For those who have not sampled the food here, it is a very easy place to find. Just drive along the Dock Road and it is the all glass-fronted building facing out to the boats. During the week when you look in there will be lots of couches to relax on and at the weekend you will see lots of dining tables and chairs. This does not mean that the food is only served at the weekend, the food is served seven days a week from 5pm, and during the week you can eat from the comfort of an easy chair.
First impressions are that it is quirky, funky, and indeed you may wonder if this is the place where a Michelin trained chef is producing great food. It is probably best described as a gastro pub, ie, great food in a bar environment. The view is sensational although for the next four or five months it will be hard to appreciate because of the dark evenings. Parking is possible at the front door but please remember that the docks area require a paid parking ticket 24 hours a day, seven days a week. After 7pm it is €3 for the rest of the night.
Whenever you eat great food it is usually down to a great chef who has created his/her style in the kitchen. In this case it is based on the cooking and inspiration of Jess Murphy who originally hails from New Zealand and has worked with Kevin Thornton in his Michelin restaurant; she was also head chef in Ard Bia and worked in Sheridan’s. This year she won the title of Best Chef in Connaught which is a very prestigious award and gives you, the diner, an idea of what may be in store for you here. Tess has another award-winning chef in the kitchen with her, his name is Billy Garvey. Billy won the Knorr Chef of the Year, all the more admirable when you realise he is an ex-scaffolder and won it when studying as a mature student in the total immersion training in GMIT. His prize gets him an all expenses paid trip to one the world’s most famous Michelin restaurants in Germany.
Jess is seriously committed to sourcing local artisan “best of the best” produce and, while others may have similar goals, she takes it very seriously as I counted 24 different suppliers, most of whom I recognised as excellent in their area. An interesting one is a producer of extra virgin Donegal rapeseed. The menu changes all the time so my comments will not necessarily reflect the menu on next week, however that is not an issue as I am pretty sure you will be more than satisfied with whatever your choice is.
I started with a celeriac and quince soup with pan fried chanterelles, €6.50, and my guest had the potted Clare crab with brown bread, €10.50. The crab was served in a fairly large jar topped off with melted butter. This large portion was melt in the mouth with a lovely flavour of lime, and although I only managed to get one or two forkfuls, I could have eaten it all night. I think the thickly cut brown bread is not necessary with it and my preference would be lightly toasted white, if anything. My soup arrived with a large helping of pan fried chanterelles floating on top and exactly how Jess decided these flavours would marry is, I reckon, the mark of a great chef, but they sure did. The soup was velvety and I mopped up the remaining drops with slivers of the fresh crusty white bread that was served with the soup. In some ways to call it a soup is not fair as the tastes and texture made it a unique dish.
At this stage, I should mention the menu overall. The menu has five starters, five mains, and five desserts. The wine list has also about five reds and five whites priced from €17.50 to €27, plus an additional special wine list which I assume changes every so often. The specials wine list is the one that deserves your special attention if you fancy a splurge, two reds, two whites, and three sherries, the wines are all either organic or biodynamic (biodynamic is the technique of making wine in conjunction with nature; an example would be, when the wine maker is fining the wines in the tank it is done when the moon is in such a position that maximum gravity is exerted on the impurities to move them to the bottom of the tank ). They are all Spanish and made from grapes which are not so well known, for example Godello and Mencia. I had Louro do Bolo from Galica, aged in oak and full on in every way, a great wine at €10 per glass or €40 per bottle. I also sampled the two reds and they are equally special.
For main course I had the Moroccan spiced ling with roasted roosters and courgette and fennel salad, €18.50. I am not a lover of ling and I ordered this specifically to see if it would convert me. I was also curious as to how the spices would work. It was a lot like eating monkfish and the spices were very subtle. The roosters has been sliced and roasted and served as a bed for the fish and salad. The juices all mixed together to make a great dish, with great taste and a great price, so unless you are really hungry this main course would be all you would need (but be sure to leave room for dessert ).
My guest had the brill pan fried with Stephen Gould’s greens, lemony mayo, and hand cut chips, €18.50. If I was impressed by the ling, then this one was a knockout. The dish comprised a full brill cooked to a perfect translucency, each forkful then dipped in the home made mayonnaise. The triple cooked chips are a feature themselves, enormous and crispy on the outside with steaming potato in the middle. I dipped them in to the home-made tomato sauce and had another taste explosion. If you feel like a snack some evening just order a dish of these hand cut chips with mayo and ketchup, €4, and you will be set up for the night. The sauce is now being bottled and for sale in the Galway Museum café..
We shared one dessert of Moroccan orange cake with yoghurt cream and pomegranates, €6.50, and suffice it to say that it tasted as good as it looks in the photograph.
In summary, was I impressed? Yes. Am I being over complimentary? No, I don’t think so, particularly when you look at the prices. Sourcing the very best artisan products is not cheap and turning them into gourmet meals that are very competitively priced is worth praise and support.
The restaurant and toilets are fully wheelchair accessible.
Booking is advisable at the weekends, telephone (091 ) 565111 and have a look at the website to see the excellent pictures of the food — www.eight.ie Some diary dates: There is a gourmet wine dinner at the g hotel on Wednesday November 10 in association with Bodegas Valdemar. Hotel Meyrick has a game dinner night on Thursday November 11. As part of restaurant week the Twelve in Barna is offering a three course meal for €25 from November 5 to 14.