Watching trends in the accommodation sector in Ireland is always interesting. Recently we have seen a number of high profile four and five star hotels engage in multi-million euro refurbishment programmes, essential work if we are to compete with the rest of the world. However, there are still many establishments that have been short on the maintenance and refurbishment front for a number of years. As prices rise again customers are not always seeing an equal increase in standards. While hotels undoubtedly benefit from investment, as salubrious as these premises may become, they will ultimately fail to impress unless the standards of staff, service, and food matches and complements the surroundings.
One hotel that understands this more than any other is the exemplary g Hotel. Although the location on a busy road as you enter the city may not seem very promising at first, the originality of the interior, famously designed by internationally renowned milliner Phillip Treacy, more than makes amends. There is a view down Lough Atalia towards Galway Bay from the front of the hotel, and it is within pleasant strolling distance of Eyre Square on a fine day. The g succeeded in transcending the drawbacks of its location and has matured into not only a landmark, but one of the best loved hotels in the west of Ireland to boot.
While it has undergone many changes in the kitchen over the years, their current chef, Jason O'Neill, has a special affinity with this unique hotel. In his role as head chef at the g, O'Neill oversees all the culinary offerings including Restaurant gigi’s, the Signature Lounges, weddings, and the conference business menus. He has built a team of similarly passionate chefs who share his vision and strive for excellence in everything they craft.
Recently I called in to try the new 'Indulge' menu in Restaurant gigi’s. It has been cleverly reworked by chef O'Neill and he has made some changes for the better. The extensive bar menu has mocktails and cocktails, craft beer and whiskeys, and a comprehensive list of gins served in glass goblets. We were expertly guided by Francisco, our charming Portuguese sommelier, in our wine choice, a section of the menu well worth exploring. Water was quickly brought to the table and a choice of fresh breads, a trio of dips, salty butter, chimichurri sauce, and a bright rouille with plenty of smoked paprika was also provided.
Starters of seared tuna in a miso soya glaze and Galway Goat Farm goat’s cheese in a honey and pistachio crisp on a pond of tomato jelly were faultless. Main courses were corn-fed chicken supreme with girolles and truffle cream, and a beautifully made and substantial pork selection, crispy belly, glazed cheek and fillet, and smoked black pudding. There is further choice in a range of sides. Earl Grey mille-feuille and salted caramel fondant, a twist on the more commonly seen chocolate variety, were the perfect finish to an outstanding meal.
From day one, The g Hotel has understood the importance of playing to its strengths. It is no secret that the Irish love their tea, something that The g takes full advantage of. These days, tearooms and hotels throughout Ireland offer variations of this centuries-old tradition. Not to be left out of an opportunity to provide a superior cuppa, The g has a very glamourous afternoon tea of its own. Where others may have seen a hotel set in a retail park, The g has used its location to its advantage by teaming up with the local cinema to offer a 'Dinner and a Movie' package. The glass is always half full around here in more ways than one. Its location also provides plenty of free parking, something rare and wonderful in a city centre hotel.
Perhaps the greatest strength of all lies in head chef Jason O'Neill. He is no stranger to The g, having previously worked there as sous chef for a number of years. He rejoined the kitchen to take up his new role after working as head chef of O'Grady's Seafood Restaurant in Barna, where his food was a big hit. It is safe to say that this guy knows his hake from his halibut. O'Neill has a passion for showcasing local Irish produce, especially seafood, where possible. Originally from Monaghan, he trained in Killybegs, Donegal, and then went on to work in Australia for a number of years in various culinary positions, gaining vast experience.
It is this specialist background that provides the skills necessary for 'Seafood Sensations' on Thursday September 5, an evening designed to celebrate the best of Galway's seafood tradition. Head chef O'Neill and his team have created a seven course tasting menu to be served in Restaurant gigi's, with an array of wines selected to suit each course. It includes cured salmon, mouthwatering lobster ravioli saffron, and a delicious fillet of turbot with prosecco foam. Guests can also enjoy a surf and turf dish which will feature a crispy short rib of beef, seared scallop and samphire, and the pastry team have designed an assiette of desserts influenced by the sea. From 'fish to fork' the evening promises to be full of fun and packed with flavour.
Smartly dressed staff are another great asset and service is impeccable — friendly, attentive, and well-informed without exception. While The g Hotel is a five-star hotel that prides itself on luxury and excellence in dining, it does not suffer from the same stuffiness other five star establishments are prone to. There is quality and ambition without pomposity. You don't have to wait for a special occasion to go to Gigi's — a meal here makes any day of the week special.
Seafood Sensations is €75 per person. Booking is essential due to demand — book via [email protected] or call on 091 865200.
The g Hotel, Wellpark, Galway. T: +353 91 865200 E: [email protected].