There is a stereotypical gender divide in food. Man food is slabs of meat, scotch eggs, big fry-ups, and anything wrapped in bacon. Women prefer yoghurt, quiche, cupcakes, and chocolate, preferably not all on the same plate. Whatever the truth of these clichés, most menus and venues lean more into one camp than the other. Kelly's was always a man's place to my mind, with burgers, pints, and the football on the telly. But Kelly's bar is fond of change. It is fair, I think, to say that Kelly's has had more re-inventions than Kerry Katona. The latest change the team have made is a new menu that just might be the most gender neutral menu in town.
One of the best things about Kelly's is that the owner, Joan, is from the Grealish dynasty of publicans and restaurateurs in town. In a Grealish premises there is no such thing as bad service. They just do not stand for it. Whether you are being given half a lobster dinner or a little bowl of soup, it comes with the same friendly, efficient, and approachable manner. Service is their obsession.
There is a strong emphasis on vegetarian options on the menu and the 'gluten free' have great choice here with the soup and lots of specials being GF and the introduction of the B-Free rolls which they can use on request. Daily specials have a big hearty option, bangers and mash with stout and oxtail gravy, or a healthy lighter option like Tuscan stews and chickpea balti. The fry-up still exists at the weekends on the brunch menu - but the veggie homemade falafel, herbed mushrooms, and wilted spinach option sounds infinitely better.
I went to sample the new lunch menu. If your thing is wholesome, filling, tasty, and good value, this will work for you. If you do not go mad on the sides you will not go over a tenner for a lunch that will not disappoint.
My current husband had the Galway Bay seafood pie. Slightly smokey and stuffed with big flakey chunks of fish, it arrived with some secret mashed potato hidden under its shiny puff pastry dome. He was as happy as a sea-otter with his choice. To keep the stereotype alive I had a half portion of soup and a veggie toastie. The soup was Thai carrot and coriander, thick and tasty with coconut milk and spices, it was pretty perfect and managed not to fall into the 'too sweet' category that vegetarian-based stock soups are prone to. The sandwich was a veggie toastie on ciabatta — grilled peppers, courgette, and artichoke hearts with Knockanore smoked cheese. A great chargrilled flavour, if a touch under-seasoned, which is a problem easily fixed. It came with a small side of zingy red cabbage coleslaw with salty toasted seeds on top a bed of leaves… which I absolutely loved.
We also indulged in the gladness of the patatas bravas from the 'sides' menu. Lovely roasted spicy tomato sauce, a dollop of tangy yogurt, and a lashing of lovely coriander — I urge you to treat yourself to these, you are worth it.
They love their tea in Kelly's and have a selection of loose leaf teas and quirky teapots. There is not too much in the line of dessert but they do have fresh baked daily tea bread, a nice little touch worthy of Mrs Doyle herself.
They have some events worth checking in on too, in the Galway Food Festival. Breaking it into genders for y'all: For the ladies they have a Talk & Tasting with Martin Mehner who supplies the fantastic loose leaf teas, and gluten free food tasting from Kelly’s Kitchen and B-Free Bakery. For the lads, what is better than free meatballs? The Galway Meatball — free meatballs at midnight and live music with The Converse Allstars.
Kelly’s is open 11am to 5pm seven days a week for weekday lunch or weekend brunch. Situated at the top of Bridge Street and very well worth a revisit if you have not been in a while. Just take those few little steps extra, because Galway does not end at the bottom of Mainguard Street, you know.