We have many restaurants and cafes that are fantastic come rain or shine, but as what is rare is wonderful, there is something special about being able to dine outdoors in Galway. Whether you are grabbing a sandwich from McCambridge's and heading to the 'Sp'arch', or having the full three courses outside Kirwan's Lane, it is hard to beat a bit of al fresco. In a city full of well utilised nooks and crannies there is plenty to choose from, apart from obviously the entirety of Quay Street — here are just a few of our favourites.
The King's Head is a piece of architectural history, a veritable medieval super-pub run by the Grealish family. With three storeys it is a big premises and must appeal to a broad audience to fill the seats. At more than 800 years old, this popular bar has free live music every night, big screen sports, occasional lunchtime comedy, and serves fresh food every day. Inside it is dark and atmospheric, the original medieval fireplace always has a welcoming blaze. Looking out on busy High Street, the comparatively small frontage belies its large interior.
As one of the best known pubs in Galway it is often a first stop for many visitors to the area. The very best thing about the King's Head is the very well run, exemplary kitchen. Head chef Brendan Keane is a talented man, he and his team deliver some of the best food in Galway, every day of the week. Ingredients are locally sourced, organic, and delivered fresh to the doorstep every morning, it is the kind of place you hope tourists will stumble across. But the real gem here in the summer is down a quiet lane to a flower-filled courtyard just off High Street, away from the buzz of Galway and its buskers. Many speciality Irish foods and organic ingredients feature on upbeat, seasonal menus and local suppliers are listed. The perfect spot to enjoy your ruben or the lobster and chips when in season.
From one pub garden to the other extreme — on first entering O’Connell's you would be forgiven for thinking this is a tiny, traditional pub. That is until you pass through the bar further on to what is probably the most elaborate beer garden in Galway. This is a 'Diagon Alley' for grown ups. You won't find your spell books or cauldron here, but they do have beer, cocktails, and Dough Bros, the Greaney brothers' famous pizza. The garden includes an old Victorian street known as ‘Gin Lane’ and an outside bar. Fully heated with retractable roofs, it stays open all year, a beer garden for all other beer gardens to be jealous of.
Formerly a tiny corner cafe and wine bar, a couple of minutes walk from Shop Street in Galway city centre, Gerry McMahon's Italian restaurant, Il Vicolo is now a more roomy affair. Just a couple of minutes' walk in the opposite direction over O’Brien’s Bridge, the new Il Vicolo at Bridge Mills is much more spacious than its previous incarnation. The wine bar is flanked on either side by two stone dining rooms and the River Corrib runs underneath the main room with its original old mill wheel still visible. The relaxed atmosphere and pleasant buzz is enhanced by downtempo jazz and keen staff, who, like Gerry, always seem to be having fun themselves. On a sunny day the stunning riverside terrace overlooking the rushing water is the place you want to be to enjoy some spunciotti or cicchetti and a glass of something from the exclusively Italian wine list.
Corrib House, Victoria and David Bohan’s handsome waterside Georgian property, was built next to the Courthouse and Town Hall Theatre in the early 1800s. Inside, the tea rooms are a step back in time with tranquil river views, while outside is a leafy walled courtyard, for lunch or tea and cake in summer. There is nothing old fashioned about the food though, breakfasts and brunches are particularly special. It is certainly one of Galway’s most special daytime destinations and a visit here is always enjoyable and consistent.
Another waterside venue is Papa Rich in Newtownsmith — downstairs you can expect good cafe fare while upstairs you will find an elegant 100 seater restaurant with the best Asian food around. Great taste is the key to success when it comes to street food and there is no shortage of that at Papa Rich Street Food Kitchen, where customers happily queue to bag one of the seats to enjoy Kevin Tan's wide repertoire of ethnically diverse dishes. Covering all the bases from Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, to Singaporean, soul food, Taiwanese, Thai, and Vietnamese, they use the freshest ingredients to create Asian street food inspired dishes from family recipes at affordable prices.
Chef Kevin Tan moves among all of his operations, ensuring that the quality of the cooking keeps to the same high standard people have come to expect from Papa Rich. He and his team like to keep the cooking as natural as possible, using beetroot and turmeric as colourings and no MSG. As a bonus, when the sun shines they happen to be in possession of one of the best terraces, the position means some beautiful views over the river and cathedral as you enjoy your meal.