Galway city centre always seems to have a buzz about it. No matter when you visit, the pavement café culture thrives, buskers strum their instruments on every street corner, tourists abound. Never a dull moment. In the heart of the Latin Quarter, The King’s Head Pub and Bistro is a place anyone with even a remote interest in history and a quest for culinary excellence must visit.
For a start, the pub is around 800 years old and has direct links with King Charles I and his execution. The original fireplace of the day is still intact and homes a roaring fire. Old flagstones and a potted history in the bar give a taste of the heritage of this building, one of the oldest in Galway, its age visible in its quirky architectural lines. None of the ambience of those old days has been forsaken for modern design. The feel is very much in keeping with Days of Yore – minus twee. This is just a good old fashioned comfortable Irish pub that has embraced its past and brought it gently into the modern day. In the Grealish family for a quarter of a century, the King’s Head is now run by the second generation of the family - in the shape of Paul Grealish and his wife. The couple have many combined years of experience in the hospitality industry, with career spells in significant establishments at home and abroad. Their time in Japan gave both a love of the freshest foods and ingredients. They brought that philosophy home to Galway and have been using it to update then completely reinvent the menu in the pub and adjoining Bistro. The two establishments are very much connected, with the Grealish’s at the helm of both. The two adjoining venues offer completely different dining experiences – but share one ethos – to produce the best quality dishes using local and Irish produce and artisan foods.
Head Chef Brendan Keane did an Irish ‘Roadtrip’ with Paul in 2006, visiting and researching artisan producers and local farmers, prior to redesigning all the menus. The result is, as Paul says, ‘An old pub with new ideas on food’ We’d have to agree. Pub grub doesn’t come much sassier than at the King’s Head. Brendan has long standing experience, and an affinity with local and seasonal food since his childhood days on his family farm. Every dish is from ingredients sourced locally and from the best specialist producers Lunch and dinner menus at the King’s Head proudly state that bread comes from a historic Galway bakery just next door, sausages and other pork products from the butcher down the street, and the batter for the famous fish and chips is made with Galway Hooker beer. All the eggs are free range, beef is Irish and local, smoked salmon comes from Burren Smokehouse in Clare, and seaweed for some of the dishes is sourced in Westport, Co.Mayo.
Food at the King’s Head is good gastro pub food. Expect a varied menu, starting with breakfast of the Full Irish or Mini Irish with delicious sausages, rashers and black and white puddings from the local butcher. At lunch and dinner, plenty of local seafood like Clarenbridge Oysters, Galway lobster, crab claws and fresh fish for the fish and chips. Lunchtime Sarnies here are a cut above – excuse our pun! They include The King’s Club Sandwich on brown bread with chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato and Marie Rose Sauce, served with home cut chips. Kings Head Classics main courses are wide reaching in taste terms – loaded with Irish produce in the descriptions. The King Charles Burger is a favourite – made in house and served with toppings on a genuine Waterford Blaa. After that, you might tuck into a chic dessert which will come from the kitchens of the King's Head Bistro. Seasonal specials are always featured so the summer sees lots of fresh Irish berries, while colder months are warmed with hot and delicious comfort puddings.
Traditional pub life is encapsulated at The King’s Head. There will always be someone to chat to in the true Irish traditions of welcoming hospitality. Live Music every evening showcases a mix of trad, rock, folk and Irish Dancing. Wednesdays are really popular. Comfortably viewed from the first floor Gallery Restaurant which serves the pub menu. A private function room, The Ruby Bar on the top floor, is a self contained space for private gigs – the likes of comedians Tommy Tiernan and Des Bishop have graced the stage here. The Ruby Room is an official venue for the Literary Festival programme and hosts many arts events during the year. It’s also a great place for a private party, where guests can boogie the night away in their own little space.
To the rear of the downstairs bar area lies the connecting entrance to The Bistro. This restaurant also has it’s own private entrance up the old cobbled alleyway which runs next to the pub. Here the mood is cool and chic in interior terms and the tempo of the food. But as both pub and restaurant work closely together, special promotions often allow Bistro diners to receive a token for a cocktail to be taken in the pub after dinner. Elegant food followed by great Irish craic - what a combo!