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Johnnie Fox’s: A Whimsical Oirish Nightmare Hellhole

Mussels at Johnnie Foxes

I know, I know.  We were stupid to go to Johnnie Fox’s in the first place. It’s a tourist trap, everyone knows it’s a tourist trap, and you get what you deserve if you go somewhere like that. However, our experience in Johnnie Fox’s was so bad that I just have to post about it.  At the very least, I feel I should reach out to the staff there and show them that their suffering has been noticed.

So here’s what happened – a big group of us (about 15 adults and 10 kids) went for a walk in the Dublin mountains on the first Sunday in January. It was lovely!  It was a fresh day and we stretched our legs and the kids ran about and it was great.  We had said we’d go for a pint and some chips, and someone suggested Johnnie Fox’s in Glencullen. There’s not a huge amount of choice up there, and Johnnie Fox’s, while touristy and a bit overpriced, does serve very good pints.

So we went there and were given a table in the ‘Hooley Room’ (ugh) where a band were tuning up.  A bit of live music on a Sunday afternoon is nice, right?  Except of course if the music is amplified to a ridiculously loud level, one so loud that no conversation of any kind is possible and you walk away with a pounding headache.  Which is exactly what happened there.  The volume would have been suitable for 2am in a raucous bar on New Year’s Eve, not a Sunday afternoon where lots of families with kids were present.  Why? Who on earth is it supposed to be enjoyable for?  Do they think their visitors are profoundly deaf?

If it’s a technique to get people to eat up and leave quickly, it’s a massive bloody failure, because the service was so incredibly, bafflingly slow.  We made it clear to the waiter that we weren’t having two courses; some people were having main courses, others were just having soup.  Regardless, the soup arrived on its own and then an incredibly long wait followed.  After an hour (no exaggeration) and having asked a number of times, about four of our party gave up and told the waiter that they had to go.  The kids were on the verge of meltdowns from the noise, waiting any longer would not have been an option.  The waiter said that the dishes would be removed from the bill, but when it arrived only one had been taken off rather than four.

One of the group complained to the manager about the service and the very unclean toilets, and in her words, “he didn’t give a f*ck”.  He also asked her to move from her table while she was still feeding one of the kids, despite the fact that no-one was waiting for it.  And then – then! – the waiter followed the same person out to the car park and asked her to pay for the entire meal, even though he knew the rest of us were still there and had moved to another table.  That was another mess – we asked to move tables as the noise was so unbearable, and we were told that the table was ready but not shown to it.  Various staff members kept gesturing to the back of the restaurant, but wouldn’t escort us there, and as the place is huge and has loads of different rooms, we weren’t able to find it.  The only assistance they would offer was telling us to move when we sat at the wrong empty table, but still refusing to show us to the correct one. Argh.

I don’t blame the staff for this by the way. They are working in dreadful conditions.  No one should be subjected to those noise levels, and I’m sure they have to bear the brunt of the frustration that the customers feel.

And how was the food in all this?  When it finally showed up, it was fine.  The food isn’t bad in Johnnie Fox’s although the main courses are a little overpriced.  My small bowl of chowder was €6.50, Jambalaya is €16.95, and a good starter of mussels in creamy sauce was €8.95  In a particularly egregious bit of nonsense, they don’t serve chips. There’s some drivel on the menu about their “refusal to move with the whims of modern society”, which as my friend Tom said, is “a little hollow in the face of posters plastered all over the toilets entreating one to “like” them on Facebook”.  Plus instead of chips on the children’s menu they serve potato waffles which are 1) more or less the same goddamn thing as chips and 2) along with Jambalaya, not exactly a mainstay of traditional Irish cuisine.

Places like Johnnie Fox’s meet a need (paddywhackery for tourists) but that doesn’t make it okay for them to treat their customers with such contempt. Tourists are people too, with normal fragile human eardrums.  Their staff are also people and should not be subjected to deafening diddley-eye music for hours every day, and should not have to work with so few staff on the floor that everything takes five times as long as it should.  I see their management are prompt about replying to reviews on Tripadvisor; it would be great if they took a bit of that time and improved the conditions at their bar.  The place was rammed full of people when we were there, and that was at a traditionally quiet time of year. With their relatively high prices and the money they make from their nightly ‘Hooley’ shows (if you voluntarily go to see that, you are insane) I’m pretty sure they could afford to do it.

What do you think? Have you been to Johnnie Fox’s? Would you recommend it to visitors to Ireland?



19 Comments

  1. Hiya,
    Will you put in a formal complaint somewhere they might see it?
    I always think that the way a complaint is handled says an awful lot about any business place!
    K

  2. Hi Katia – one of the party did complain to the management on the day (see above) and didn’t get any satisfaction from them, unfortunately.

