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Globe South Dining Out

A welcoming spot to shoot the breeze

The Bailey is a roomy, comfortable pub in Marshfield. Below, the baked haddock with sauteed baby spinach and mashed potatoes. The Bailey is a roomy, comfortable pub in Marshfield. Below, the baked haddock with sauteed baby spinach and mashed potatoes. (Joan Wilder for The Boston Globe)
By Joan Wilder
Globe Correspondent / July 10, 2011

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The Bailey

278 Ocean St., Marshfield,
781 834-7800; thebaileypub.com
Dining room open Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.;
Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Accessible to the handicapped
Major credit cards accepted

There’s great pride of place in the large, dark wooden sign that hangs from the high rafters at The Bailey pub in Marshfield’s Brant Rock. “The Bailey,’’ it reads, “Proprietor Bill Bailey; Est. 2010.’’

Painted on the sign is an evocative graphic of four people carrying a rowboat on their heads.

“Do you know what that’s a picture of?’’ Bailey asks. “It’s my two brothers, my sister, and me carrying a curragh, an Irish boat.’’

Bailey speaks with a bit of a brogue although he was born and still lives in South Boston.

“I know, I’ve got the brogue and all,’’ he says. “I don’t know why. I’ve been to Ireland a hundred times, I guess that’s it.’’

After 25 years working for National Grid, Bailey bought the former Lobster Tale last year, renovated it, and opened in January. The roomy space has wide-board wooden floors, tables comfortably spaced throughout a large main room with a dedicated area for musicians, a comfy bar, and a light-filled, screened-in porch-like front room.

Irish culture is important to Bailey, who has his siblings’ childhood step dancing shoes in a case out front, along with other Irish memorabilia, including album covers from favorite Irish bands. At least 10 relatives work at the pub, including Bailey’s sister and two brothers, his mother, daughter, six of his cousins, and his sister-in-law - who bakes the pub’s brown bread.

The Bailey hosts live Irish music and dancing Thursday through Saturday nights, as well as Sunday afternoons - a family-friendly time. Currently, paintings on loan from Hingham’s Aisling Gallery hang on the pub’s walls to contemplate over a proper pint or a pot of Barry’s tea.

The menu is small and manageable and dominated by the Irish comfort foods that Bailey grew up with, along with local favorites, including burgers, steak tips, and an “Irish Riviera clam chowder.’’ The food is, indeed, pub food, but the quality of pub food that you’d find in an Irish village - which is to say, a bit eccentric, but homemade, always a good thing.

Corned beef sliders ($9) showcase coleslaw not as a side, but right on top of the meat, inside the bun. The pair of sandwiches are a tasty salty-sweet coupling.

French fries with a side of curry sauce ($5) are an acquired taste - acquired by the Irish over centuries of influence from India: They are fun to try.

Shepherd’s pie has acclimated widely in America, and Bailey’s version ($11) is less a pie than a hearty plateful of mashed potatoes, chopped meat, peas, and corn in a rich brown sauce. The pub’s archetypically Irish dish - bangers and mash ($11) - has mild-tasting sliced sausages and mashed potatoes with the same brown wine sauce as the shepherd’s pie. A side of roughly chopped, delicious cooked carrots flavored with cinnamon is a surprise that evokes winter in July.

Then, of course, there’s the perfect culinary intersection of Ireland and New England in the form of Bailey’s fish and chips ($14). This version of the popular summer dish is very crispy with a covering of tasty breadcrumbs.

The best dish I had in two visits was the one the friendly staff recommends most highly - the baked haddock ($15). The filet is baked with a lovely, light butter and lemon sauce and served with sautéed baby spinach and mashed potatoes. This dish, like a few others, is garnished with a festive wedge of deep-fried pita bread.

The Irish Riviera clam chowder ($6) is a flavorful, rich, homemade chowder, though it tastes only mildly of clams.

The Irish bread pudding ($5) is a great homemade dessert. The moist confection is topped with a lovely dollop of real whipped cream and sided with a surprising butterscotch sauce.

The Bailey is open year-round weekdays for lunch and dinner, and, on weekends, for breakfast as well. Bailey has built it to be a welcoming spot where people can stop in for a meal, a snack, a pint, or a cuppa - and real community can form. It’s a place to shoot the breeze, sing a tune, dance, have a chat, or read the paper. It all depends on the day and your mood.