It was the end of December with but one day to go till the start of the new year. The house had been hit by a veritable hurricane of small, pink, clothing. The combined forces of Santa and a little girl's December birthday had filled the house with tons of plastic. A previously unknown horror had entered my life, the truly vile invention that is Moon Sand, a force so insidious and evil that I could see no way to defeat it. The children had begun to make the relatively short word 'Mum' into a five to six syllable long whine that was slowly working on my already questionable sanity. And there was another week of this to go before the holidays were over.
I was hungry, but the aprés Christmas food fatigue had set in and I could think of more things that I definitely didn't want to eat than anything I did want. One thing was sure, I was not making anything myself. I packed up the family and we headed of to Lunares. Myself and the children were deposited at the foot of the colourfully-painted stairs next to Barr an Caladh in Woodquay, while my current husband went off to park the car in lashing rain that could only be described as biblical.
We were wet, cross and crabby, but all that changed when we entered a room that was cosy with a roaring fire in a wood burning stove. Picture a cross between a quiet taverna down a windy cobbled Spanish street and a flamboyant Changing Rooms makeover by the foppish Lawrence Lewellan-Bowen. I have been in many restaurants where thousand of pounds have been spent on the decor and they have not managed to achieve half of the ambience of this room. It may be oil cloths, paper napkins, and held together by emulsion paint but this place has a charm all its own. It felt exactly like being on holidays.
The drinks listed include a good choice of sangrias by the glass or two litre jugs for tables, a comprehensive list of reds, a short list of whites (all Spanish of course) including one of my favourite Sauvignon Blancs for only €5 a glass, some imported Spanish beers, and an organic Spanish cider that is the first thing on my extensive list to try when I go back.
This is a place for sharing if ever there was one. The children's menu is short and to the point, soup and any half portion tapa of their choice. There is a lot of food here that would appeal to even the pickiest of children. Ignoring the soup, we ordered two half plates each of tapas for the children, the albóndigas (meatballs) which were incredibly soft and flavourful served with crispy fried potatoes and in a smooth vegetable sauce. They also had the mussels in an excellent smoked garlic broth.
We also ordered some of the more usual tapas to compare to the Spanish standard, keeping to the rule of one and a half plate per person, croquetas, patatas bravas, and some very tasty chorizo in cider. All were expertly prepared and in quite large quantities. The Iberian ham croquettes were very popular with the children and since they came four to a plate they were bartered for some meatballs and mussels. Every piece of bread that was provided in what I first thought was a ridiculously large basket was used up mopping up all the delicious sauces from our various bowls and platters. The bill for the four of us, with five very generous plates between us, came to €40 including two juices and a beer. And we were utterly stuffed.
I wasn't going to tell you about this place, I wanted to keep it for myself. But if you do go, and you really should, if you see a slightly frazzled woman in the corner with a Spanish cider and a large plate of Iberian jamon, muttering to herself about 'moon sand', leave her alone, she's on her holidays!
Lunares, Woodquay, Galway, phone 091 445618/091 445734
Opening times: Lunch 12-5pm; dinner 6-10pm; brunch Saturday and Sunday 12-5pm.