The Malt House Restaurant has always had a great reputation for serving good food consistently over a great many years. Just over a year ago the restaurant transformed itself into a slightly different, less formal, dining room and focused on creating a menu using the very best of local ingredients. It even has very large pictures of some of its suppliers on the walls, which gives an indication of how seriously the company takes finding the best produce. I called in on a very wet Thursday at 7pm and there were quite a few tables filled with diners. It seems to attract a cross section of tourists, locals, and parties out for the night. While somewhat less formal than before, the service is as polished as ever, and throughout the night it was impressive to watch all the tables being looked after in an efficient, but not pushy, manner. Service is not something to be overlooked when choosing a restaurant for a night out. There is nothing worse than to have an otherwise good meal spoiled by poor service; however I think that recently the standard of service generally has improved in restaurants.
There are two menus to choose from; the value menu is a choice of two courses for €25 and three courses for €30. The main evening menu has a larger choice of à la carte dishes and changes with the season. We chose from both menus. I had the malbay crab toasties, €10 from the evening menu, and my companion had the organic salad from the value menu. I ordered the barbecued organic salmon with maris piper chips and my fellow diner had the ‘let’s forget the credit crunch’ lobster and chips for €30. This may sound like an extravagant item to order, but the combination of lobster and chips seemed perfectly in keeping with what I think The Malt House is aiming for, ie, great food in a non-stuffy environment, and a little funky. Lobster is usually priced by weight, and when I enquired about the weight of the lobster and whether it was a full or half lobster, I was satisfied that it sounded like a good deal. They do not weigh the lobster so you may be lucky and get a big one.
While waiting for the starters to arrive we were served with an amuse-bouche (a bite-sized hors d’œuvre ) of one Clarinbridge native oyster with a tiny shot glass of Guinness. Wow was that good, as it was my first native oyster of the season and what a pretty picture the dish made. We ordered two glasses of pinot grigio from a really good wine list. The list is well represented across the wine producing world, and one of my all time favourite sauvignon blancs, Greenlough, is there. However as I was driving home it would have to wait for another time. There are about five or six reds and whites available by the glass.
My starter of malbay crab toasties was exactly as described. They were three large quenelles of perfect crab meat on toasted sourdough bread. It was one of those starters that you just want to eat and enjoy the flavours. Crab meat is a culinary delight when served right, and this was spot on. My companion had the organic green salad, and when asked her impression she said it was fresh and surprisingly filling. Stephen Gould’s salads are as good as it gets in that department, grown in Headford and delivered fresh every day. Historically we are not a nation of salad eaters but that has been changing over recent years and, if you are yet to be convinced, try this one and see what you are missing.
Next up was the pièce de résistance, a plate overflowing with lobster and, one of my all time favourite indulgence foods, properly cooked giant maris piper chips. There were also two ramekin dishes filled with homemade tomato ketchup and mayonnaise. Lobster is a pretty easy dish to cook, however it is not so easy to cook it properly; overcooking is very easily done (as I know to my own disappointed efforts ). Most of the hard work was done as the claws were cracked for us and all my companion had to do was seek out the last morsel with the lobster fork provided. The flesh was juicy and tender just as it should be. I was given one morsel to taste and that was it, no further offers!
My own barbecued salmon was also juicy and tender, and the accompanying giant chips a meal in themselves. I liked the homemade tomato ketchup and mopped it up with the remaining chips.
For dessert, we shared a chocolate pistachio parfait with chocolate chip cookies. I am particularly fond of desserts and this was scrumptious, the parfait soft and velvety and the homemade cookies were crisp and very chocolatey.
The Malt House Restaurant is located at No 5 High Street, Galway, off Shop Street/Quay Street. It can now be entered from the King’s Head and there is an offer for all parties of 10 or more of a free drink of choice after your meal in the King’s Head. Telephone 091 567866, visit www.themalthouse.ie