This new cafe and deli based in Wellpark Retail Park caused quite a lot of excitement when it opened four months ago and now has just about found its groove. Next to the back door of the g Hotel and directly across from the Eye Cinema, it instantly scores brownie points with some of the only free parking in the city and no booking required.
If you thought the g Counter was in anyway associated with the g Hotel, then you have made the same mistake as I have. Nothing to do with it at all, the only thing they share is a dividing wall and a letter of the alphabet. It is, in fact, the opposite of the g Hotel. No plush neon chairs, afternoon teas, or twinkly mirror balls. If you prefer your morning repast to be accompanied by starched linen, heavy cutlery, and smartly dressed service, go next door. The g Counter is pared back, open plan, industrial cool, reminiscent of New York's trendy Meat Packing District. This is a Big Apple dining experience without the airfare.
The room has a lively and informal buzz. The breakfast menu caters for those after something light, maybe buttermilk pancakes with fruit salad or a bramble topped porridge. Diners who need something filling and hot before lunch are offered poached egg on pastrami hash with spiced butter and spinach, or a full Irish with duck fat roasties. There is a comprehensive selection of eggs — poached, scrambled and fried, Benedict-ed and Florentine-d.
We popped in for brunch on a busy Saturday. Unusually for a menu, everything seemed to present itself as a contender. Difficult choices had to be made, but immediately, the unusual addition of a goat cheese toastie to the vegetarian breakfast caught my eye, which also listed fried eggs, roast tomato, potato hash, and garlic mushrooms. The goats cheese toasted on a very nutty walnut bread was lovely. It also came with a serving of beans, which used to be homemade but now alas are the regular canned kind. I would like to see a return to the house ones as it would have made that breakfast pretty perfect. The 'Oh, so wrong and yet, so right' breakfast salad was also pretty special, with quality breakfast ingredients piled on top of organic greens with a poached egg on top. Fresh watermelon, pear, grapes, and pineapple lightly drizzled with yogurt came with the buttermilk pancake rolls and both maple and blueberry syrups for the girls. It's a great spot to bring kids with a well priced children’s menu from €2.95 for pasta and tomato sauce to homemade fish fingers and chips at €4.95.
The rest of the menu is a variety of oversized deli sandwiches, salads, soups, rotisserie chicken, and hot signature dishes. We liked it so much that I went back two days later for a couple of the deli creations, for to call these mere sandwiches would be doing them a disservice. The g Counter club sandwich was perfect on a soft pillowy brioche bun. Mexican chorizo, melted Moneterey Jack cheese, and roasted red peppers on a delicious sourdough, fresh with a chewy crust and pilled high with herbed rotisserie chicken also came served on a wooden board lined with pretty greaseproof paper. The homemade slaw and pickle were the icing on the cake. They also boast a great hotdog with good bun-to-sausage ratio, filled to bursting with sauté onions and sauerkraut. A squidgy bun dwarfed by a whopping NY-style sausage with a delicately smokey taste is probably the best pre-cinema snack in town.
The coffee is good and Peroni beer is available on tap by the glass for €2.95, and there is a small but perfectly formed selection of wines by the carafe. Lots of smoothies and soft drinks too, including my current obsession, the elusive blood orange San Pelligrino.
As well as the theatre of the open hot deli counter, there is an on-site bakery staffed by head pastry chef Eva Quaid, who keeps the counter filled with a variety of treats. Cheesecakes, roulades, and tarts are piled high on the table in front of her glass fronted stage where you can watch these or a commissioned cake being made.
Even though the g Counter has got the food spot on, it is still very new and has a couple of rough edges. The seats beside the chill counter are just that, chilled, and the availability of certain menu items could be better communicated. Provenance should also be listed here as they use a lot of local suppliers, a small thing but important to the foodie types who will be attracted here for the deli delights. There is an awful lot going on in this ambitious space, from table service, takeaway, bakery, and retail, so it is very much a work in progress. Owner/manager, the charming Gerry Kelly, tells me the takeaway deli counter is commissioned and will be installed soon for even more takeaway options. You may well find the service muddled and a little fraught on occasion as they work out the new kinks, but I would still return here even just for a browse of the exquisitely stocked shelves, and for the cute singer sewing machine tables which sit outside under a sunshine yellow awning, instantly turning grey days brighter. This deli/cafe is already a Galway favourite and well worth visiting. Certainly one to keep your eye on.
The g Counter, Wellpark Retail, Dublin Road, Galway. Tel (091 ) 770 891.
Open: Mon - Sat from 8am - 6.30pm & Sun from 11am -6.30pm.