Walking down the main street of Salthill Village, the eyes are met by many an established business. Like most villages in Ireland, lots of these are family-run and have been in operation for many years. Yet one restaurant always comes to mind when the seaside haven is mentioned or recalled by folk young and old; in fact, it would be almost impossible to speak of Salthill without mentioning it, so defining a role it plays in the community. It is, quite literally, woven into the fabric of the village, and one would have difficulty finding an establishment more firmly-rooted and memorable than this, The Galleon Restaurant.
The Galleon is now in its third generation of family since it opened its doors as “The Galleon Grill” in 1965 – beginning under the ownership of Jimmy Lydon, passing to his son-in-law, John O’Sullivan, in 1987, and then onto the current third-generation of family in 2009, Roger O’Sullivan.
The Galleon is a “family business” by its very definition, and also happens to be one of the most family-friendly restaurants one could possibly find. “Children Welcomed”, the sign outside the door of the restaurant, seems like a grand understatement, considering the importance placed on their entertainment.
“Harvey the Ghost Pianist” sits on the front porch playing his piano gaily as customers enter the restaurant; a sign above him reads “Children – please do not let your parents touch the piano”. But the trademark “Kids Colouring Competition” is the truly special feature, as it can be recalled with ease by anyone who visited The Galleon Restaurant as a child: be it in this century or the last.
The tradition is tied in with the legend of The Galleon – a tale blending familiarity and fantasy of a ship (after which the restaurant was named) which deposited its load of golden coins in a cave (located beneath the restaurant) having crashed into a cliff (atop which sat the Salthill Church). As children leave after their meal, they are presented with a chocolate gold coin from “The Galleon’s treasure chest”. Though the village church may have never actually been atop a cliff, there is no undermining the changes that the face of Salthill has undergone in the last half century.
As Galway’s largest suburb, the rapid expansion of the city meant a relatively rapid growth in population of the village. Business chains and apartment blocks appeared, and, all in all, things changed. So how does a restaurant manage to hold the same appeal as it did almost 50 years ago? A chat with Roger illuminates the inner workings of the place. “The members of staff really are what make The Galleon”, he says. “The dedicated team here, lead by Eileen Greany (general manager) have many years of service and experience between them, ranging between the kitchens, restaurant floor and management roles. They deserve so much credit and praise for the success of the business which is a legendary institution in its own right.” The whys and wherefores behind The Galleon’s supreme reign, it seems, lie in the sound, unshakable ethos of the establishment and the staff who uphold it.
Every customer has been treated the same since the very first – with respect, professionalism and gratitude. Truly the most charming of family restaurants, we should all raise a glass to The Galleon for having brought excellence to the table for almost 50 long years.