The Townhouse Restaurant is located over the Townhouse Bar facing the Spanish Arch. It has had a couple of identity changes in the last year or two, and that normally does not bode well. However in this case I think they have come up with a formula that works, funky styling, the menu, food quality, and the prices. The décor is pretty hard to describe, but a cross between random retro and New York funky might be a rough guide. Where there was once the usual suspended spotlights, there is now a collection of every type of retro shade you could imagine and a really clever line of about 20 to 30 Heinz beans tins transformed into downlighters. The tables are definitely sixties and the unusual chairs are eyecatching and pleasantly comfortable. The music is similarly retro and well chosen.
First up was the menu, presented on a clipboard (bingo board ), and while a bit hard to read is a novel way to do it; I believe it is being redesigned to make it more legible. Lots of coeliac friendly and vegetarian choices will appeal to many as this seems to be a growing market. I chose the soup special of the night, which was a lentil and coconut soup, while my companion ordered the miniature bucket of ‘wickedly spicy chicken wings’ with blue cheese dip and celery sticks, €6.80. I expected the soup to be chunky and full of lentils, however it was smooth and creamy and delicious. It was a big portion and I normally would only drink a half bowl or less to get the taste and flavours, however I mopped it up to the last drop. The chicken wings were stripped to their bare bones by my messy fingered diner and he proclaimed them to be 100 per cent. A bowl of warm water was provided for the cleanup, and after eating all the celery sticks with the blue cheese dip my guest was complimented by a very friendly waitress as most people apparently return the raw celery to the kitchen.
We chose a glass of San Elias sauvignon blanc and a glass of Lauca cabernet sauvignon, both €5 per glass. The wine list is now a compact selection of six reds and six whites at a maximum price of €25 per bottle. My guest made the comment that he prefers to look at a list of wines that are affordable than one which has wines he can only dream about. I think I would agree with that comment, especially in restaurants like this that are of a brasserie type. The main courses are well described and some of the names are unusual — the Terminator Burger, Moo Cow Pie, Fish Finger Sandwich. I chose the bucket of homemade scampi with home-cut chips and tartar sauce, €13.90. I did see a serving at the next table of the moo cow pie and I think that would be next on my list to try. My guest choose the lamb burger.
The lamb burger is a very well thought out dish; it was in a ciabatta type bread, with homemade hummus on top, lettuce, onion, tomato, cucumber, riata, and home made fries. Unless you are starving you do not need a starter with it as it is very generous and without doubt the best lamb burger I have had. My bucket of scampi was similar in size, I managed to finish nearly all the scampi, but could not finish the excellent chips, again no starter needed. At this level of pricing (all main courses from €10 to a maximum of €14.90 ), I think it is going to become a popular spot, certainly if you are in the 18 to 38 age group, it must appeal greatly and would be a great venue for groups on a night out and Christmas parties.
We finished off with a portion of Townhouse Glory, homemade brownies swimming in very good chocolate sauce and ice-cream, €6, and a portion of tiramisu cheesecake. Both were excellent but after an initial spoonful or two we had to ask for a doggie bag as we were full. In summary, I think the owners have cracked it this time and I know you will not be disappointed if you visit. If by any chance you did have an issue the very helpful staff would, I believe, fall over backwards and sort it. For bookings call (091 ) 534496, open seven nights a week from 6pm.
Finally, the results of the recent Galway’s Best Awards 2010 were announced recently and in case you have not seen them I have listed two of them for you. The top three finalists in the best Restaurant and Best Café category were:
Best Restaurant: McSwiggans Bar & Restaurant, Woodquay (overall winner ); Cava Spanish Restaurant, Dominick Street; The White Gables Restaurant, Moycullen.
Best Café: Food for Thought, Lower Abbeygate Street (overall winner ); Delight gourmet food bar, Upper Abbeygate Street; Smokey’s, NUIG.
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