The King’s Head is a destination food pub steeped in centuries of history and atmosphere, with professional management expertise and a personal touch added by the Grealish family, owners snce 1990. With a second business, The Chop House (formerly The Malt House, see below) in an adjoining premises, their shared food philosophy is based on a firm commitment to a menu underpinned by conscientiously sourced Irish and artisan ingredients – or as they put it, “...pub food, only better!”
A piece of Galway's medieval architectural history, The King's Head could be seen as the original super-pub. Looking out onto busy High Street, the comparatively small frontage belies its extent. Revealing itself over three floors, it caters to a broad audience to fill its seats and does so with style. At over eight hundred years old, this popular bar offers free live music every night, big screen sports, lunch-time comedy and serves fresh food every day. It is dark and atmospheric, and the original medieval fireplace always has a welcoming blaze.
Cosy and casual, the thick stone walls are hung with tapestries and an upstairs gallery overlooks the action on stage. In the evenings those wanting to eat are encouraged up here to separate the diners from the tipplers. At night it is a very popular watering hole for students and since it is Galway, there is often a hen or stag party passing through.
Recently, proprietors Paul and Mary Grealish have made some major changes. Summer 2015 saw the closure of the long-established adjoining business, The Malt House, which they had owned for eleven years, and, just one week later, its re-opening as The Chop House - the name as much a tongue-in-cheek reference to the history of the King's Head as it is a promise of the menu to expect. Two reclaimed wood-clad dining rooms on either side have a clear view through to The King's Head, and the former courtyard makes a charming beer garden strung with twinkling coloured lights.
The menu is short and to the point, offering many gastropub classics from Caesar salad to lobster and chips. As it is of such historic interest, 'The Head' is a popular tourist destination and there’s traditional Irish stew, oysters on the half shell with dillisk scones and a pint of creamy Guinness for a truly Irish treat.
The ongoing commitment to sourcing the best local produce is still very evident: chicken from the Friendly Farmer in Athenry features, as does corned beef and sausages from Colleran’s Butchers across the street, smoked Connemara lamb from McGeough's of Oughterard, Killeen goat's and Cashel Blue cheeses, Linalla ice cream from across the bay in Co Clare and, of course, Griffin’s bread from the famous bakery next door.The seaweed comes from Westport, smoked salmon from the Burren, fish and vegetables are as local as they can find them. An authentic blaa from Waterford is about as far away as they stray to source their ingredients. They then mix all that together to make some very good pub grub.
With Brendan Keane, head chef of the Malt House for 15 years, back at the helm, the cooking is rock steady. Despite the name, fish is given equal billing to the more meaty options and drink pairings have been carefully considered: while there are dishes like brill on the bone with summer vegetables, that demand a chilled glass of white wine, others such as brisket and smoked bacon toastie beg for a pint of craft beer beside it - and there is plenty of both to keep everybody happy.
The King’s Head has come a long way since the days when the food offering here, as elsewhere, was just a bowl of soup with a ham sandwich. It's an asset to Galway city and a great credit to the Grealish family.
There is something for everyone here, whether student, tourist, families or revellers.