Above Tigh Neachtain's landmark pub is home to Artisan, one of Galway's more interesting and constantly evolving restaurants. Artisan enjoy a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship with their downstairs neighbor, Neactains, and have teamed up to offer a lunch menu. The gastropub-style lunch menu pairs each dish with a drink option such as craft beer, artisan cider or select wines from the pubs extensive beverage list.
Starters here could include a creamy Atlantic seafood chowder paired with Galway Hooker pale ale and an Irish mezze plate, gubeen chorizo and salami, macroom mozzarella, pickled veg and tapenade paired with Hazana Crianza Rioja. The mains include a sticky beef rib with celeriac pureé and potato fondant paired with Cosmic Cow milk stout or the wild Connemara risotto with sea spinach, wild pea, purselane, dilisk, woodsorrel and wild garlic all foraged from the shores & mountains of Connemara. For a lighter lunch, there is a selection of inventive sandwiches and salads similarly paired.
Neactain’s is well known for its strong connection with Galway’s arts and musical communities and this superior food offering adds to its bohemian allure. The menu here is served between 12 noon and 3pm. Approaching along the city’s busiest street, you will find settings on tables outside this restaurant diminutive street level frontage. Crisp linen, and glistening glass are laid out invitingly, on a coveted few seats sandwiched between the pub and a bijou coffee shop on this pedestrian thoroughfare. Follow the soft grey carpet up the narrow stairs and it brings you to a warm cocoon of a space with thick walls and an elegant old oak floor. Built in 1894 the building is full of charm and character with romantic window tables looking out onto the medieval streets of Galway and the always bustling Quay Street and Cross Street intersection.
Upatairs eclectic artworks are dotted about the space and there is a tree of wire and amethyst adorning the serving counter. Music is low and mainly blue note jazz in the narrow dining room, and candlelight adds warmth to a restaurant that is already full of character. Owner and oenophile, Matt Skeffington has recently completed the prestigious Ballymaloe 12 Week Certificate which has inspired him to designed an updated contemporary Irish menu centred around in-season, locally grown and foraged ingredients. Matt is developing their own take on modern Irish food with a twist, food that is light, fresh and seasonal. Seafood features strongly and the dishes reference a wide range of world cuisines and techniques. Menus include an early dinner and full à la carte, with some evening dishes finding their way onto the lunch menu.
Artisan offers by far the best value fine dining option in the West in the form of its 'House Menu'. Even though the menu is short, choosing is not easy but delicious breads with butter and tapanade arrive to ease the decision making. Ham hock terrine could make a fine starter as would smoked fish plate, with mackerel pate and Kinvara salmon. We decide on the mezze plate, a collection of tasty Irish produce like Gubeen chorizo and Macroom mozzarella and a lovely vegetarian goats cheese basil and roasted red pepper parfait. Main courses include the popular beef rib or organic salmon. We try the confit pork belly and fennel and garlic linguini piled with sautéed crab claws - the portions here will more than satisfy, and the photogenic plating on plain white plates is a delight.
The wine list dabbles briefly in cocktails, eight wines are available by the glass with a relatively short but high quality list to choose from including a few premium or celebration bottles. The assiete of desserts play to the curious, you get a little taste of everything on one plate. On this occasion a light, citrus creme brûlée was the star of the quarter of sweets. Intriguing combinations are a feature throughout this well conceived menu, and the beautifully presented dishes are promptly served by charming staff with exemplary menu knowledge.
At €25 for the three courses it is outstanding value for money and popular with the pre-theatre dining crowd. Another great sting to Artisans already highly accomplished bow. Artisan continues to be what it always was, a winebar and restaurant serving great food with generosity and style. Brimful of character, it deservedly continues to be a local favorite.
Artisan Restaurant, Number 2 Quay Street, Galway. Tel: 091 532 655 Email: [email protected]