasswork and rich ornamental woodwork.
No wonder, at times when the sun beams strongly through the stained-glass windows, you would think you were in a church.
The Crown Liquor Saloon was perhaps the greatest of Victorian Gin Palaces which once flourished in the industrial cities of Britain. Today wonderfully preserved, the Crown is cherished and still well used by the people of Belfast. It is owned by the National Trust who made the decision to purchase this exotic property in 1978 ( Sir John Betjeman, the late Poet Laureate, played a crucial role in the Trust's decision.) In 1981 the Trust carried out a sympathetic restoration, and it took the sum of approximately £400,000 to restore the bar to its full Victorian splendour.
So, if you are ever in Belfast and you want a real taste of history, make a point of stopping by The Crown for a visit. You can't miss it; it is directly across the street from the "most bombed hotel in Europe"!!!
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