Falling in love with the Big Romance

Donal Corrigan

Parnell Street has been a safe haven for minorities in Dublin for many years. This street offers these people goods and services that the city centre doesn’t care to provide. For the Vietnamese community they can get fresh nem chua ( pork balls ) from the oriental shops. Or for the Korean community Han Yang BBQ restaurant offers a variety of traditional oriental food.

New to this list of safe havens on Parnell Street is ‘The Big Romance’ vinyl bar. This pub offers music lovers a fresh space to enjoy tunes in a city that is undergoing a venue crisis and pushing music lovers out. It is brought to us from the guys at Hidden Agenda who are used to putting on heavy hitting nights around Dublin. They are now branching off from pounding bass lines to crispy pints.

In the face of clubs and pubs shutting down all around the city, ‘The Big Romance’ is putting life back into Dublin’s music scene with this old school cafe.

As you arrive into the bar off Parnell street you come into a strikingly different scene. The dark interior is dissected by red neon lights that weave around the pub. It could be mistaken for a niche cafe off a side street in Amsterdam. The bar is equipped with 13 taps of beer with nine of them being a selection of craft beers. Along with this selection of beverages is a new twist on traditional pub grub. There’s traditional toasted sandwiches on offer with kimchi twists. In addition, they offer more exoctic pub bites that include house hummus and fried valencia almonds.

What sets this place apart though is their phenomenal sound system. ‘The Big Romance’ is a pub that dedicates itself to music while respecting those who want to talk to each other. They achieve this through a custom built Hatchett soundsystem. People who choose to sit in the back can enjoy a fully immersive sound experience. Yet, people who sit in the front can speak to each other with ease as the music levels are in full control of the staff. The sound-system is designed for internal use so that it can achieve the best of both worlds for music lovers and chin waggers.

The real charm of this place can be found at the bar. They continuously have a vinyl playing through the sound-system and put the album cover up on show for the customers.

The pub opened up it’s doors in November 2018 to a sold out launch night as Irish musician David Kitt christened the first night on the decks. ‘The Big Romance’ has seen unprecedented success since. Temporary Christmas staff have been made permanent in response to it’s popularity.

“ The January lull came in the shape of one quiet Monday. It’s been busy since “ the bar staff say.

In the short time that it’s been open, ‘The Big Romance’ is making a big splash in the Irish music scene. Heavy hitters such as Brame and Hamo, Nialler 9 and Toby Karr have made already made their debut there.

Moreover, their presence is also being felt in the local area with their social activism. During the nurse’s strike they offered a free coffee or beer to any of the nurses on strike in The Rotunda, located just around the corner from them.

Parnell street was originally part of the old road that connected the city to the northern coasts. The future of this street might well just be to connect Dublin’s music back to a city that’s losing it’s life, if ‘The Big Romance’ is anything to go by.

Donal Corrigan


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