Renvyle House Hotel has been gathering quite a few awards for its food over the years; the executive head chef Tim O’Sullivan has been the subject of much praise and produced a really good cookery book. All of this seemed a valid reason to spend a weekend there and see if it lives up to the publicity.
Renvyle is quite an unusual hotel in that it is family owned since the 1950s and with its general manager Ronnie Counihan as your host the service is of a very personal nature. Many Galwegians will remember Ronnie from his many restaurants in Co Galway; in Raftery’s Rest, Paddy Burke’s, Galway Bay Golf Club, and his bistro in Oranmore, Ronnie also worked in all the Great Southerns throughout Ireland. Ronnie has always been a man to favour top quality seafood and this is certainly the case in Renvyle. Mind you in this case he is somewhat spoiled for choice as the Atlantic Ocean is literally at the back door and he has his own personal fisherman to supply fantastic crabs, prawns, turbot, etc.
Perhaps some of you may not have heard of the executive head chef at Renvyle, his name is Tim O’Sullivan and apart from having published a really good cook book, At Home in Renvyle, he is one of Ireland’s most well respected chefs. Tim is not a celebrity chef in terms of appearing on television, however he is a celebrity among those in the know about good food. His food is both stylish and full of flavour and perhaps that is why on a horrible Saturday night in November the dining room was packed — wall to wall — every one of about 80 seats filled with appreciative diners. Perhaps that is why this hostelry on the edge of the Atlantic has such a huge repeat business.
My starters included crabcakes, crab salad, and gravadlax with a gorgeous beetroot accompaniment. and they excelled in freshness, flavour, and presentation. For main courses the highlights were roast guinea fowl, succulent and enormous scallops, followed by a delicious crème brulée. During the afternoon I had a superb seafood chowder that was packed with lots of crab, lobster, haddock, shrimp, and hardly a piece of the ubiquitous “farmed salmon” in sight.
If you have not been there, it is less than 50 miles from Galway and while the weather will be impossible to predict, I can guarantee blazing open turf fires — at least five of them — and stunning food. Renvyle is extremely welcoming to families with young children so have no worries on that score. The price of a gourmet five course dinner is €45.
On a more local note, there is a new deli in Oranmore village, it’s called Alan and Susan’s Pantry and I have to congratulate them on some great prices and a great selection of hard to find items. Their large container of take-away home-made soup is €1.75 and they have a student special of soup plus a two filling sandwich for €4.00, now that is the best value in town. I sampled the mushroom soup and it was excellent. The range of other goodies is top class, in particular the range of items from Bay Tree Foods.
Finally I would like to wish everyone a great Christmas and I hope all your culinary plans are successful.