Peadar King and Eamonn Day Lavelle grew up together on Inishbofin Island off the coast of Connemara. They're both musicians; King a singer-songwriter and Day Lavelle an electronic musician, and King is the founder of Inish: Island Conversations, an annual multi-disciplinary arts festival on Inishbofin. After being involved in arts in Galway for years, the two launched The Black Gate Cultural Centre in Galway City in January 2017.
When they found the building on Francis St, they molded the idea of a multi-faceted space around the actual shape of the building. “It was just a shell when we found it,” says King. “It’s been great to see it take shape and how it’s being used. Its uses have been growing organically.”
We want to do a few simple things really well
Alongside being a venue for film screenings, photography exhibitions, Sean Nós classes and traditional music nights, The Black Gate is also home to a café and wine bar. “We don’t want to be a restaurant,” says King. “We want to do a few simple things really well.”
Those interested in islands and food will know that Chef Niamh Fox (formerly of Ard Bia and Cafe Paradiso) has been involved in Bia Bo Finne, a food festival on Inishbofin. Turns out she’s King’s cousin. When they were thinking about what kind of food would suit The Black Gate, King and Day Lavelle brought in Fox to help them design a menu, and lunch options like the open mackerel sandwich with pickled red onion (€7) have Fox’s stamp on them.
Chef Hugo Galloway took over from Fox and implemented his own influence on the menu as well. An evening mezze plate includes pickled okra, baby aubergines fried on a grill, a green olive tapenade and dill pickled beetroots. Galloway is hoping to own his own place in Lahinch in the coming months but The Black Gate plans to maintain Fox and Galloway’s culinary styles on the menu. “We’re just steadily adding to it as we go,” says King. “We’ve taken the best from everyone that’s been behind the kitchen counter.”
They’ve definitely hit on a solid approach with their small but interesting menu. A lunchtime pastrami sandwich (€6) is a good example of their ethos of well-executed simplicity. The bread is from Griffin’s Bakery, the cheese is from Sheridan’s and the Pastrami is from La Rousse. Coffee is decent, too. There are no airs or specialty graces about it but it’s a fine cup made with Mocha Beans, which are roasted weekly and locally by Cathal Keogh.
Fox’s husband, Sam Gleeson, is one half of carpentry duo This Is What We Do and he built the beautiful wooden bar in The Black Gate. You can sit here over a glass of wine or head into the downstairs or upstairs areas to huddle around tables. In the evening, there are sharing platters of cheese and meats sourced from Sheridan’s. “It’s so people feel like they’re getting good value but also there’s something nice about socialising over shared food.”
We're trying to democratise wine so that people who aren't sure of their wine might get an opportunity to find something they like
At the bar, there is wine to taste by the glass. “I’m not a wine expert,” says King, “but I like wine. We do everything by the glass. We’re trying to democratise wine so that people who aren’t sure of their wine might get an opportunity to find something they like. If people do know their wines, we’re able to look after them, too.” King likes the way having regular traditional music sessions in a wine bar changes the atmosphere around drinking wine.
The Black Gate are open for lunch from noon to 3pm, and dinner is from 5.30pm onwards. They stay open late and you’ll get fed close to midnight, making it a handy spot for a light bite and a glass of wine day or night.