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Sunday, March 18 News

Upstairs downtown: Pub brings relaxed Irish fare, with added flair, to Fairfield

Patrick Mansfield set out to open an Irish pub in Fairfield, and the new Anna Liffey's seems about as authentic as you can get outside of Ireland.

Listen to Mansfield's Irish lilt, and that of bartender Derek Burke; check out the Irish antiques in the pub; listen to the Irish music wafting through the pub area, and enjoy bangers and mash -- and you nearly feel transported to a pub in old Erin.

But Mansfield has taken the pub concept to a new level and it's not just because the business is on the second story of the downtown building at 1494 Post Road: David Hamilton, a chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, presides in the kitchen. Featured fare on Anna Liffey's menu includes bacon-wrapped venison, grilled squab and rabbit potpie, as well as the Irish favorites Guinness beef stew, shepherd's pie or corned-beef dinner.

"I wanted a dedicated, serious chef," Mansfield said.

Mansfield wants to combine the relaxed community atmosphere of a pub, with fine food, but still offer traditional pub favorites. To do that he has divided his restaurant into a more traditional pub in the front, and a dining room at the back of space most recently occupied by the Sky Box Cafe. The space was completely renovated, he said, and is complemented by pub furnishings, some more than 100 years old, he said.

Hamilton, the chef, has forged relationships with Connecticut farmers and food purveyors, and makes everything from scratch. After working in several well-known Boston restaurants, such as No. 9 Park, Pigalle and Stella, the young chef returned to his home state.

"I prepare Irish food, but also all kinds of food across the board," the chef said.

Mansfield grew up in the pub business in Ireland -- his father had an Irish bar in Waterford County attached to their house. He began by cleaning tables for his father at the age of 6, and eventually worked in the business in London. After emigrating to this country about 20 years ago, he opened a pub in New York City called Anna Liffey's (named after the Liffey River in Dublin), then a second Anna Liffey's in New Haven. His new restaurant in Fairfield is the third Anna Liffey's -- but the second still operating since he decided to sell his New York business and enjoy the more relaxed atmosphere in Connecticut, he said.

"Relaxed" is a word Mansfield uses often when describing his enterprise. He believes that restaurant and bar patrons and companies that run American restaurants are in too much of a rush.

"It's not about turning tables," he said. "A pub in Ireland is the center of the community -- it's more intimate -- the whole family comes here," he explained. "Irish pubs are not driven by profit."

He decided to open Anna Liffey's in Fairfield for a simple reason -- Fairfield needed a good Irish bar, he said. The only Irish bar here is in the Gaelic-American Club, which is not open to the public.

"It's a fun business," he said. "We have a relaxed atmosphere. Come and have a glass of wine and relax."

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Anna Liffey's, 1494 Post Road, is open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Brunch is served Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. For details, call 203-292-9520.