The Kitchen Cafe

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - SEVEN DAYS | EATING OUT -

Gal­way City Mu­seum Gal­way face­­way

A cou­ple of ex­cla­ma­tion marks have made their way onto the menu at The Kitchen Cafe, which is housed in Gal­way City Mu­seum near The Span­ish Arch. There’s the at­ten­tion­grab­bing Hola! Cuban Ham & Cheese Sambo (¤8.50) and un­der the Hot Stuff! sec­tion of the menu, there’s a Dahl of the Day! (¤9).

When I catch up the cafe’s founder, Michelle Cre­han Ka­vanagh, over the phone af­ter a re­cent visit, I un­der­stand where those ex­cla­ma­tion marks are com­ing from. She is ex­tremely warm, open and gen­uinely ex­cited about work­ing with food.

Cre­han Ka­vanagh came to cook­ing late. She had been a stay-at-home Mum for most of her 30s, and it wasn’t un­til the year of her 40th birth­day that she de­cided to go back to col­lege. Though she had worked as a jour­nal­ist in her 20s, her love of cook­ing drew her to the To­tal Im­mer­sion Chef Pro­gramme (TICP) in GMIT.

“When I went up for the in­ter­view for the course, I thought I’d be laughed out of it,” Cre­han Ka­vanagh tells me. “But I told them I wouldn’t miss a day, I would work hard and I wasn’t go­ing to mess around. They gave me a place, and the day I put on my chef’s uni­form in GMIT, I knew that this was what I wanted to do.”

Af­ter col­lege, she worked with chef Jess Mur­phy at Cafe and Bar 8, which was Mur­phy’s project in Gal­way be­fore the cafe and restau­rant Kai. Cre­han Ka­vanagh worked with Mur­phy as a pas­try chef. “She was so sup­port­ive of me as a work­ing Mum and re­ally en­cour­aged me as a chef.”

Five years ago, the op­por­tu­nity to take over the cafe in the City Mu­seum of Gal­way came up and she opened The Kitchen. Her head chef, Gavin Glee­son, has been with her for over two years, and Cre­han Ka­vanagh de­vel­ops the menu with her staff. “We’re try­ing to use great Ir­ish in­gre­di­ents in an in­ter­na­tional way,” she ex­plains. “We might use Ir­ish her­itage pota­toes in a Swedish-style smoked salmon salad.”

There’s an ev­ery­day menu which never changes, and a daily spe­cials menu that changes ev­ery day, al­low­ing Cre­han Ka­vanagh and her team to ex­per­i­ment. “We have peo­ple who come in and wait for our spe­cials board to go up af­ter noon. They trust us to give us some­thing de­li­cious, whether it’s a ra­men or a Korean fried chicken sand­wich.”

I have a glass of Belvoir rasp­berry and rose cor­dial (¤2.20) but I no­tice that there’s Hazel Moun­tain Hot Cho­co­late on of­fer, sup­plied by the beau­ti­ful Bur­ren-based bean-to-bar cho­co­late fac­tory. The soup of the day is a cur­ried cau­li­flower soup, and it’s a beau­ti­ful vel­vetty tex­ture (¤2 for a cup por­tion and ¤4.40 a bowl). For me, it could have ben­e­fited from even more spice and a kick of heat but it’s a good bowl of com­fort­ing soup.

The spe­cials look su­per, and I’m tempted by the cau­li­flower pakora salad (¤10) served with a turmeric, sumac and lemon yo­gurt dress­ing. In the end, the Good Grain Su­per Salad (¤8.75) from the ev­ery­day menu grabs me. The aj­var (an aubergine and red pep­per rel­ish) and the cumin and pa­prika seed crisp on the menu are enough ex­cla­ma­tions for me. For an ex­tra ¤2, I add a por­tion of crispy tofu, which is fried re­ally beau­ti­fully, main­tain­ing tofu’s vir­tu­ous, silky qual­i­ties but en­hanc­ing its per­son­al­ity with a crispy edge.

What makes the salad su­per spe­cial are the de­li­cious cumin and pa­prika seed crisps, thin crack­ers made up of a col­lec­tion of seeds. The whole salad, com­plete with quinoa and a sub­tle, crunchy slaw, is im­mensely en­joy­able.

What re­ally makes my visit, how­ever, is the staff. They’re re­ally warm, knowl­edge­able and ef­fi­cient. “I’m so lucky,” says Cre­han Ka­vanagh, when I tell her. “I be­lieve if you treat your staff well, that trans­fers to the cus­tomers.” Even without the ef­fu­sive ex­cla­ma­tion marks, it’s clear that this is a happy kitchen.

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