‘Best Irish Pub in the World’ competition entry: PJ O’Brien’s, Sydney

On Christmas Day in PJ’s hundreds of young Irish people eat turkey and ham wearing their county colours

The Irish Times' Generation Emigration project is on the hunt for the best Irish pub in the world outside Ireland. The following is one of the entries we've received so far. To read more, or find out how to nominate your favourite Irish pub abroad, click here.

When I landed in Sydney in 2012 I received a text message from my brother. He said “see you in PJ O’Briens at 7pm”.

PJ’s isn’t your usual “Irish pub abroad”. Yes, they have Irish sporting memorabilia on the wall, Guinness flowing on tap and a large volume of 20-something-year-old men wearing stripy shirts and talking about GAA results. But PJ’s has something unique among Irish bars overseas: cultural integration.

Many bars in Sydney city centre are referred to by the Irish as “the anti-craic” for after-work drinks on a Friday; but not PJ’s. A typical night here will involve live music, sports games screenings, the best Irish stew, and most importantly, a mix of new arrivals to the country, second generation Irish, and the local Aussie looking for a relaxed atmosphere combined with the friendly banter of staff and patrons.


I had the great fortune of winning a talent competition called “The Paddy Factor” last year, hosted by the local Michael Cusack’s GAA club. Flash forward two months and I was gathering myself in the bathroom of PJ’s trying to calm my nerves prior to my first professional pub gig ever when I dropped my phone containing my guitar tuner, song lyrics and chords into the toilet bowl.

Emerging from the cubicle panic-striken, I told my story to a stranger as I shared her hand-dryer in a desperate attempt to save my dying phone. I began to pack up my things and leave the bar cloaked in failure and embarrassment. Within minutes, the assistant manager from Ireland approached me with a free meal, a cold pint of Magners cider and a box of uncooked rice to revive my phone.

That's the thing about PJ's; everyone is welcome regardless of nationality, background or age. The only entry requirement is that you are "up for the craic" and willing to cheer along and hug strangers when Ray Houghton's 1994 soccer World Cup goal against Italy is replayed every Saturday night at 1am.

An estimated 80,000 Irish people moved to Australia between 2008 and 2014. For many of these, Australia is called home now. But, being 17,203km away from your country of birth has its downsides, including the high propensity for sunburn and the lack of traditional Christmas dinner. On Christmas Day in PJ's, hundreds of young Irish people eat their turkey and ham wearing their county colours, after morning Mass at Bondi Junction.

Three years after meeting my brother there for a beef and Guinness pie on my first night in Sydney, I continue to darken the door of the city's famous Irish pub. He has moved back to Ireland since but texts me often; sometimes to enquire as to whether Ray Houghton scored again but mostly to reminisce about our home away from home.

Think your favourite pub abroad could claim the title of Best Irish Pub in the World (Outside Ireland)? Tell us about it by entering the competition here.