I have noticed that the traditional types of customers in many restaurants have changed over the past few years. The most noticeable is that women are now a serious force to be reckoned with and any restaurant which does not focus on their needs will suffer. On every single occasion that I have eaten out in the last 12 months there have been large tables of women’s groups dining, committees, hen nights, group of friends, groups from work, etc, and the same cannot be said of the men folk. What does this mean? I have not got a clue, but it is certainly good for the restaurant trade. Yet I have not seen any restaurant aiming its marketing directly at this group, eg, free cocktail for any group of more than X, or some such enticement.
Another trend is the lack of wine bottles on dining tables, does this mean it is too expensive, or is it the drink driving clampdown? Probably a bit of both. The cost of the wine is hard to change as most restaurants depend on the mark-up to make their overall margin. Generally speaking it is not too bad in Galway and if you compare it to France (where the wine is produced ), we get off quite lightly as typical mark-up in good restaurants can be several hundred per cent. If the cost is a big issue for you, why not visit the few ‘bring your own bottle’ restaurants in Galway.
Another trend is the cloning of restaurant menus. There are far too many menus where they share the main ingredients with many others, and sea bass would be a case in point. I understand the need to cater for a mass market but we have some great fish available that never seems to get on to local menus. A new trend is the availability of early bird menus or special midweek deals. If you are prepared to eat out between 5pm and 7pm there are some really great deals out there and, generally speaking, the earlier in the evening you eat the better you will feel later on that night.
Some restaurants are re-inventing themselves, and a case in point is Brannagans, over the Townhouse Bar. It has changed its layout and menu. I sampled some of what’s on offer recently. For starters I had field mushrooms stuffed with garlic and herbs, and while I would not normally order such a dish I was quite impressed. It was large and full of flavours and cost €6.50. My companion had the lamb koftas which were deemed to have the right amount of flavour and fieriness, cost €7. For mains, I had the teriyaki salmon, cost €15, with stir fried noodles, and the outside was nice and crispy while the inside was juicy. The other main course we tasted was the pork chop with cabbage, gratin potatoes, and apple sauce at a very reasonable €13.95. It is not often that you see a pork chop on a menu and it was very good indeed, as was the cabbage and apple sauce. I had a good Australian Chardonnay Zilzie at €7.50 per glass. Its website www.brannagans.ie is one of the coolest around.