Nimmo’s, anecdotes, and recipes with Harriet Leander

ONE OF the best-loved Galway restaurants of recent years has been Nimmo’s on the Spanish Arch and the eateries’ many devotees will be delighted to learn that Harriet Leander, the genial Finnish chef who did so much to establish its reputation, has just published a wonderful book, entitled Nimmo’s; Anecdotes and Recipes, combining recipes of favourite Nimmo’s dishes with a wealth of great stories and illustrations.

As she recounts in the book’s opening chapter, it was in 1991 that Harriet left her job as a musical archivist in Switzerland and landed at Shannon airport “with two suitcases and ridiculously little money”, little suspecting where her career path would next take her.

“It was the sea that brought me here, I love the sea,” she reveals over a glass of wine in the House Hotel. “I was brought up by the sea then lived in Switzerland for 25 years and there is no sea there of course so I used to come to Ireland on holidays and spent many good times here.

“When my son was grown up and had completed his studies I decided to pack my bags and come here. I then met Seamus Sheridan who introduced me to everything to do with food from the west coast. He had opened the Blue Raincoat restaurant where Nimmos is now, it was a very special place.

“I said I would give him a hand with the cooking and that’s how I got into it. Before that I used to cook for friends, and I think as a chef you should always cook as if you are cooking for friends. When Seamus gave up the Blue Raincoat, Alec and Leonie Finn who owned it asked me would I take it over and that’s where Nimmo’s started.”

Nimmo’s seductive blend of great food, character and atmosphere soon had Galwegians of all classes flocking through its doors and there were many notable visitors from further afield as well. Among those who succumbed to its charms were Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, playwright Tom Murphy, Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes, chef Darina Allen, and performer Dermot Morgan, to name but a very few.

The magic of Nimmo’s days and nights is evoked in chapters where Harriet recalls her ‘Favourite Moments’ and venue manager Sandra relates her own ‘Stories and Memories’.

There are also chapters on the building’s history and a brief biography of the Scottish engineer Alexander Nimmo from whom the restaurant took its name.

Special mention must also be made of the delightful illustrations which also enrich the book, ranging from artworks by Joe Boske, Tom Mathews and others to a beguiling array of photographs of the premises throughout its history.

Then of course there are the recipes. Encompassing soups/starters, seafood, meat, poultry and vegetarian dishes, these revisit some of the classic Nimmo dishes and give the reader the ability to recreate them in their own kitchen.

Yours truly was thrilled to see that the recipe for Nimmo’s Fish Soup, many a bowl of which I happily consumed down the years, made it into the book while other mouth-watering delights include Roast Pheasant, Lamb Shank, Polenta Bake, and Oven-Baked Plums with Cinnamon Parfait. Yum!

Nimmo’s; Anecdotes and Recipes is a wonderful publication which shows that Harriet Leander has just as much skill in putting together an appetising book as she showed in creating the many appetising meals that made Nimmo’s such a much-cherished restaurant.

With the festive season almost upon us, this would make an ideal Christmas present and it retails at an eminently reasonable €20 in both Charlie Byrne’s and Dubray Books.

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