Galway is known for many things, arts, culture, and its vibrant food scene holding its own on the international stage. We have enjoyed the status of 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 are looking for the best Galway pubs you certainly have a lot of choice. Galway is a tourist heavy town and you would forgive the best places to drink in if they played up the twee side of Irish tourism, but this has never been the case and tourists and locals alike can enjoy their pick of authentic Irish bars. It is not easy to find a pub in Galway that you would not want to spend time in.
Galway has welcomed a variety of different openings in recent times from bars to gastropubs, positive proof that the recession hangover has finally lifted. During the decline, too many pubs were chasing too few customers who were spending less and pub owners had to shown that the licensed trade could indeed be profitable, when customer needs were identified and satisfied. The establishments that survived needed to show a sense of initiative and spirit of enterprise, driving their customers home, offering free rounds of drink and running book clubs, offering deals and themed nights to attract their custom. While the Irish pub has never been so popular outside Ireland, the newer openings tend to the more eclectic side, a host of vastly diverse offerings.
Down West we have cosy gastro-pub John Keogh's and The Universal, a hipsterification makeover of the Old Forge. Woodquay welcomed McGinn’s Hop House and another craft beer bar, Caribou where options include beers from popular American brewery Stone Brewing and Denmark's Mikkeller. On Cross Street we have the newest and coolest bar, Tigh Nora, specialising in ever so fashionable gin. By far the most impressive of these new openings is on Merchants Road, a slick, modern, and vast venue called Tribeton, in a building which dates from 1825 and features flourishes that reflect its art deco origins.
In a previous life this building was the administration area for McDonagh’s Timber Yard across the street where the Eyre Square Shopping Centre now stands. Some of us will remember fondly going to McDonagh's paint and hardware to see the wire pulley system that took orders and receipts on a Willy-Wonkaesque journey overhead. It has had many reinventions since then, as a furniture and lighting store, a media centre for the Volvo Ocean Race, and an art gallery for the Galway International Arts Festival. Most recently it was a homeware store and woollens shop, stuffed full of tables and chairs, cushions and jumpers. Tribeton is another venue from the Barrett portfolio, who gave us the g Hotel and also has the iconic Hotel Meyrick, standing guard over Eyre Square.
The entrance is on the ground floor through a lofty and, as yet, empty room dominated by a sweeping fairytale staircase that carrys you to the first floor. Upstairs it boasts an impressively long bar with high atriums looking down through open wells to the floor below and seating areas broken into various styles and sections, a striking installation of filament bulbs hangs from the roof. The bar is built from oak wood salvaged from old Amish barns in rural Pennsylvania. A hundred and fifty years of weather has developed a colour palette ranging from light amber to a nut brown with distinctive grain patterns topped with marble and pewter. The wood is perhaps the most beautiful thing in a room filled with beautiful things.
Although Tribeton is a bar, the dining aspect is hugely important, set out in several different sections and booths it is ideal for groups, families, or larger parties. You can enjoy excellent coffee with freshly baked sweet treats in the morning, choices are presented on a board, from the brownie, crumble, cheesecake, and pie. Lunch offers great value and has a reassuringly compact bill of fare, usually indicating a focus on quality ingredients. Choose from soups, sandwiches and salads, various hamburgers, and fish’n chips. Being near the docks, it is nice to see seafood featuring often. The weekend menu looks especially enticing, with an extended choice of brunch dishes, frittatas, and cocktails, and a choice of roasts on Sundays. And then of course there is the frankly enormous drinks list with a great choice of gins, vodkas, whiskeys, craft beers, and wines. It’s chic, contemporary, and different, and the staff are well drilled and professional.
The food is casual and the 'Night' menu has a lovely selection of starters sporting tempura prawns, confit pork, and risotto fritters, €8 to €11, while mains feature sirloin, fillet, and rib eye steaks, with other choices including seabass, hake, chicken, and lamb, all ranging from €17 to €25 and further choice on the specials list. Bar snacks and sides give even more scope. Kick off with a couple of cocktails priced from €10, or pick from the excellent offerings by the glass while you decide. Sunday is funday with the addition of live music from 6.30pm with 20 per cent off all cocktails.
Tribeton may have gained a reputation for its cool interior, extensive cocktail menu, and vibrant atmosphere, but the food adds another dimension with well considered menus, real value for money, and prominence given to local producers and suppliers. In a building that has been such a part of Galway history, the team extend a genuine welcome. The Galway bar scene has been very lively in recent times and Tribeton is without doubt one of the city’s best spots to enjoy an evening out.
Tribeton, 1-3 Merchant’s Road, Galway. Tel:(091 )421-600. www.tribeton.ie