I had heard a while back there was an Ard Bia cookbook in the pipeline. I had even debated it with a restaurateur friend of mine. “It’s too expensive, I think it’s mad. You can get cookbooks from big names for half that price,” I said. “You can get a lot of rubbish cookbooks for half that price,” he replied. “If it’s a lovely book as well as a good cookbook, it’s well worth the extra money.” Now, here are the most painful words I may ever have to write —Aran McMahon, you were right and I was wrong. It is not too expensive, it is worth every penny and more.
The book takes you on a culinary journey through the day — from morning to lunchtime, afternoon, and evening, and then on to a set of useful pantry notes. If you eat in Ard Bia now and again, you will recognise some of these recipes — the full fry and the Berlin platter, the lunchtime salads, soups, and stews, the bakes from the table inside the little front door. A thick section which waltzes you through the starters and mezze, fish, meat, and vegetarian and something for afterwards to keep you at the table a little longer than you really meant to stay - it is what they are really good at.
Aoibheann MacNamara has teamed up with food writer Aoife Carrigy to capture the essence of Ard Bia of Nimmo’s. In my opinion Ard Bia really only got soul when it moved into Nimmo’s, but when it did it really found its spiritual home. It is food with inspiration from around the world but is ultimately grounded in Irish produce and seasonal ingredients. It is never a chore to eat here either, no-one will ever smother your food in a mist or a foam or a nonsense — you will only ever be in danger of being smothered with love.
For the cookbook lovers out there this one is a keeper. I will be filing it in my collection alongside the Drimcong Food Affair under the “bit of Galway food history” section. The paper is the yummy un-coated kind, the little drawings are quirky, and the photos with the vintage props will cause terrible crockery envy. Even the typeface is one of my favourites. This is more than a collection of recipes, it is a memento and a keepsake, something precious and special. A snapshot of a time and a place in Galway that captures the energy and spirit of the place that is Ard Bia.