Cookes Restaurant & Wine Bar is located on 28 Upper Abbeygate Street in Galway, just facing you as you enter the street from The Connacht Tribune direction.
It has an old world interior with all the rooms pretty much as they would have been when it was a house. There are dining areas on three levels including a smoking area on the first floor. In this respect, it is ideal for groups of diners who want an area to themselves, so you could be pretty noisy and not bother other diners. The décor is a bit like Dirty Nellys in Bunratty and as such I am sure has a great appeal to tourists. Certainly on the night I was there, I could hear some American and continental accents. It also seems to attract younger couples that want a candlelit meal surrounded by an atmosphere with a yesteryears’ feel.
It was a Friday night that my companion and I were there and it was very busy. Most tables throughout were full, and being replenished as diners left. The service is professional and you certainly will not be left wondering where your food is. There is a lunch time menu with most dishes under a tenner, and a 5pm early bird menu with any two courses for €20, an a la carte menu, and a menu of the day’s specials. The wine list has a good selection and several different house wines at €5.50 per glass.
We ordered from the specials menu and the a la carte plus some house wine. For starters, my friend choose briam – pronounced bree-ahm. It is a Mediterranean dish which is like a mini casserole of vegetables such as aubergene, courgette, onion, tomato, potatoes and garlic, flavoured with cumin and oregano. It was topped off with feta cheese and cost either €8 as a starter or €12 as a main course. My friend made it disappear with a flourish. I had the crab claws in garlic butter for €12.50. I have had this dish a few times recently and have been seriously disappointed in the number of claws on the plate. Often an average of five or six, claws and is not enough for 12 or 13 Euros ( unless they are a giant size ). On this occasion there was a good dozen or more and the flavour was excellent, with not too much garlic and a final tossing in butter to add flavour. For mains we choose half roast duck, €23.95, on the advice of our waiter and local whole prawns in lemon butter, €23.95. Even though I read the words local whole prawns, it did not register with me that this would be a big bowl of prawns in the shell. I am not at complaining as this is actually my favourite way to eat prawns. I am constantly amazed that it is not more readily available as a dish around our fair county. If you do order this dish be prepared to get your hands messy, but there will be a nice warm bowl of water with lemons to clean the oil off your hands.
Many seafood restaurants in the US make a feature of serving shellfish like prawns, crabs, and lobsters whole, with bibs for the diners and lots of pincers to open everything up. It is great fun, less prep for the kitchen, and makes the meal last longer. If you consistently serve the freshest shell fish and in a novel way, people will beat a path to your door. If anyone takes up the idea, I will be among the first customers.
My friend had the duck and it was excellent. I had a good sample and it was both moist and tender. We had a side serving of potatoes, broccoli, turnip and carrots. To finish we had desserts of ice cream and sticky toffee pudding costing €6 each.
Cookes is open seven days a week, from 12.30 each day. To contact the restaurant call (+ 353 ) 91 568203 or log on to http://www.cookesrestaurantandwinebar.ie
My email address for suggestions/replies is [email protected]