There are several well-known bars existing in the world under the name Harry’s Bar, from Paris to New York to Rome and Beijing. The most famous would certainly be Harry’s Bar in Venice, known as the place where the Bellini was invented.
Now, it is famous across the world and the much loved first in an international family of Cipriani bars, cafes, and restaurants. Since opening its doors in 1931, it has had a long and colourful history, with a clientele that has ranged from Lord Byron and Marcel Proust to Orson Welles and Trueman Capote, as well as many a passing millionaire. Ernest Hemmingway was a fixture during the long winter of 1949-50. Harry’s retains its charm today, as do its friendly staff with the aid of a dazzling array of beers, wines, spirits, and cocktails, which if you have ever been, you will know that they will help to anaesthetise you against the size of the bill at the end of the night.
Another Harry’s Bar exists, one where you will not need any anesthetic, in Bohermore. There is an awful lot of this going on in the pub scene in Galway at the moment. We have of late gained a concentration of diverse food pubs, working hard to serve pub food while not being bound to the traditional. There are the crispy squid and pickles styled by Paul Lewis at The Universal alongside some more obviously Mediterranean dishes. We see the elegant cookery of Joe Flaherty at the Lock Keepers in the Westend. There is the way Entre Pans took the humble sandwich and polished it up to a glorious luxury item in The Bierhaus. Woodquay and Salthill are also upping the game with a number of down-at-heel boozers made over to more attractive prospects in recent times.
Now another, Harry’s Bar exists, and having found it, I declare it a standard bearer for the ideal neighborhood pub. If you were to assess Harry’s Bar based solely on its interior design and architecture you might conclude it to be a classic pub bar which gives way in one direction to a modern dining room with moody lighting. The menu tells a different story. Harry’s Bar knows exactly what it is doing. It is firmly a part of the new pub movement, one that puts all their knowledge and skill in delivering a recognisable pub repertoire. In a row of solid-built houses you will find this solid-built pub. Just looking at it, you know that, in times gone by, darts have been thrown here, and football results mourned with too many pints of flat beer. Inside the pub, work has clearly been done since it was taken over by the new owners in December. The pool table has gone, the sticky carpets stripped out, most things have been replaced, and all existing has been given a good polish.
The menu vibe is a selection of BBQ food and tasty burgers, rounded out by some soups and salads. There are signature chicken wings and house-made nachos, and pricing falls in the middle ground, more than the chipper but less than the restaurant. Starters are around seven and the most costly main (steak ) is €18. This place is clearly determined to be much more the word ‘pub’ and less the word ‘gastro’ even though there is friendly and mannered waitress table service. The wine list is small so the beers and spirits are much more the point.
The bronzed, golden chicken wings are the colour of a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, and leave nothing to complain about, made with a dusting of lime zest with a nice slap of heat from the hot sauce alongside the usual dip, lettuce leaves, and rings of red onion in a side salad. There are jumbo prawns and ribs and all the burgers (chicken, turkey, beef ) are cooked to order and of course, there are sides - slaw, baked potato, or corn-on-the-cob among them. Saturdays and Sundays sees an earlier opening for what looks like a tasty brunch.
Harry’s takes imbibing seriously and does casual dining very well, the staff are already a tight knit and well oiled machine, long may it flourish. What really matters is that this lovely old pub is once again in safe hands and I, for one, am delighted. A seriously good addition to a part of Galway that could do with a friendly local.
Harry’s Bar at Water Lane, 77 Bohermore, Galway. Tel: 087 946 0320 Email: [email protected].