McCambridge’s is one of my favourite shops. Not a week passes that I do not go in for something special. You can easily put together a wonderful lunch, maybe some grilled artichokes, artisanal cheese, or organic salmon on the freshest of brown bread. An evening meal is just as easily assembled with confit duck legs and something from the salad bar. There are the ever popular sandwiches from the counter to be eaten by the surging waters of the Corrib on a sunny day.
The aromas pull you into the shop and cloak you in contentment, the smells of roasted coffee, fresh loaves, and things in brine and pickle greet you warmly.
It seems as though McCambridge's has always been here; much more than a shop, it has become part of the landscape, a fixture on Shop Street for as long as anyone can remember. A busy grocers,
delicatessen, off-licence, and in recent years, cafe and wine bar, it is woven into the very fabric of the city. There from a time long ago when everything from salt to tea and sugar was to be bottled, bagged, and weighed, wrapped in brown paper packages, and tied up with string.
Salty butter arrived in barrels, hand shaped into pounds and swaddled in greaseproof paper. Spirits and beers, similarly, were bottled on the premises. A time gone by when Guinness was hand pumped from wooden barrels and served at the bar in the shop.
McCambridge's has always moved with the times, and after many major renovations and upgrades it still is as relevant today as it was back then. The third generation of the Galway McCambridge family — Eoin and his sisters Natalie and Norma — are now at the helm, always striving to improve and provide a service that is second to none. There is always a great camaraderie among the staff.
Strawberry season in Galway now starts with the famous McCambridge’s own strawberries, grown by Patricia McCambridge in polytunnels in Furbo, west of the city in a walled garden, a stone’s throw away from the sea. The 'green fingers' of the family, Patricia has a degree in horticulture and landscape design and took it upon herself to bring the garden back to life. A few years down the road and the strawberries have been a success, picked by the family, their friends, and local children.
Patricia is now expanding into lettuces and herbs for the shop. She also delivers them to top Galway restaurants and of course their own cafe. Jumping on the farm-to-table ethos is typical of the entrepreneurial spirit of the McCambridges. Long known for championing local producers, Irish meats and cheeses, speciality teas, pasture fed poultry and pork, they are now part of that story themselves.
There is the attraction of the outside seating area on the sunny side of the street with lots of room for tourists and locals alike under the awnings. The coffee bar is always jam-packed with people, and a queue of diners on the winding stairs at lunchtime is a common sight. The upstairs dining room itself is beautiful with touches of industrial steel, period detailing, and high ceilings all blended seamlessly. Up the sweep of the stairs over their coffee dock you will find a space which has been maximised to take in a breakfast, lunch, and more limited evening trade, with a handsome wine rack built into one wall. Blond and bespoke, the wooden furniture is the epitome of style and substance in one.
Just as you can so easily throw together something delicious from a quick wander through the shop downstairs, that is just what they have done with the menus upstairs. Now well established on the Galway dining scene, Upstairs @ McCambridge’s is very popular for breakfast.
This menu reads like the who's who of artisanal and local producers. Pigs On The Green sausages, Colleran’s pudding, Kilbeggan porridge, Kinvarra smoked salmon, and best of all, their own sticky baked beans, sweet and full of porky pieces, served on sourdough toast. The daytime menu offers the usual familiar choices also — soups, sandwiches, salads, hot dishes, cold platters, and sides. Sweet treats are served from a table at the top of the stairs, groaning with goodies, a selection of homey scones, biscuit cake, and bakes, all priced individually.
The good news is that if you have not managed to get there for breakfast or lunch, Upstairs @ McCambridge’s has extended opening hours to 10pm for dinner on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with last orders taken at 8pm. The style of the evening menu remains casual, currently offering the same simple rustic dishes such as sandwiches, sausages and, um… sausage sandwiches. Choose from dishes such as a falafel sandwich with tzatziki, purple slaw, and tahini sauce on Lebanese flat bread for €9.95, venison bangers and mash at €15.95, or McGeough’s smoked sausage with coleslaw in a bread roll with chips €12.95.
A glass of Blood Peach Bellini (€6.95 ) makes a refreshing start to the meal. There is a worldwide selection of wines by the glass as well as beers and port. Better still, any of the wines available in the shop downstairs can be bought upstairs for an added corkage of just €6 per bottle, with €6 off on a Thursday. Some dishes — such as a smoked chicken with blue cheese salad — are available in small and large sizes (€6.95/9.95 ).
Sides are four kinds of spuds — fries, Lebanese, chips, and baby potatoes — and the 'must have' sweet potato fries, all priced at €3.95.
The dishes most recommended for evening time are the seafood, vegetarian, cheese, and charcuterie platters, all based on good ingredients from the deli downstairs, stylishly presented and offering good value, between €9.95 and €13.95, assembly cooking at its finest. Nibbles such as hummus with dukkah and homemade potato crisps with dill sour cream are also perfect partners with a glass of wine — not a bad way to while away an evening.
McCambridge's, 38-39 Shop Street, Galway. For queries, orders and reservations phone: + 353 (0 )91 562259. Email: [email protected]