The Gourmet Tart Company is one of Galway's biggest success stories, as far as food is concerned. The business started out selling cakes from an ironing board in Limerick's Milk Market and now boasts four bakery/delicatessens and a restaurant. What began in 2001 as a small French-style bakery has become a thriving business with very loyal customers. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week and has both sweet and savoury ranges and quality take-home meals. The shops are bright and white, sleek and efficient. Look for the pink and white sign above the door and the trademark grapefruit-sized meringues streaked with raspberry in the windows.
The counters display a large variety of baked treats... tartlets of apple crumble, chocolate, raspberry, almond, and pear; eclairs; Danish pastries, and whole chocolate fudge cakes. Individual quiches, with a variety of fillings including roasted vegetables or bacon with spring onion, make for a quick take-home supper dish. Choose from the salad bar, have a sandwich made to order, or pick up a pre-packed one for convenience.
The Gourmet Tart Co keeps to the old tradition of baking at night to ensure freshness, tartlets first, croissants last, everything else in between. The packaged sandwiches and salads are made fresh every morning. The oranges are squeezed and lemonade is ready shortly after and the whole lot delivered to the shops by 8am.
The restaurant in Salthill has a lovely relaxed atmosphere with friendly service in an open, canteen style, dining room. The evening menu updates according to what is available locally and what is in season. The menu often includes such dishes as bouillabaisse, pumpkin and sage cannelloni, pan-fried seabass, and ribeye steak.
I especially like to go there for Sunday brunch. It is always busy but, as the service is quick, you never have to wait very long for a table. The menu has pretty much everything 'brunch' on it that you could think of. Eggs Benedict, blueberry buttermilk pancakes, scrambled eggs, and any of the excellent in-house pastries are on offer. There is of course a full Irish breakfast with Colleran's butchers providing the meats. My own favourite has to be the corned beef hash with onions, peppers, potatoes, and fried egg - it looks a lot more elegant than it sounds (presentation is one of the company’s strong points ), but it is one of those perfect brunch dishes you would never make at home. It also has a great children's menu, and indeed there are always a lot of 'minor-diners' in attendance on a Sunday.
We ordered the brioche French toast with cream cheese and poppy seeds for the girls. Melting and fluffy with a scent of vanilla wafting from the plate, and a little 'pop' from the seeds to contrast the softness of the brioche. I had the toasted English muffin with bacon, poached egg, and tomato chutney, the unmistakable Ballymaloe brand, both priced at €6.50. My current husband had the eggs royale, lovely smoked salmon, and perfectly poached eggs on an English muffin, with a beautiful, buttery, sunshine yellow hollandaise sauce for €8.50.
Water comes to the table in beautiful glass stoppered bottles, unfortunately it is the rather horrid Galway tap water, but I guess there is nothing they can do about that. With a Danish pastry, a couple of glasses of milk, and a macchiato, the bill for brunch for a family of four came to about €30 - pretty good value for a great meal. Arguably the best spot to eat in Salthill currently and probably for many years to come.
Street food is an enduring trend in Galway
As with everything else in life, food has its fashions and trends, ups and downs, ins and outs. Have you been wondering what is replacing cupcakes? Is your sushi lunch passé?
2012 continues to see a return to frugal foods and cheaper cuts. Molecular cooking is on the wane while Scandinavian-style foraging and the 'Nordic pantry' is still going strong. Argentinian alfajores were all set to replace macarons. Pie-pops, miniature pies on sticks, are the successor of the cake-pop. Fin-to-tail eating is the new nose to tail, and blessed are the cheesemakers, the new mixologists.
Scotch eggs got a revival and revamp. Complicated pizza toppings were cast aside, chicken thighs are the new breast, and lamb is the new pork. There was talk of 24-hour baguette dispensers, ceviche, edible dirt, and pork scratchings. Homemade dairy is hot on the food blogs right now - people are making their own ricottas and goats cheese, and what do you mean you do not make your own butter and yogurt? Shame on you, madam.
Food trucks are replacing gourmet delis and speciality stores, tweeting their locations as they go. Street food is one of the big trends for a few years now and shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. It is nothing new in Galway of course. The street has been our dining room for as long as we have had an open air market.
There is a great variety of food available — madras curry, delicious sweet and savoury crepes, Japanese sushi, and more. The best are specialists — they do a few dishes, and they do them very well. If I had to pick a favourite it would be Boychik Donuts, made to order right in front of you. These are the freshest donuts you'll ever taste - fluffy, hot, and tossed in sugar and cinnamon, eaten straight from your hand, these donuts may well be the new cupcake.