Out with the old...

It is fair to say, I think, that we have all learned to lower our expectations a little when dining in a hotel. Often we hear the phrase "the food was great", qualified by the appendage "for a wedding". After all, serving 120-plus plates of beef or salmon all at the same time is an entirely different prospect than cooking two or four plates to order.

There are, of course, those hotels who buck the trend, where the food is good and better than you would expect in a stand alone restaurant with usually an excellent chef behind it all. Consider the inventive and often whimsical stylings of Jonathan Keane in The Lodge at Ashford, the imaginative cuisine of Martin O'Donnell, head chef at The Twelve, and the long serving Tim O'Sullivan at Renvyle House to name just a few. Now there is another hotel dining room to add to the list.

It has been all change at the Meyrick again recently. The old hotel restaurant, The Oyster Grill's old space had been transformed into the all-singing, all-dancing Gaslight Bar & Brasserie, cool and contemporary with gleaming tiles and bare bulbs. Keeping all the advantages of the period features, lofty ceilings, and elegant windows to people watch over Eyre Square. When this happened Fagan's, as it was at The Great Southern, was cleared out to make room for the new Number 15 on the Square.

Although in the basement, light coloured paintwork and blond wood give it an elegant, clean, feeling. It is a spacious room with the open plan kitchen dominating the back wall, no signs of the former sports bar. Tables are set with crisp linen and sparkling stemware and cutlery. The room is divided into sections and the staff are attentive and prompt. The food menu is varied, without being overly long, and offers value for money, in what is Galway’s premier four star hotel.

To begin we try the No 15 salad of grilled asparagus, roasted beetroot, organic leaves, crumbed hen's egg, confit cherry tomatoes, honey and orange dressing, and parmesan shavings, and the chicken liver and pork terrine with pickled veg, cauliflower puree, and ciabatta crostini. Everything looks beautiful and delivers on flavour. Starters are all under a tenner, and the main courses offer a couple in the teens. We follow with roasted fillet of stone bass with braised leeks, prawn and crab wonton in an excellent brandy bisque and the rosemary and balsamic braised shoulder of lamb with a crisp lamb croquette, asparagus, and wilted spinach.

As before the change, the staff here know their stuff, they are well-drilled and knowledgeable, the food is flavoursome and nicely presented. If you have room, desserts are priced at €6.95 and feature classics such as chocolate fondant with salted caramel sauce or apple tarte tatin with candied hazelnuts and sauce Anglaise. An Irish artisan cheeseboard served with bramble apple chutney, crackers, and grapes at €10.95 would also make a fine finish to the meal.

The Meyrick may be a classic, but given a fresh and vibrant new feel with its recent additions. What hasn’t changed one bit is the warm welcome and the friendly and helpful staff, who make a visit here a real treat. The Meyrick is a piece of Galway history that is busy making itself relevant for today's guests while still keeping its vintage appeal. In Number 15 on the Square there is confident, creative, cooking celebrating all the best ingredients on our doorstep — hotel food just got a lot more interesting.

No.15 serve dinner nightly from 6.30pm. Hotel Meyrick, Eyre Square, Galway. Phone 091 564041, www. hotelmeyrick.ie

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