5 December 2023

Five minutes with Peter Barclay, King O'Malley's

| Claire Sams
Peter holding a bag of barley outside a warehouse.

Managing director Peter Barclay said an Irish pub is well-suited to the centre of Canberra. Photo: BentSpoke Brewing Co.

Who are you?

My name is Peter, and I’m the managing director of King O’Malley’s.

How did you get involved in the hospitality industry?

I’ve travelled a lot and always saw that pubs were a special place. Selling beer and food is almost a side activity – they’re often a place where communities can come together and have a conversation or celebrate something. You can give people a unique place to be in, that they can leave with lovely memories. Being able to offer that is what really attracted me to the hospitality industry.

What is the story behind your venue?

I was working at the City Walk Hotel, which was located above where King O’Malley’s is, ironically, but I always liked the idea of a pub. I went to a pub called O’Malleys once and met the owner there – I told him that I could just envision that being in Canberra.

I actually got in touch with the same architect who designed that pub. They were based in Dublin, and they were so excited to help with the design. But we wanted it to be an Irish pub focused on Canberra’s history. We wanted to pick a name that had to do with Canberra’s history.

We felt that ‘King O’Malley’ was the only possible name. He had that lovely name – O’Malley – and King was his Christian name. We chose him because he was involved in picking Canberra’s location, picking Walter Burley Griffin’s design. The other interesting fact about him was that he was a teetotaler and kept Canberra dry for a time in the 1900s.

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What does your day-to-day look like?

There is a core of things that need doing every day – every venue is the same, where the stock has to be ordered, payroll done, the bins taken out. Then you get into the fun things, where there are new products that you can launch or events that you can have.

Once you’ve done all those bits and pieces, you get into some of the fun stuff and events which makes it all worthwhile.

What are the top three menu items that really show what your venue can do?

Our most popular beer is Guinness, and we’re one of the top sellers of Guinness in Australia. The one question many people ask is, ‘Does Guinness taste different overseas compared to what we have in Canberra’? But I visited Dublin earlier this year and spoke to the people at Guinness Brewery, so I can say it tastes the same.

We have great pub food for people to share. Our signature dish would have to be our Guinness pie that actually has Guinness in it, with vegetables and meat. Of course, you also can’t go past the schnitty and chips – those are always good – and our pizzas are awesome.

A glass of Guinness next to a bird

Lovely day for a Guinness … and King O’Malley’s is one of the biggest sellers of Guinness in Australia. Photo: King O’Malley’s/Facebook.

What is your favourite or must-use ingredient when cooking?

Number one would have to be ghee, which is clarified butter. I find that it’s just amazing – it gives you a good basis for whatever you’re making. Some simple ingredients, like garlic or good-quality olive oil, are also really essential.

But as long as you use good quality local produce, you’re good.

What is Canberra’s best-kept food secret?

There are many hidden gems because Canberra has so many venues.

Next to King O’Malley’s, I have my two favourite coffee shops. One is Sip Coffee and the other is Jina’s Cafe. I’ll have a morning coffee at one and an afternoon coffee at the other. Both are not too big, they know your name and they make absolutely great coffee. You can see the dedication and the heart and soul that the operators put into it.

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What TV show or movie are you watching right now?

I don’t watch much TV, but I’ve recently started watching Friends. It is one that you can pop the series on, watch a couple of episodes and have a nice, happy time.

What is your comfort food?

My comfort food is ice cream. My dad actually opened the first gelato bar in Canberra, so that’s probably where I got my sweet tooth.

We’re lucky in Canberra, there are a lot of good ice cream shops! My favourite at the moment is Anita, which has opened up in the Canberra Centre. I’m partial to vanilla and coffee, and I like richer flavours like hazelnut or pistachio.

A man leaning over taps a bar

King O’Malley’s has more than Guinness on tap – and has recently partnered with BentSpoke. Photo: King O’Malley’s/Facebook.

Where do you dine out for special occasions?

There are a few – we’re really quite spoiled in Canberra with the range and choice that we’ve got for restaurants.

I particularly like Inka, and I think the food there is just amazing. Such and Such is also really good, and I went there recently for my daughter’s birthday.

Who do you admire in the Canberra food scene?

There are so many amazing people. One of the people I admire the most is Richard Watkins from BentSpoke Brewing. I’ve admired Richard since he was the winning brewer at Wig and Pen. I’ve known him since then and have followed him to now when he’s opened BentSpoke.

I just love how passionate he is and how willing he is to share all his expertise in the industry. That’s what led to our collaboration to create Kingo’s Beer.

An easy one to finish – what’s your go-to coffee order?

I usually have a cappuccino with 3/4 milk – just to be a bit complicated – in the morning. And then, in the afternoon, I’ll have a piccolo latte as a pick-up.

King O’Malley’s is located at 131 City Walk in Civic and is open 11 am to late seven days a week.

Original Article published by Claire Sams on Riotact.

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