Having spent a few years of my teens and early twenties meat free, I am still in the habit of scanning a menu to see what is on offer for vegan and vegetarian folk. As I recall, it was the smell of a smokey bacon burger after one too many fermented apple juices on a student night out that brought me back to being a practising carnivore. Just as well really, as a column featuring vegetarian food in Galway would have been very short lived. The vegetarian option is sadly still all too often the afterthought when planning a menu.
Not so in the Library Cafe, Bar & Bistro at the Glenoaks Hotel. This budget hotel is the unlikely setting for a little bit of vegetarian heaven. The elegant bar, flanked by large, dark, wood bookcases displaying antique tomes and artefacts, provides a welcome and relaxed bolthole for residents and locals alike. Student nights like Toxic Tuesday and Shaggy Sunday (alliteration at its finest I think you will agree ) are proving popular with the scholars too.
The blackboard offers daily seasonally inspired favourites
The dedicated bistro area provides breakfast, lunch, and evening menu options from the kitchen. Although head chef Kieran Plower is a firm believer in keeping abreast of developing trends and is passionate about creative fusion cuisine, his menus at the Library offer more rustic and traditional fare — warming soups, beef and Guinness stews, bacon butties on fresh white batch loaf, the very definition of autumnal comfort food. The blackboard offers daily specials, such as beer battered fish fresh off the boat, vegetarian shepherd’s pie, and other seasonally inspired favourites. There are treats for the sweet of tooth also with homemade apple pies, cookies, and a banana and walnut bread warm from 'The Bakers Basket'.
The Library has recently launched a breakfast loyalty club. You just pick up a loyalty card, join the club, and the Library will reward you with a free breakfast. On this menu you will find a full choice of breakfasts that includes a hearty traditional fry, a lighter continental style, Kilbeggan organic Irish porridge with milk and honey, fresh fruit granola, and a delicious eastern-inspired vegetarian breakfast. Light and fluffy potato fritters are served with an excellent onion marmalade that is aromatic and beautifully spiced. Topped with a cooling cucumber raita, mushrooms, tomato, and a little salad garnish, and at €6 it is one of the best value veggie breakfasts I have come across in town, just five minutes’ drive from the city centre with free parking and free wi-fi to boot.
Five minutes from the city centre with free parking
It is breakfast chef John McGeogh who is responsible for this last option, having spent some time working in America as part of a programme of holistic therapy using Indian techniques handed down through the ages. His role there was to cook organic vegetarian dishes and he has fully embraced the holistic qualities of herbs and spices, giving him a new direction in the kitchen. “Vegetarian cuisine is delightfully tasty and wholesome, incorporating all of your daily protein, carbohydrates, salt and sugar needs as it assimilates into the body in a very natural fashion,” he says. During his time there, John learned all he could about the flavours, textures, and balance of Indian cuisine, his new found passion.
The Breakfast Club runs from 7.30am to midday every day. While I would usually be in full agreement with Groucho Marx and “refuse to join any club that would have me as a member,” for this club I would make an exception, just for one more spoon of that fantastic onion marmalade.
The Library at The Glenoaks Hotel, Bishop O'Donnell Road, Rahoon, Galway. Phone 091 589508. www.thelibrarygalway.com