  3. I’m sorry but the place is a hellhole. Seriously twee. Had a similar experience about 2 years ago when some German friends insisted we go after hearing about it. Service was pretty abysmal and the food we got was average considering the expensive price. When my German freinds complained they got the feeling that as they were tourists the manager couldn’t care less as he wouldn’t see them again. Needles to say I won’t be going back either solo or with European friends!

  4. Hi Jean

    I meant in writing after the event. I understand that the manager’s attitude was shocking on the day but they may be a bit more pleasant from a distance?
    Wishfull thinking I’m sure.
    They obviously don’t thrive on repeat trade.
    It’s a shame as it could be a great spot!

  5. I was that soldier who complained to the manager. It’s all true. The toilets smelt like Dublin zoo in the ’80s, my longed for post-walk food never arrived, he told me to finish feeding my child her 3 mouthfuls of spag bol at another table somewhere deep in the pub, and (despite having left money for said spag bol)I was chased out into the car park by the waiter and mortifyingly told to pay for 25 people’s food because he didn’t know where their new table was. I ended up savaging a Dominoes pizza like a honey badger in a car park in Lucan. If I ever meet a leprechaun I will wish never ever to have to go back there. Ever. Begorrah.

  6. “Dublin zoo in the ’80s”, “savaging a Dominoes pizza like a honey badger”, love it

  7. Have been here before & had similar experience.

    If I was you I’d also post similar review to Trip Advisor.

    As many people as possible should be informed of this.

  8. I went there two weeks ago, we only wanted a drink and sat at the token tables in service no mans land for those who dont want to pay 25 euros for a steak.

    I asked if we could order some drinks and I was told bluntly “no” and the waiter walked away , I said “do I have to go to the bar” , he mumbled “yeah”. Then he came back and said “one of the floor staff will be with you”.

    The floor staff guy came along and he took around 15 minutes to get us a few drinks. I asked if I could order food and was told “no”. We eventually managed to get the attention of one of the staff who was not completely disinterested in working there

    On my way out I went to the bathroom. One of the staff was standing at the urinal with one hand on his phone texting and the other hand -you can guess where – anyway he walked out without washing his hands. This was the last straw, total sickener.

  9. Sorry to hear about your terrible experience but I have to say excellent pint of Guinness, great atmosphere and a must see for any tourist. Avoid the “Hooley room” and join the locals on a Thursday night. I have no affiliation with the pub.

  10. I have been going to Johnnie Fox’s for over 20 years – maybe twice a year in the afternoon for lunch mostly. Never had a bad experience. They have even accommodated my gluten free needs. But I have rarely gone into the Hooley room except once or twice for Hooley. Unfortunate for tourists that most of the staff are foreign….

  11. Went there about a year ago and, while my experience wasn’t as bad as yours by a long shot, I did come away thinking what a nice pub it would be if it didn’t cater so much for tourists… but then I thought, who else would trapse up a mountain for a pub; only tourists!

  12. When foreign relatives visit, for some reason they insist on going to Johnny Foxes, invariably it is filthy, slow, smelly with poor and uninteresting food. It isn’t even the highest pub in Ireland.
    Complete kip best avoided

  13. Interesting cousinjack, thanks for the info.

  14. What does that mean, Laragh “Unfortunate for tourists that most of the staff are foreign….” That they can’t do their job properly? That they are responsible for the sound level or the manager’s contempt?

  15. I too have had poor experiences @ Johnny Foxes.

    But not tooo far away you have the brilliant Blue Light for Drinks/craic or the Merry Ploughman for food/service/place to bring tourist friends.

  16. I love the Blue Light, great place. They used to do great toasted sandwiches, do they still?

    The second last time I was in JF’s I asked for more bread as i had been given only one slice with my chowder, they asked me how many slices would I like (warning bells) when the bill came they charged me for the extra bread – 50c per slice!! I couldn’t believe it, they were only short of asking me to pay for another butter! I complained, sent an email etc. Next time I went some months later (kids love the place!) the bread was free…as it should be when you’re paying mad prices for their soup.

  17. Spent an hour looking for JFs tonight. Up hills and down vales. Couldnt find it. One small sign at Enniskerry, thenanother brown one at a cross roads. Went every route of crossroads. No pub. Asked security men at kiltiernan, didnt know, very nice guys ;) tried finding it on sat nav. It was 2.5 km. But we went all over place murphys lane quarry lane. No luck. How to find it??

  18. Kate, you had a lucky escape.