There was a time when The Spanish Arch was a car park and there was nothing much on Middle Street except the Augi. That was when BT was still Moon's and Nora Barnacle's house was just another house, before Westside was called Westside and there was nothing Latin about the Latin Quarter — that was the time Salthill was the undisputed centre of all nightlife in the west of Ireland. While those days are long gone, Salthill seems to be reinventing itself once more.
Salthill is as much a residential satellite suburb for the city as it is a traditional seaside resort. Facilities such as the aquarium, Leisureland, and the slot machine palaces entice tourists to spend their holiday money, while a favourite pastime for Galwegians and visitors alike is walking along the seaside promenade running from the edge of the city, Salthill's biggest asset. Local tradition dictates 'kicking the wall' across from the diving boards before turning back the way you came. There is plenty to enjoy in the area around the beach and prom, the summertime funfair, amusements, and playground. There are elegant old buildings amid the Celtic Tiger style apartments in this area that seem able to withstand whatever Mother Nature throws at them. In and around Salthill there have always been plenty of cosy pubs from where you can watch storms roll over the bay, but while Salthill has many good points, up until lately, a wide choice of places to eat was not one of them.
Sometimes you need to practise to get things just right, and that is what Kevin Nugent has with Ground & Co in Salthill. The aquarium has never seen this much traffic, and it shows no sign of letting up. Especially with a new Papa Rich opened upstairs. If you don't mind a 20 minute wait you can go to Ground for brunch. Similarly, if you want to hang around for a bit, lunch is pretty good too. Kevin Nugent cut his teeth in Newcastle across from University Hospital, where Mr Waffle was his first concern. After learning all he could there, he took over the Arabica in Salthill and rebranded — the rest, as they say, is history.
During the day Ground specialises in brunch dishes, from sourdough toast with butter to smashed avocado with soda bread and eggs. Egg white omelettes, American style, feature, and there are bagels with myriad fillings for those who are still on the carbs. Salads and sandwiches bring in the lunch crowd; the talented chef, Leroy Marshall, has developed his own relish, a welcome relief from the Ballymaloe kind. If it was available in jars I for one would be stashing it away every time I visited the area. It may be the best thing about the place. Apart from the bakes. A talented pastry chef resides here. They make all their own breads, scones, and sweet treats from 6am every morning and are never the same twice; something worth considering if you have expended serious calories walking the Prom.
Ground is more than just another cafe, it has quickly become part of the fabric of Salthill. It has been a fixture in the village for only a very short time now and it has grown organically. This is a kitchen that punches well above its weight, serving up dishes that are exactly what the area needed. It is light, airy, and nicely decorated with great food and pleasant, helpful staff, exactly the type of cafe needed in the area. Well done Kevin Nugent and team.
Ground & Co, Salthill, Galway. Phone (091 ) 527 846. Web: www.groundandco.ie