It would be hard to imagine the City of the Tribes without The King’s Head pub at its heart which, at 800-years-old, shows no signs of slowing down, and along with the adjoining award-winning Malt House Restaurant continues to entertain, wine and dine, locals and visitors alike.
Located on High Street this landmark pub has earned a fantastic reputation for live music and comedy, good honest hearty food, and great craic over three floors while the Malt House Restaurant has continued to wow patrons with its quality food and friendly service. The King’s Head has been owned and managed by husband and wife team, Paul and Mary Grealish, for almost 25 years now but it was not until about eight years ago that the decision was taken to expand the business further with the addition of the Malt House Restaurant which brought with it its own well established reputation for culinary excellence.
“The idea behind acquiring the Malt House was that we felt they were complementary businesses and would help expand the food offering of The King’s Head. It’s very much a family-run business, extremely hands-on. Mary and I are extremely aware of how lucky we are to have an 800-year-old building in our care. We are only minding it for a short while in its long history, it is a privilege,” Paul Grealish ardently told this reporter as we enjoyed a cup of coffee among the hustle and bustle of the lunchtime trade. While placing a major emphasis on friendly customer service, quality food and entertainment, the business is also very keen to protect and promote the history of the premises, ensuring that it continues to be a local, and national, treasure.
At more than 800 years old the premises is best known for having historical links to Charles I, a king of England who faced the executioner’s block on January 3, 1649. The premises also had several links to the 14 Tribes of Galway - there are two fireplaces with marriages stones from the Martin, Bodkin, and Lynch families. The building had been the home of the Mayor of Galway, Thomas Lynch Fitz-Ambrose, in 1654 but following the execution of Charles 1 Cromwell’s army, led by Col Peter Stubbers, laid siege to Galway and eventually seized the premises. Research has revealed that Stubbers has direct links to the execution of the king - following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 Charles II pardoned those who conspired against his father. Stubbers however was exempted from this pardon and soon disappeared.
“Much of the original medieval features are still evident today. There is a medieval fireplace with a marriage stone that dates back to 1612, so it is 400 years old and we will be celebrating that fact later this year. We’re waiting until it is cold enough to light a fire,” Mr Grealish explained.
With such a tale to tell it is little wonder that The King’s Head has remained the talk of the town, but for all the right reasons. With general manager Philip Duignan overseeing the day-to-day running of both The King’s Head and the Malt House Restaurant, which employs up to 70 staff, there is a constant effort to bring the business forward while at the same time not losing sight of what is important - the customer.
“My job is to manage the team so that they deliver good quality service. It is family run business and that comes through from the top down. Happy teams means happy customers,” said Mr Duignan, who joined the business more than two years ago bringing with him 12 years of industry experience gained both at local and international level.
“Having Philip here means I can, with confidence, bring the business in a particular direction. There’s no point unless you have a strong leadership in place,” said Mr Grealish, whose own background in hotel and catering at GMIT meant that it was particularly exciting to get involved with the Malt House and work with executive head chef Brendan Keane. “Working with Brendan meant there was the chance to introduce an eating out concept based on fresh local ingredients and friendly service. Before we took over the Malt House it already had a fantastic reputation, we just made the decor and ambience a little bit more accessible and informal. We let the food and the service do the talking,” he said.
Indeed the decor of the Malt House is very welcoming, with a trendy/retro feel to it - the eye is particularly drawn to a motley plate display gathered from various sources. The food itself is lovingly prepared using ingredients which are sourced as locally as possible - much of the bread comes from Griffin’s Bakery next door, sausages from nearby Colleran’s Butchers, and the fish batter from Galway Hooker beer. The Malt House opens for lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday and occasional Sundays. The King’s Head, which follows the same guiding principle of quality food and service, serves food between midday and 9pm every day.
For the past 25 years the Grealish family have been involved in providing free live music at The King’s Head every night of the week. “We’re hoping to continue that proud tradition. For the most part the music is cover bands, and traditional music on Wednesdays, peppered occasionally with some bigger acts who have included Jape, Republic of Loose, and Ham Sandwich. The standard of music is unbelievable in Galway which boasts fantastic musicians,” said Mr Grealish.
The new ‘Havana Cocktail Bar’ has recently opened showcasing the fantastic mixology skills of general manager Philip Duignan - for a sneak preview of these skills check out The King’s Head YouTube channel where you will find some of the best clips.
“The reaction of the customers and staff have been fantastic. We are constantly re-investing in the businesses to move with the times. With the Malt House we are constantly looking at food trends in places like Dublin or London and further afield,” said Mr Grealish, who added that the business is also heavily involved in the Latin Quarter initiative and some of Galway’s best festivals further ensuring that the co-operation of local business helps to benefit the area and enrich the lives of locals and visitors alike.