The 1520 Bar down in the heart of the Latin Quarter is a perfect representative of the modern bar in Galway, steeped in history that it embraces, but with an exciting modern edge.
Anyone looking for the a traditional bar comforts can enjoy the old school medieval atmosphere with a pint and some top class rustic food from the kitchen at 1520.
Or, if you’re out on a night out then enjoy the live DJ with a selection of cocktails from the new menu dreamed up in house.
“It’s all about the local customer service,” said recently appointed General Manger James O’Neill.
“What I wanted to do when I came down to Quay street was to bring the locals back in here, don’t want it to just be a tourist spot.”
“It’s got that real home feel, we’ve got the two fireplaces, the wall, and the whole medieval theme,” he added.
The history of Galway is written right into the walls of the building, in fact the story goes that bar contains part of the original town wall raised by the 14 Tribes.
Later the building served as a Carmelite Convent in the 16th century, after the then Mayor of Galway John Kirwan donated the building to the sisters.
“Once upon a time it was,” James acknowledges with a laugh, admitting it’s a “bit of a jump” from being a convent to finding new, delicious ways to serve alcohol.
But they look at the at this history and are committed to “never forgetting what it was, but bringing it forward into the 21st century.”
Anyone who’s been to a cocktail bar might think they know what to expect from its decor, but 1520 breaks with those conventions with warm, colourful light, armchairs that put comfort over trendiness, and walls packed with oddities wherever the eye rests.
“We really found a lot of old style stuff from the 60s, the 70s, and into the 80s and 90s. So it’s nearly of a walk through time in each part of the place,” James said.
Music for all tastes
Galway is the capital of artists and musicians in Ireland, and no pub can go without having some good tunes on throughout the day and night.
1520 captures the sensibilities of people who like to hear bit of trad over the food and drink, and then the great tunes from the DJ in the evening.
“It’s very important to get the feel for a nice homely place to have your food, and then to be able to change it over to a late bar, but not really have to change anything.”
With music on twice a day a day the crowds blend together as the evening shifts from the trad music to the DJ as things get a bit livelier.
And even if what’s playing inside isn’t to your taste, an outdoor seating area lets you sit with a drink and listen to musicians of every stripe performing in the street and watch visitors from the world over pass through the Latin Quarter.
“We’d often have buskers playing outside and if they’re good enough you’d invite ask them to play in here,” said James O’Neill.
Food and Drink
But with Galway coming out of being the Region of Gastronomy and many seeing it as not just the cultural but the ‘foodie’ destination this year, you gotta take care of the kitchen.
“It’s massively important,” James insisted, emphasising that what a pub needs is a solid menu of quality food with local ingredients.
In the next few weeks 1520 plans to launch its new menu with, “Home cooked, quality food with a rustic feel to it.”
That blend of embracing the old but finding modern ways to spice it up extends into the drinks menu.
The Penny Bar at back of 1520 bar is quickly becoming known as one of the best cocktail spots in the city, and the team of mixologists there are always looking for a new twist on the classics.
Just before Christmas the team released a new menu of 14 cocktails created in house with an emphasis on “quality of quantity” of drinks on offer.
The oldest and most classic of cocktails is the Old Fahsioned (its right there in the name) made from whiskey, bitters, and sugar.
But at 1520 there’s a bit of mad science thrown in as they burn wood chips and then use a pump and bell jar to infuse that smokiness into the drink.
The showmanship and presentation that goes into making a cocktail is what attracts so many people over from their pints according to James.
Watching the bartender mix, shake, and garnish the drinks attracts the most unlikely of customers, “you could see an auld fella in the corner sitting on a martini, it’s great”.
Photos: 1520 Bar/Julia Dunin
sponsored by the Connacht Hospitality Group