Galway is an old city. It best resembles what the mind conjures up as an Irish city, but it’s young at heart. It’s a popular university town with more students than housing. It supports an evident Bohemian lifestyle with pot clouds rising amongst the buildings. Pubs are elbow to elbow with live music pouring into the cobblestone streets meshing with the buskers. Day drinks are the norm with people watching a common activity from the outdoor patios. Shops that look as if a leprechaun threw up are everywhere, filled your general tick tack. Trendy cafes are on most corners and the food scene is growing and thriving as restaurants are popping up constantly. With that said, there are hundreds of places to grab a feed, but here are my 7 recommendations of where to eat in Galway.
Let’s start with the restaurants. There are two that standout above the rest in town. More expensive than your general pub fare, these are far from your average establishments. Both well worth the money, it’s justified to treat yourself to at least one of these restaurants, although, I would have a really difficult time picking between the two.
Ard Bia at Nimmos – Through the Spanish arch at the waterfront, an old, almost dilapidated looking building holds its aged charm. Inside a quaint, dim lit cottage feel immediately invites. Pulling my chair up, I tucked in for an evening of pure enjoyment. Simple pleasures that leave the eyes rolling. A one page, seasonal menu with a handful of options for each course, I knew I was in for a treat.
1st Course – Scallops, Wild Boar Black Pudding, Parsley Velouté. I was drawn to this dish immediately due to my love of scallops and black pudding, wild boar at that. They complimented each other beautifully as the land met the sea. That love that’s meant to be together, like the prince and mermaid entwined in harmony.
2nd Course – Sea Trout, Broad Bean Crushed Potatoes, Pancetta, Apple Puree. I initially was aiming for the monkfish, but unfortunately they had run out for the evening. This dish was my close second choice and had me savouring every last bite.
3rd Course – Roast Plums, Mascarpone, Seed + Hazelnut Crumb. This was a perfect, light finish to an amazing meal. Sweet, tart plums roasted, their juices pooling at the bottom of the bowl. Rich, creamy mascarpone with the fragrant crunch of the toasted seeds and hazelnuts. Everything needed in a dessert.
As the menu changes representing the seasons (as all restaurants should in my opinion), I assure you that whatever it is you choose will be divine. If this got you salivating, maybe even drooling (don’t be ashamed, I did reliving it as I wrote), reserve a spot and indulge. You won’t regret it.
Kai – Actually recommended by the waiter at Nimmos, I knew it must be good and I liked that they supported each other as the chef once upon a time worked there. I made reservations immediately and after a rainy day road trip through Connemara, was excited to tuck into another fine meal. Kai definitely had a more modern décor with a lively and cramped ambience. Tables tighter together, conversation buzzed around the small space competing. It’s my old soul that liked the quieter, quaint cottage like feel of Nimmos, but I personally can’t judge a restaurant on the dining room. I came to eat and that I did.
1st Course – Connemara Crab ‘Ravioli’. Fitting as I drove through Connemara that afternoon. A simple crab salad with salmon roe on top and a thin layer of celeriac draped over to resemble a large ravioli.
2nd Course – Monkfish with Clams and Madras Broth. Sticking to my seafood theme as I was on the coast of an island, it only seemed right. Monkfish is one of my any favourites and this preparation did not disappoint. Perched on a bed of clams in a Madras broth, it was superb.
3rd Course – Pavlova. Something I’ve had and made a multitude of times and is generally not my favourite dessert. I saw the extravagant plate a table got and I was sold. Flamboyant and a burst of colour, it came with feijoa compote (a New Zealand fruit, rarely seen on menus), lashings of cream and edible flowers. A Pavlova for a king!
Our waiter wasn’t wrong sending us here. A different vibe and refreshing take on local cuisine, I would recommend it to anybody.
The Pie Maker – Well it’s pretty obvious what this place specializes in, which made me think they must be good at it. I wasn’t wrong. A tiny restaurant smaller than some bedrooms, there was only a few booths and a couple bar stools. A menu with six pies all served with mash, mushy peas and gravy or salad, this was true comfort food. Perfect for the state I was in with a bit too much of the black gold the previous night.
Immediately the ‘Irish Sausage, Black Pudding, Leek and Madeira Pie’, caught my eye. Hearty, rich and flavourful, I was left patting my rounded belly and off for a nap after. If you’re craving a pie, you need to look no further.
John McKeoghs – This pub was what I would consider a more upscale, modern pub. Kind of what we get in North America most of the time and not my preference over the more traditional pubs, but nevertheless the food was excellent.
1st Course – Irish whiskey Cured Salmon. I walked in planning on getting a simple basic pub classic, but then I came across this. I’d been enjoying my Irish whiskey thoroughly here and noticing it was used to prepare their gravlax, I had to try it. An extravagant presentation, but the salmon was still the star.
2nd Course – Fish & Chips. Can’t go wrong with a quality fish and chips and John McKeoghs sent out a good one with crisp batter and thick cut chips.
Dail Bar – More my style of pub. Old fashioned, dim lit even in the bright of day and comforting, it’s that type of pub you don’t want to leave. Your pints are here, what else is needed for the day? Beyond all that though, they serve up some quality food. My first time getting something other than seafood in a while, I opted for the Sunday roast. Slabs of roasted leg of lamb with heaps of mash, veg and gravy. Made me think of home and my dad’s roast dinners.
Esquires – This was my first stop in Galway off the long morning bus from Londonderry. In desperate need of a late breakfast and coffee, this bustling café did the trick. Located close to the bus station, its perfect if you’re on the way out of town as well. Quick service, good coffee and a great Full Irish, I really couldn’t ask for a much better place in the morning.
Pascals – I found this cozy café while walking the quiet streets early one morning before the town began to buzz around lunch time. Still a busy place, it was a quieter, more comfortable place to sit and relax with a quality coffee, scone and book. The food also very nice, I order the eggs Benedict for brunch. This kept with the theme of unhealthy breakfasts, but was a break from the many full Irish I was eating.
In this city of the past and the present, just let your stomach guide you. Galway is not limited at all in great places to get a good meal at any time of the day, but if you can’t decide I’m sure none of these will disappoint. Be sure to try the local seafood, enjoy the drink, listening to the music and tuck in for an experience. Slainte