One of our favourite family spots has to be Mulberry’s restaurant in the village of Barna, on the coast road to Spiddal, close enough to Galway city to be almost considered a suburb. Set back from the main road, in a line of pretty shops, this is usually a busy spot with well thought out menus and family friendly dining. The two very hands-on owners, James and Deirdre Cunningham, are blessed with a good chef, Ziggy Kolanczyk. There is real focus on local seasonal produce and James himself can often be found foraging among the rocks on the local shores. The quality of ingredients, reasonable prices, and the casual elegance of the decor all adds up to a very good dining experience, with an emphasis on seafood and European style cuisine. Parking is both ample and free and the sky blue frontage is conveniently located next door to Ali’s Fish Shop, so you are guaranteed the seafood will be as fresh as can be.
Just inside the door there is a cosy bar area with a short menu board of tasty nibbles, such as skinny parmesan and truffle scented fries or a pan of local shellfish tossed in a tarragon cream sauce, to enjoy with a glass from the extensive range of good wines. Pricing is mostly modest before reaching a crescendo on a Zenato Amerone, but there is a reasonable choice by the glass or half bottle, and a specials board. The friendly staff are quick to welcome arriving guests and they have a comfortable waiting area also to accommodate the busy takeout trade of pasta and bistro dishes.
The adjoining main dining area is stylish and understated, bright and airy and set with simple dark wood tables, comfortable seating, and cleverly divided with moveable bamboo screens.
Children are more than welcome and well provided for with high chairs, colouring sheets, and baby changing facilities. The children’s menu is pricier than most but the quality items, such as minute steak and mash and fresh fish goujons, account for this. The early bird menu offers particularly good value with three courses for €25 or you can choose from the à la carte.
The modern menu offers a short selection of starters from soups, pates, and calamari. Main courses run through a range of popular bistro dishes, you can choose from slow cooked beef cheeks, steak, fish and chips, or roast chicken. There is also a separate list of healthy lifestyle options packed with vitamins and minerals such as superfood salad and smoked madras quinoa for the more health conscious.
We last visited early on Sunday evening, hungry from a weekend’s camping in the wilds of Connemara. Some tables were already filled with the usual eclectic mix that Mulberry's attracts, couples young and old, family groups, and a table of expectant mums. Greeted like old friends, the welcome was warm and the table was quickly provided with bottles of water and juice for the children. We treated ourselves to a glass of Prosecco from the lovely selection of pre-dinner drinks to aid us in our ordering.
I began with a light and refreshing blue cheese and pear salad with the occasional pleasing crunch of a nutty, toasted, walnut. Another beautiful wooden board brings a little mason jar of crab meat delicately dressed and with tiny pieces of celery and apple mixed through with pickled cucumber, and toasted sourdough to perch it upon. There was a special of gurnard, a bit boney but served on a well made samphire risotto. The other main was pork belly which came stuffed with black pudding and accompanied by three big fat seared scollops with their curls of coral roe attached. A bed of braised fennel and orange and a mound of herbed mash made this a more than substantial plateful.
We could not manage dessert, but finished with a good coffee. The kids’ desserts were greedily received from our charming server Anne Marie (such a nice name, don't you think? ), who was especially good with the small diners. The littlest one was delighted with her little tray of colourful sweets and sprinkles to decorate her very own chocolate brownie. I managed to steal a little of the fudgey and delicious sponge, excellent and gluten-free to boot. Mulberry’s is intensely likeable and friendly, good food well made and beautifully presented makes this a real neighbourhood restaurant.