small: half-a-dozen breakfast items, some gourmet sandwiches, fresh smoothies and juices, soup and some pastries. There are a couple of specials on the board – a Lyonnaise sandwich (¤7) looks good – a tower of salad, mayo and pancetta topped with poached eggs, as does the Cowboy Soup – a thick stew of tomato, bacon and chickpeas (¤5). We’ve been advised to come here to try the omelette with onion, mushroom and cheese but are too late for the breakfast menu (which finishes at noon). Instead we order a pitta pocket with organic salad – with leaves that actually taste of something – avocado and dressing (¤6.50). It’s a little steep for a vegetarian pitta, but it comes crammed with very fresh salad with shavings of carrot and cucumber, and also some homemade hummus. The only downside is that the pitta isn’t toasted. The baguette with fig, prosciutto and mozzarella (¤7.20) does see the underside of the grill – two long halves of fresh, doughy baguette are toasted until the cheese has bubbled and are then topped with sweet slivers of fig and lots of salty prosciutto and another mountain of those homegrown leaves. As we leave, a waiter waters pots of edibles around us – great to see a small cafe being so self-sufficient.
Radisson Blu Hotel, Lough Atalia, Galway, 091-538 212, radissonhotelgalway.com ¤¤ Perched on the fourth floor of the Radisson Blu Galway, RAW offers a sushi menu that also includes a handful of cold meat and vegetable dishes. While the room retains a slightly corporate look from its previous incarnation as a meeting room, service is warm and friendly and the view from your table looks out over Lough Atalia to Galway Bay, where some of your dinner has been landed. The menu is split into various types of sushi, such as nigiri (slices of fish on a ball of rice), maki (sushi rolls in seaweed), temaki (hand rolled cones of fish and rice) and sashimi (slices of raw fish). Prices range from ¤4 to ¤18. There’s also an interesting sushi bowl (¤12) of sushi rice topped with fish including yellow fin tuna and salmon, veggies, roe and nori (seaweed). There’s an explanation of what each dish entails – useful for people new to sushi – and you can see head chef Hisashi Kumagai working away, expertly assembling your dinner. A bowl of edamame (salty steamed soy beans) is a must-have – popping them out of their shell gives the same satisfaction as popping bubble-wrap. It’s also nice to see the price at ¤3, when so many places charge twice that these days. Maki options include a California roll (¤8) with real crab (as opposed to dreadful processed crab sticks). There’s also a delicious spider roll – fried soft-shell crab with avocado and mustard cress – which has good, meaty crab and is the right balance of crunchy and creamy. A plate of tuna tataki (¤13) has barely seared slices of yellow fin, with a sake, soy and vinegar sauce, topped with a punchy mix of spring onion, garlic, ginger and daikon radish. The four-course set menu (¤35) is a good way to try a number of dishes. It includes miso soup, and choices such as eel unagi rolls, a sashimi selection (the tuna is good – fatty but melting), a chef’s 6-piece selection of nigiri and maki, and a very good Barbary duck breast (¤13), smoked and cut into thin slivers that are dark pink inside. It’s been marinated in mirin, sake and konbu (a type of kelp) and the explosion of smoky, salty, umami flavours in your mouth is quite something.
This is good spot for a date (ask for a window seat) and you can also get take out.
New Antrim Street, Castlebar, Co Mayo caferua.com AnnMcMahon openedCafé Rua more than a decade ago. She wanted to share her love of uncomplicatedfood using local, seasonal ingredients.
Last year, I visited their new branch in Spencer Street, which opened in 2008. Its first floor is a bright, light-filled room that holds a grocery and bookshop, with floor to ceiling shelves filled with jars of local jam, bottles of Irish juice and packets of fish smoked in the West. The shelves hold a choice selection of cookbooks, including Niki Segnit’s Flavour Thesaurus.
Once you walk past the goodies, you’ll find Café Rua’s delicatessen, where we grabbed a couple of their honey roast bacon, cheddar and Rua chutney sandwiches to go. We tucked into thick slices of bread stuffed generously with great ingredients, the Rua chutney making a particularly good impression. Their bread is made in-house in the Rua bakery, which is where their cakes come from too.
Upstairs is where you can sit in for breakfast and lunch, alongside about 25 other diners. Lunch includes sandwiches and salads from the deli, alongside hot treats like roast loin of pork with carrots and red cabbage. Last weekend, they were serving aMayo Hotdog as a lunch special - a De Búrca Cumberland sausage with meltedCarrowholly cheese and arrabiatta sauce on a floury blaa with local leaves and sautéed spuds (¤9.95).
The Tannery was the first place I ever ate Irish asparagus. It had been picked from their cookery school garden a few hours before it found itself on my plate. The combination of its woody texture and earthy flavour has been implanted into my memory bank of exceptional taste experiences. It was served, smartly shaved, alongside some seaside samphire and a plump piece of roasted monkfish covered in herb butter.
Of course, it’s ruined all other asparagus for me seeing as Irish-grown asparagus is thin on the ground and our shops are full of imported spears that have travelled too far to have retained that same intense taste.
The Tannery is all about special experiences. Located in the sweet seaside town of Dungarvan, its restaurant boasts a light-filled dining room on the top floor and a relaxed bar on the ground floor. Here you’ll find copies of the cookbooks its proprietor Paul Flynn has written. You might know Paul from his recipes for Lidl, or from his RTÉ TV show with Martin Shanahan. He and his wife Máire opened The Tannery in 1997, and their business has expanded in the last 20 years to include a cookery school and a guesthouse, all located on the one street. While Paul and his team work cleverly with local, seasonal ingredients, Máire expertly works the front of house. It’s the combination of their talents that makes visiting The Tannery such a joy.
After our meal, we slipped off to sleep in The Tannery Townhouse, their gorgeous guesthouse across the road that overlooks their cookery school and restaurant garden, where my asparagus had come from.
Enjoying the eating experience here is an investment, with main courses on the Á La Carte menu hovering between ¤25 and ¤30. Get there earlier in the evening for their Easy Evening menu and you can try their set menu for ¤30 for three courses.