Named after one of Ireland’s most famous political figures, the eponymous Dan O’Connell Hotel also happens to be one of Melbourne’s best known Irish pubs. Located in Carlton, where Canning and Princes Street meet, the 19th century pub rises from its corner block, with its old brick veneer and spiralling corner tower giving life to this pocket of Melbourne’s inner north.
Despite its long and proud history, the Dan O’Connell – or The Dan to friends – had, for a time, started to feel like a pub lost without any real sense of direction, a place that faced the risk of being forgotten on most days of the year which weren’t St Patrick’s Day.
That was until the middle of 2017 when it was bought and subsequently given a new lease on life by Kieran Yewdall, Michael Shaughnessy and Carl Johnson. The three new owners are familiar faces in Melbourne’s good beer scene, with Kieran and Michael having run The Catfish in Fitzroy since 2013 and Carl hailing from Northern Git in Thornbury.
Having taken over the grand old building, the new owners soon reinvigorated the place by cleaning it up, refurbishing it where necessary and getting the Dan’s many fires ready to roar. The somewhat hidden beer garden out the back remains a prime spot for afternoon beers, as do the tables that line the pub’s Canning Street side where drinkers can watch (presumably jealous) cyclists make their way to and from the city.
The new Dan’s team was also quick to change up the front bar’s eight taps by adding a lineup of beers craftier than the pub would have poured in its long history. Five of those rotate heavily between an assortment of beer drawn mostly from Australian small breweries, while cider and a house lager called Dan’s Draught pour alongside them. In keeping with the pub’s strong Irish roots, Guinness continues to foam slowly from the remaining tap.
The fridges behind the bar are kept well-stocked for those looking for something slightly fancier to split or take home for the evening; the drinks list is rounded out with wines and spirits from small Australian producers.
Perhaps unsurprisingly considering Carl’s recent history, the menu is focused on pub classics with a slightly British bent. Pies served atop mashed potato with mushy peas, fish & chips and lamb stews fly out of the kitchen during meal times with regular menu deals in place most days of the week for bargain hunters.
Indeed, although Dan’s does host the occasional beer launch and tap takeover, such food specials and trivia nights take priority over one-off events. This stems from the fact that, at its heart, the Dan O’Connell is still the same place it’s always been: a pub for locals.
While Paddy’s Day remains a major event, one on which The Dan takes over its neighbouring park for a day of Irish music, food and Guinness, now there are plenty of reasons to call in on any other day of the year too.