Galway is known for many things — arts, culture, and its vibrant food scene holding its own on the international stage. We have enjoyed the benefits of this burgeoning foodie paradise for a few years now, with new places to eat springing up all around the city. Not to be outdone, there has been an explosion in the bar scene also. Throngs of bars line almost every street in the city, from traditional to exotic to the hidden gems only the locals know about. If you’re looking for the best Galway bars you certainly have a lot to choose from.
Galway is a tourist heavy town and you would forgive the best places to drink in if they they played up the twee side of Irish tourism, but this has never been the case and tourists and local alike can enjoy their pick of authentic Irish bars. It’s not difficult to find a pub in Galway that you want to spend time in. The Yard Kitchen and Bar at The House Hotel is certainly one of them.
Some of us of a certain vintage will remember fondly going to Brennan's Yard for 'the one' and emerging bleary eyed many hours later, it was a great spot for a lock-in. Back then it was all mustard walls and pine, as was the fashion, but there have been reinventions since then. Now the 40 room boutique-style House Hotel occupies the listed building that was Brennan’s Steel Works, which once employed generations of locals. When it opened first the hotel lobby was heavily disguised as a comfy sitting room with more than a nod to the Barbara Cartland school of interior design, pink and girly with fuchsia couches, gaily-colored armchairs, cushions and lampshades, and a veritable infestation of cats of all different shapes and sizes. To add to the lounge room feel, the front desk was unobtrusive, amounting to just a couple of writing desks placed among the tables and chairs.
It is an old stone building of immense character and has the benefit of some of Galway's most prestigious surroundings. As the hotel is not purpose-built, all the rooms are a different shape, some generously proportioned, some a little more bijoux. These contemporary bedrooms are made for serious snoozing, plush and sound proofed, you would never guess you were in the centre of Galway when you wake up in one. Exit by the back of the ground-floor restaurant and you will find yourself right beside the city’s best known theatre, The Druid. Just a little further is bustling Quay Street, lined with restaurants, pubs, and cafes and every kind of cuisine. A short stroll beyond that brings you to Shop Street filled with an array of talented buskers, and eventually Eyre Square. The hotel is within easy walking distance of the Spanish Arch, and the city museum is also close by.
The House Hotel has been one of Galway's most popular hotels since its opening. It is hard to pigeon hole, neither strictly classic nor modern, it is something of an original. The new interior is in stark contrast to the old. While no less comfortable and still with lots of great spots to sit and work or lounge, the unashamedly feminine colour scheme has been replaced with stylish shades of grey and green with touches of navy and ochre here and there. An imposing front desk greets you at the entrance and all traces of the signature felines have been swept away. As far as the food goes The House Hotel has got it covered from morning till night.
There are modern menus to match the interiors, a move to a small plate concept very much in line with current food trends. While the kitchen may have undergone changes, the latest recruit, Jason O'Neill, is certainly a change for the better. Head chef O'Neill is a very new addition to the team, in conjunction with his role as head chef in the g Hotel. He is no stranger to a busy kitchen, having previously worked as head chef of O'Grady's in Barna, where his food and menus were a big hit. He brings many years of experience to the job, originally from Monaghan, he trained in Killybegs, Donegal, and then went on to work in Australia for a number of years in various culinary positions.
Although The Yard is a bar, the kitchen aspect gets equal billing. The seating is set out in several different sections and the selection of large booths making it ideal for groups, families, and bigger parties. You can enjoy the hotel's continental breakfast and extras made to order, served daily from 7.30am. There are conservative options such as a full Irish, pancakes or porridge, or the more unexpected breakfast poutine, churros, or cornflake crusted French toast with ice-cream. If you fancy a coffee and cake you can choose from the mini-treats such as profiteroles or book yourself in for the full afternoon tea experience, a selection of gourmet sandwiches, scones, preserves, and fresh cream.
The food is casual but imaginative, the lunch menu has a lovely choice of soups and salads, a tapas style selection, and a range of sliders. The salmon chowder with brown bread should be on everyone's bucket list, it is that good. There are crisp cod beignet served in warmed pita with avocado, iceberg, tomato and a lemon dressing while three pillowy, pulled pork sliders that come with skinny fries are perfect for sharing. Desserts have a little touch of genius like churros with mango dip, pop corn crème brûlée, or chocolate mousse cup with cherries; the mini size is reflected in the mini price of around €3.50 each.
The Yard has something for everyone, from a swiftly served lunch each day, or come evening, a choice of cocktails at the bar and relaxed dining. The drinks list with a great choice of gins, vodkas, whiskeys, craft beers, and wines. Service as always is impeccable, the staff are friendly, attentive, and well-informed. Jason O'Neill's vision is to bring the dining experience to the next level with exciting and memorable food. This is a restaurant that has clearly upped its game with clever, contemporary, menus and quality cooking.
The team at The House understand that to survive and thrive, a hotel cannot be just a place to sleep any more. The Yard may be gaining a reputation for its newly cool interior, extensive cocktail menu, and vibrant atmosphere, but the food adds another dimension with unique and well considered menus, real value for money, although it would be nice to see more prominence given to local producers and suppliers. In a building that has been such a part of Galway history, it extends a genuine, warm, welcome. While the Galway bar scene has been booming, The Yard is without doubt one of the city’s best spots to enjoy a meal out in fabulous surroundings.
The Yard Kitchen & Bar at The House Hotel, Flood Street, The Latin Quarter, Galway. Tel. (091 ) 538 900. [email protected].