One of the most successful refurbishments of the many we have seen in recent years here in Galway is undoubtedly that of John Keoghs, The Lock Keeper on Upper Dominick Street. This pub and restaurant opened in Galway’s West End in spring 2016, developed by Matt Hall, a Galway resident, as a sister venue to MacBride’s Bar in Westport, Co Mayo. The pub and restaurant take its name from a real character called John Keogh who really was the lock keeper of the adjacent Parkaveara canal lock on the Eglinton Canal in the middle to late 19th century.
In what was once a bicycle shop, a serious transformation took place in 2016, and a new gastropub arrived on the scene. Two bars, a private party area, and a fully equipped kitchen were all built from scratch. And done in such a way to pull off that difficult trick of looking nonchalantly like it had always been there, a permanent part of the landscape. Serving an array of craft beer and some seriously tasty grub, the new addition quickly developed a dedicated following, scooping up a fair few awards along the way.
If anyone were now calling by at the weekend to bring their bicycle in for repairs, it wouldn’t be the end of the world either. They can’t do anything for your brakes or your puncture, but, as the West End gets busier and busier with trade and tourists, on Saturday and Sunday, they do now offer a delicious lunch.
Inside, the large space is made cosy with snugs and partitions, and filled with antiquities and collectables gathered from other pub redevelopments, proving once again that ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’. The lunchtime menu starts off promisingly with lighter bites starting from €6 such as the ‘pub bravas’ - potato, chorizo and garlic aioli, or a St Tola goat cheese parfait with honey-glazed pear and parmesan crisps. For seafood fans, there is the west coast seafood chowder or a pot of mussels in a white wine cream sauce with house-made soda bread and Cuinneog butter.
In fact, fish is a real highlight on this menu, the more substantial dishes include a fish pie made with seasonally caught fish, creamy mashed potato, and house salad, or the house favourite, beer battered fish of the day with chunky tartar sauce, lemon, and some seriously good twice cooked chips. The mains, hovering around the €12 mark, offer value as well with the more meaty options. There is a Gilligan’s 8oz beef burger served in a brioche bun with cheese and onion jam, or the dry aged black Angus steak sandwich.
A sensibly priced children's menu, with all options at €6, finishes things off nicely. The bars stock over a dozen craft beers, dozens of whiskeys and gins, along with all of the mainstream products, and dinner is served on weeknights from 5pm as well.
All in all, and at this stage only to be expected, a cracking little lunchtime menu from one of Galway’s best-loved pubs for food. So if you are in the West End and in the market for a spot of lunch on a Saturday or Sunday, John Keoghs is your man — for all puncture related enquires, may I recommend Pelo in Liosban instead.
John Keoghs, The Lock Keeper, 2-4 Dominick Street Upper, Galway. Phone 091 449431; www.johnkeoghs.ie