Wine and dine at the Harbour Hotel

While enjoying a quieter location than most city centre properties, this upscale waterfront hotel is just a stroll from Eyre Square and all Galway has to offer. There is a modern restaurant serving afternoon tea and a sleek bar with a cocktail menu. Breakfast, lunch, coffee, cake, dinner and wine, it has the lot. There is always a mix of families, groups of friends, and couples young and old in the dining room.

The Harbour Restaurant is best known for its good value Sunday lunch buffet, great for families, especially those with small children where the buffet style of serving dramatically increases the chances of them hitting upon something they like. The Sunday lunch menu changes often and consists of four courses of family favourites, old and new, from just €22.50 per person with children eating for free. Starters ranges from classics such as prawn cocktail or Waldorf salad to more contemporary Teriyaki chicken wings or Thai noodle salad with lime, ginger, and chilli. Mains revolve around the classic roast. Roast rib of beef in a thyme and mustard crust, lamb with gravy, mash, and veg, or maybe a roulade of salmon stuffed with a prawn mousse. Then there is the epic dessert corner, a large table groaning under piles of cakes and treats. Pear crumble with warm custard, chocolate and walnut tarts, lemon meringue pies, cheesecakes and gateux, all made in-house to a very high standard. Add ample parking and a resident pianist now and then, and it goes a long way to explaining the enduring popularity of the Harbour.

While many hotels in this lucky position would be happy to tick along just doing the necessary, filling beds and bellies, The Harbour Hotel is not one to rest on its laurels. This team like to flex their culinary muscles every now and then.

A Wine and Dine evening is just the sort of event where the kitchen staff can challenge themselves and show what they can accomplish. I toddled along to their last wine pairing dinner on a cold, wet, evening in November and was glad that I did. To start, we enjoyed a Botanics gin and tonic in the reception where Stefan Lundstrom and his crew showed the style of service that is always welcoming and friendly. The gin and tonic tasted even better as we sipped and watched a Weight Watchers class file into a meeting room across the way.

Seating ourselves at the rear of the dining room, the intimate setting makes it ideally suited to food and wine tasting events, the atmospheric lighting is a real plus. We are taken on a virtual tour explaining regions and climates, touching on grape varieties and why particular wines were matched with foods. The wine list is enthusiastically promoted, with some stellar food pairings from the kitchen.

Two whites first, a delicate, aromatic Marques De Riscal Sauvignon Blanc, cold and crisp, comes with an attractive plate of Scotch quail egg, garlic aioli, with a scatter of leaves and a slick of red pepper coulis. Some baby leaves are a pretty garnish on a stand out dish of hazelnut coated goats cheese with beetroot emulsion matched with the floral aromas of a glass of Marques De Riscal Rueda.

Next the distinctive label of the Charles & Charles Cab Syrah, the first of the reds. Its fruity yet smokey aromas restrained and well balanced with a simply grilled fillet of red snapper sporting some vanilla potato scales. The accompanying chorizo and green pea risotto and parmesan crisp with a hint of peppery horseradish all completed the dish. The last of the wines, a warming Joel Gott Zinfandel, was deep, dark with hints of spice to hold its own against a plate of marinated wild Irish venison with truffle fondant potatoes, fried wild mushrooms, and juniper berry jus. It is a precise and considered progression of small dishes to showcase both the wines and the chefs technical and creative skills. The dessert, a tasting platter, ranged from a simple wine berry jelly to a well made macaroon with a chocolate mousse and raspberry polenta cake in between.

The Harbour Hotel’s next Wine and Dine evening, hosted by Findlater Wines & Spirits, is on March 24 as part of the Galway Food Festival. Expect dishes such as foie gras topped with apple jelly and black cherries, caramelised figs served on their own brioche, or a seared sesame tuna steak with scallop and asparagus tips on a pea puree, all expertly paired with some lovely old world wines. It is on from 7pm to 9pm and tickets are €35 per person. This promises to be an evening of good food, fine wines, and great company if the last one was anything to go by.

The Harbour Hotel, New Dock Road, Galway. Tel: (091 ) 894 800.

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