BY DECLAN VARLEY
There is a common warmth in the hostelries which are run by the talented Aiden Leonard and his welcoming teams. Like a football coach drilling a club into how to hold a high offside line, he has put together award winning teams of consistent excellence in three traditional restaurants in the county.
And the word is that a fourth is on the way very soon.
I was already well familiar with the fare on offer at Peggys at Aucloggen and McHugh’s at Castlegar, so last week I ventured up the road to dine at the third, the Red Gap at Barnaderg, and what a treat that turned out to be. For those of you who are not familiar with Barnaderg, it is not really that far away and was only about a 15 minute drive from my home in Claregalway.
All three locations in the Leonard stable have been in the service industry for many years, but in taking over each one and spreading his magic dust, Aiden has created contemporary yet warming and welcoming restaurants with a uniformity of experienced staff, great service, and a menu that smacks of the adventurous and the traditional, while delivering a real treat for the tastebuds.
I travelled on a summer’s evening and the sunlit rolling hills between Abbeyknockmoy and Barnaderg were reminiscent of Tuscany and before I knew it I was there.
The ambience was delightful. We were warmly welcomed by Karen. Family groups of differing sizes were dotted at tables throughout; while there are plenty of nooks and crannies for couples to have a romantic meal in safety in these new socially-distanced times.
I opened with the Duck and vegetable Spring Rolls which came with a pickled fennel salad and dressed with rhubarb and star anise compote — what a mouth-watering appetiser that turned out to be, beautifully moist and without the cracked dryness of some spring rolls.
My wife ordered the Pacific Green Lip mussels gently braised in a tangy white wine dressed with a salad and lemon and caper sauce. They were divine, and were as fine a mussel as she has ever been served in any seafood restaurant. And you don’t lose any of the delicious sauce because the side of Guinness brown bread allows you to delicately dip.
I opted for the house burger which was wonderfully tender and came infused with Tournafulla black pudding, served with toasted brioche and battered onion rings and wholegrain mustard mayonnaise. What a mouth-watering dish it was. Definitely one to travel for.
My companion had the baked lamb rump which was cooked with a distinctly Gallic twist with a herb pine nut crust on a bed of butter beans and Provencal vegetable cassoulet. This was garnished with garlic potatoes which came in beautifully-structured layered squares.
For dessert we shared the berry crumble which was light in texture but beautifully tangy and very seasonal.
I would heartily recommend dining at the Red Gap in Barnaderg. The menu is wide-ranging, the atmosphere is inviting, and the trip to and from this pretty village in the heartland of Galway football tops and tails a superb evening. They also have an excellent takeaway menu and special culinary occasions such as the Monday Steak Nights.
For details of how you can experience the Red Gap, see their social media pages or call 093 49677.