A friend of mine who has a good sense of taste and a keen eye for a bargain (he is a canny Scotsman ) suggested I should join him for lunch some day to sample the food from the above-mentioned eatery at The West Bridge in Loughrea. I had eaten there before under two different owners and had noticed it was lying empty for a while.
The new owners are serving a much more comprehensive menu than heretofore, with breakfast and lunch Monday to Saturday and dinners on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The prices looked really good and I wondered if the name outside would stand close scrutiny, ie, does taste really matter to these guys? To give you an idea of the lunchtime prices, the soup of the day with brown bread and garlic croutons is €3, Caesar salad starter is €3.90, and smoked salmon rolled with cream cheese and lime served with salad and caper sauce is €4.90.
The menu is well chosen and there are daily specials. My friend ordered his ‘usual’, the escalope of roasted salmon with cream dill and lime sauce, served with a large slice of potato, some asparagus and baby tomatoes, plus side salad (the salad was my friend’s choice instead of the more usual serving of hot vegetable ), price €7.90. This is the dish you can see in the picture and, having tasted all parts of it, I can honestly say these guys are serious about their food. The salmon was cooked to perfection and the sauce delicious, the salad had a sprinkling of lightly fried onion pieces on top that was delicious plus some good crispy bread. This is a dish that most people would be happy to pay €15 to €20 for as an evening meal and be quite happy with value for money and quality. All the salad starters can be had as a main course and the ones I saw being served looked large and delicious.
I was tempted to order the same salmon dish based on my friend’s prior comments, however in the interests of research I ordered the Irish lamb stew with colcannon mash and a mixed serving of leeks, carrots, courgettes, and broccoli for €8.50. This was excellent, although strictly speaking it was not an ‘Irish stew’. It was more of the brown stew variety, loads of great flavours in the liquid, great chunky carrots, turnips, and plenty of lean lamb. The day we were there was perishing cold and this hit the spot like a bullseye. The side dish of vegetables was much better both in variety, colour, and taste than many I have had as part of many expensive dinners. I was too full to order any dessert or coffee but did have a look at the different menus. The children’s menu has a baby bowl of mash, vegetable, and soup for €2.50, and fish fingers with mash or chips for €4. The breakfast menu has a full Irish for €4.90, homemade pancakes with fruit and maple syrup for €2.90 — wow — plus €1 for tea and €1.50 for coffee. It has a dinner menu on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday that looks worth a future visit. I assume that it has candles and perhaps tablecloths at night to give some atmosphere, as the restaurant is very small and simply furnished. The thing I liked a lot about the menu is that it is not huge but with seven main courses it manages to have something for everyone: duck, lamb, fish, chicken, pasta, fillet steak, and pork. The dish that caught my eye was the pork roulade rolled with grape and almond stuffing and wrapped in bacon served with mash and vegetable or salad, €16. The confit of duck is served with fondant potatoes and red cabbage topped with gravy, €16. The wine licence is due this week so I was not able to see what wines are on offer.
If you are anywhere near Loughrea or passing on the motorway, it is worth a detour; however it may be packed at lunchtime as it seats about 25 people. If the owners can keep up this level of quality and price they will soon need a larger premises. I wish them the very best of luck for the future.
Taste Matters is open 9.30am to 5pm Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday; 9.30am to 10pm Thursday and Friday; and 12 noon to 10pm on Saturday. The telephone number is (091 ) 880010.