Out with the old

THE GALWAY APPETISER

I spent a few years working on Eyre Square many moons ago, when the lunchtime choices were few and far between. My old boss would always try to convince us to have a hefty carvery dinner in Fagan's (in the Great Southern ) which would lead to a soporific afternoon in the office trying to keep my eyes from shutting while staring glassy eyed at my computer screen.

There are a good many choices now for workers on the Square, dependable places like Jungle Cafe for all sorts of diverse lunch menus and light snacks, Cafe Express with excellent coffee, stuffed sandwiches, and thick crust pizzas, or the Parlour at The Meyrick for one of their fresh and tasty salads or even afternoon tea. But it has been all change at The Meyrick recently. Fagan's is no more, cleared out to make room for The Oyster Grill which has been consigned to the basement. The Oyster Grill's old space, in turn, has been transformed into the all-singing, all- dancing, rather fabulous Gaslight Bar & Brasserie. It is cool and contemporary with gleaming tiles and bare bulbs. Keeping all the advantages of the period features, lofty ceilings and elegant windows to people watch over Eyre Square.

Open daily from 11am till late, The Gaslight has it all going on, from after work drinks to evening meals, brunches, and lunches with friends, colleagues, or even my old boss. The quick and easy soup and sandwich daily special is competitively priced for the lunch market at €7.50. There is a selection of drinks made to order, the short cocktail menu shows innovation with Breakfast in Manhattan, a bourbon, sweet vermouth, orange bitters, and marmalade concoction, but the classics feature too. The wine lists are both extensive and impressive. The stylish new bar, set in the middle of the room, will also be stocking Irish craft beers and ciders and they have local favourite Galway Hooker on tap.

As before the change, the staff here know their stuff. They are well-drilled and knowledgeable, if a little over formal for such a hip new joint. The food is simple, flavoursome, and nicely presented, on lovely turned wood platters and cream earthenware. When gleaming pots of moules marniere and luscious looking platters of roast chicken with goosefat roasties whizz by to the next door table, the doubts set in. I have ordered incorrectly, I should have had that. But all is well again when our own order arrives and it turns out that at the Gaslight there are no wrong choices. There is some skill and more importantly, passion in this kitchen.

A wild sautéed mushroom bruschetta announced itself with the intense aroma of white truffle oil before it graced the table. The sharing plates are generous at €16. Our meat platter came with spiced beef, applewood smoked chicken (though a little too smokey ), and gubbeen salami. The ham hock terrine was a lovely thing, studded with bright apricots. There's a piquant chutney which I could have eaten all by itself with a spoon, big chunks of vegetables and a perfect balancing of sharp and sweet. A slow cooked pulled pork sandwich at €8.95 is nicely spiced and sweet with apple sauce, the accompanying potato salad is a lovely little pile of retro-ness.

Desserts are priced at €5.25 and the flourless orange and almond cake, a light gluten free option, is perfectly delicious for the non-GF. I grew up with a baked Alaska on the table after Sunday dinner and the Gaslight baked Alaska could reduce you to tears of nostalgia. The lady at the next table, happily winkling out her mussels and licking her fingers, remarks, "Next time I think I'll have the oysters,” already planning her next visit.

There are of course some question marks, it is only to be expected in a place so recently opened. The children's menu is an afterthought, but can easily be fixed. One order of spaghetti was tasty, but crispy chicken goujons

turns out to be chicken nuggets - albeit served with rather excellent chips. And why not an ice- cream sandwich or a banana split instead of jelly and ice-cream in keeping with the retro theme? The acoustic music sessions resonate wrongly in the space, a laid back soundtrack would work better, but the lunchtime jazz on Sunday is so right. The Gaslight Bar & Brasserie has a lot going for it, tosach maith, leath na h'oibre, it is nearly all the way there. I like it a lot, a welcome addition to the dining scene in Galway.

Day time menu is available from 11 till 5pm, with the evening menu from 5 till 10pm. The Gaslight is open seven days a week from 11am ‘til late.

Hotel Meyrick, Eyre Square, Galway.

Tel:091564041 www.hotelmeyrick.ie

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