John McKenna finds happy cooking in Galway’s iconic King’s Head.

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Here the kind of dude Paul Grealish is.
When he gets a moment to himself – which can’t be too often when you are running a Galway city landmark like The King’s Head – Mr Grealish likes to head northwards and run an Arctic marathon.
A marathon. In the Arctic. Don’t even think about how many degrees below zero the temperature is. Just say those words to yourself one more time: Arctic. Marathon.
Away from the ice, Paul and his wife, Mary, navigate the King’s Head, and, as you might expect of someone for whom a standard marathon isn’t much of a challenge, Mr Grealish is always exploring just how to make the KH better.
In recent years, his focus has concentrated on how to offer better food, both in the bar and in the restaurant. Known for many years as The Malt House, the restaurant had a name change a few years back – it became The Chop House – and the room had a make-over.
But it was one of those changes that didn’t feel right, and the restaurant struggled to establish an identity, and a consistency in the kitchen.
In 2016 the restaurant became The King’s Head Bistro, which both gave a lead as to the kind of food one can expect – gravadlax; mushrooms on toast; risotto; pavlova – and which also makes the room sound much more an integral element of this hugely popular pub.
So, three of us went, and we found the cooking to be consistent, delicious and delighting. We ate sitting on stools at the high table in the bar, rather than the dining room proper, and it’s a wonderfully informal space for eating and drinking.
The cooking is happy cooking, unpretentious, confident, and it makes you feel good, which is exactly what you want bistro food to do. You want the salty hit of good dry potato chips with some battered hake. You want the saline punch of oysters, and the acidic wallop of some mignonette to pair with them. You want the comfort of a mushroom risotto, and the refreshment of a clean green salad with grilled halloumi, and the sweetness of pavlova.
We got all that, along with charming service and excellent value, and the room had a swing and a buzz about it that was pure Galway: democratic; fun-loving; vivid and seductive. The King’s Head Bistro has held fast to the elements that people always loved about The Malt House – the clamour of the room; the superb service; the intimacy – whilst the reboot has brought a sharper focus to the food. The KHB is another vital element of Galway’s extraordinary culinary mosaic. And you don’t even need to have run an Arctic marathon to enjoy it.
15 High Street, galway