Sim­plic­ity, and some wine

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - SEVEN DAYS | - 14 Fran­cis Street, Galway black­ Aoife McElwain

Peadar King and Eamonn Day Lavelle grew up to­gether on Inish­bofin Is­land off the coast of Con­nemara. They’re both mu­si­cians; King a singer-song­writer and Day Lavelle an elec­tronic mu­si­cian, and King is the founder of Inish: Is­land Con­ver­sa­tions, an an­nual multi-dis­ci­plinary arts fes­ti­val on Inish­bofin. Af­ter be­ing in­volved in arts in Galway for years, the two launched The Black Gate Cul­tural Cen­tre in Galway City in Jan­uary 2017.

When they found the build­ing on Fran­cis St, they molded the idea of a multi-faceted space around the ac­tual shape of the build­ing. “It was just a shell when we found it,” says King. “It’s been great to see it take shape and how it’s be­ing used. Its uses have been grow­ing or­gan­i­cally.”

Along­side be­ing a venue for film screen­ings, pho­tog­ra­phy ex­hi­bi­tions, Sean Nós classes and tra­di­tional mu­sic nights, The Black Gate is also home to a café and wine bar. “We don’t want to be a restau­rant,” says King. “We want to do a few sim­ple things re­ally well.”

Those in­ter­ested in is­lands and food will know that Chef Ni­amh Fox has been in­volved in Bia Bo Finne, a food fes­ti­val on Inish­bofin. Turns out she’s King’s cousin. When they were think­ing about what kind of food would suit The Black Gate, King and Day Lavelle brought in Fox to help them de­sign a menu, and lunch op­tions like the open mack­erel sand­wich with pick­led red onion (¤7) have Fox’s stamp on them.

Chef Hugo Gal­loway took over from Fox and im­ple­mented his own in­flu­ence on the menu as well. An evening mezze plate in­cludes pick­led okra, baby aubergines fried on a grill, a green olive tape­nade and dill pick­led beet­roots. Gal­loway is hop­ing to own his own place in Lahinch in the com­ing months but The Black Gate plans to main­tain Fox and Gal­loway’s culi­nary styles on the menu. “We’re just steadily adding to it as we go,” says King. “We’ve taken the best from every­one that’s been be­hind the kitchen counter.”

They’ve def­i­nitely hit on a solid ap­proach with their small but in­ter­est­ing menu. A lunchtime pas­trami sand­wich (¤6) is a good ex­am­ple of their ethos of well-ex­e­cuted sim­plic­ity. The bread is from Grif­fin’s Bak­ery, the cheese is from Sheri­dan’s and the Pas­trami is from La Rousse. Cof­fee is de­cent, too. There are no airs or spe­cialty graces about it but it’s a fine cup made with Mocha Beans, which are roasted weekly and lo­cally by Cathal Keogh.

Fox’s hus­band, Sam Gleeson, is one half of car­pen­try duo This Is What We Do and he built the beau­ti­ful wooden bar in The Black Gate. You can sit here over a glass of wine or head into the down­stairs or up­stairs ar­eas to hud­dle around tables. In the evening, there are shar­ing plat­ters of cheese and meats sourced from Sheri­dan’s.

At the bar, there is wine to taste by the glass. “I’m not a wine ex­pert,” says King, “but I like wine. We do ev­ery­thing by the glass. We’re try­ing to democra­tise wine so that peo­ple who aren’t sure of their wine might get an op­por­tu­nity to find some­thing they like. If peo­ple do know their wines, we’re able to look af­ter them, too.” King likes the way hav­ing reg­u­lar tra­di­tional mu­sic ses­sions in a wine bar changes the at­mos­phere around drink­ing wine.

The Black Gate are open for lunch from noon to 3pm, and din­ner is from 5.30pm on­wards. They stay open late and you’ll get fed close to mid­night, making it a handy spot for a light bite and a glass of wine day or night.

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