Galway’s burgeoning restaurant scene offers a wide choice of options in price, cuisine and atmosphere, with its most exciting offerings balancing a reverence for provenance, with a spirit of experimentation. Tourists and locals alike are spoiled for choice, so here’s some help to work out the best of the bunch.
Having first opened as a food truck in 2013, The Dough Bros wood-fired pizzeria now enjoys a permanent home on Upper Abbeygate Street, where it has justifiably become a firm local favourite. This family-run Galway institution takes a broad approach to being laid-back: their ‘house rules’, inscribed on the subway-tiled wall, include singing along with the tunes on the radio and eating with your hands. Though the vibe is fun, friendly and informal, this popular spot is decidedly serious about pizza. Theirs are made in the Neapolitan style using flavourful local produce.
One of Galway’s best-loved restaurants, Ard Bia at Nimmos is a place every visitor to the city should seek out – and most likely will, after its rave review in The New York Times. The menu here is fresh and ‘world-inspired’, drawing inspiration from sites ranging from the Mediterranean to New Zealand. Serving seasonal gourmet fare, it’s housed in an 18th-century building on the River Corrib right beside the Spanish Arch, a remnant of the old city wall. Inside, the space is homely yet stylish, bedecked with wooden furnishings and colourful cushions – all the better to enjoy the emphasis on slow food in comfort.
Aniar is centred around the concept of terroir, or ‘the complete natural environment in which a particular wine or food is produced’. Inspired by the Galway landscape and created using local, wild ingredients, the 10-course tasting menu is consistently excellent and imaginative, in both flavour and presentation, earning a litany of accolades, including a Michelin star every year from 2013 to 2016. Aniar definitely falls into the ‘treat’ end of the price spectrum, with the tasting menu costing €110, or €160 with wine pairings. However, they recently launched a weekly five-course lunch on Saturdays for an affordable €55.
Owned by Enda McEvoy, former head chef at Aniar, the twice Michelin-starred Loam is imbued with a deep respect for provenance. The majority of vegetables come from one farm, the meat from another, and McEvoy is committed to limiting what is brought in from outside this system. The result is an ever-evolving menu, an act of creativity within ethically informed constraints. The chefs serve the tables, giving customers insight into how dishes are crafted and the ingredients that dictate their creation. If you can’t make it for this immersive experience, Loam’s wine bar opens at 4pm, serving charcuterie boards and cheese plates focused on Irish produce.
At the award-winning Kai Café + Restaurant, light streams through a generous roof-lantern into the rustic stone-and-wood dining room, giving a visceral sense of connection to the west coast’s rugged landscape, from where the ingredients for its dishes are sourced. With a focus on doing things simply, owners David and Jessica Murphy have created in Kai a food experience that is at once basic and innovative, unadorned and yet beautiful. Having recently joined the Sustainable Restaurant Association, their ethos is one of conscious symbiosis with their environment.
Opposite the historic Kirwan’s Lane in ‘old Galway’, you will find The Pie Maker, where locals go to enjoy handmade sweet and savoury pies. Savoury options such as the beef and Galway stout pie come with either mashed potatoes and mushy peas or a leafy salad, and all are made with Irish meats, organic vegetables, and spelt flour. The menu of sweet pies includes banoffee, butternut squash and organic white chocolate, and Irish apple pie. This unique, petite restaurant is also known for its ambience and distinctive décor.
Cava Bodega’s interior is warm and intimate without being overly deferential to tradition. Similarly, their food balances a respect for the Spanish institution of tapas with a bold assurance in stepping out of the expected, giving an air of confidence that you – and your taste buds – are in safe hands. The extensive menu comes with thoughtful beer and wine pairings, and although Spanish wines dominate the beverage options here, you will have plenty of choices. Ask to be seated by the window upstairs if you fancy a prime spot for people-watching, or embrace the buzz of the larger, busy downstairs space.
Restaurant, Bar, Contemporary, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, $$$
Courtesy of Biteclub
No matter what time of day, you won’t regret it if the neon sign lures you into Biteclub’s ‘streetfood discotheque’. In the evening, their impressive offering of cocktails and dishes – think 12-hour braised beef-cheek tacos or mac and cheese with smoked haddock – are elevated to an all-night experience, with a smorgasbord of whimsically designed spaces and music styles to suit your evolving mood. Try their weekly Tequila Thursday as a kick-off to your west coast weekend. For a more relaxed Biteclub experience, the dual emphasis on atmosphere and delicious bites also works at lunchtime where ‘tasty treats and chilled out tunes’ will make you really feel like you’ve taken a break.
Duck Yellow Curry | Courtesy of Papa Rich Street Food Kitchen
Specialising in Asian street food, Papa Rich has garnered a loyal following by serving up a delicious mix of dishes from different Asian cuisines, with levels of spice ranging from one to four flames. Treat yourself to the amazing Yaki Soba, or if you’re up for a challenge, challenge yourself to the four-flame Rich Har Mee and make a bid to get your face up on the ‘Wall of Flame’. Papa Rich is also great for those on a budget, with their most expensive dish clocking in at €10. Unsurprisingly, it’s also very popular, so be sure to book in advance if you’re planning to visit over the weekend.
Situated in one of Galway’s most popular tourist areas, on a pedestrianised street with many lively traditional Irish pubs, Quay Street Kitchen is a bustling, welcoming place to soak up the city’s ambience. Locally caught fish and fall-off-the-bone Irish lamb shank appear on a diverse menu alongside Mediterranean-inspired dishes and curries. Vegetarians and vegans are also well catered for, with tasty salads, spiced bean burgers and more.