Bistro brilliance at The Maldron

The Maldron Hotel on Sandy Road — this hotel has had as many name changes as Cheryl Fernandez-Versini. The Courtyard by Marriot Hotel, as it was many moons ago, changed into the Pillo Hotel, and most recently again became The Maldron — keep in mind to distinguish it from the long standing Oranmore Maldron.

A modern building on the the fringes of the city, this is a landmark with its glazed exterior and its location opposite The Menlo Park Hotel. The glass frontage points you towards the Headford Road, and inside, the high-vaulted reception space combines international airport chic and modern design which does not show its age since opening as The Courtyard over a decade ago.

Attentive service starts at the front desk and you are directed to the Point Bar and Olive Tree Bistro area to one side, a darker, more cosy, space in contrast. The bar is buzzing, chock full of jovial rally enthusiasts in town for the weekend and couples some with young children in tow.

At the Bistro end, friendly and smartly dressed staff preside over the spacious room, where head chef Julian Bradfield offers a compact but well-judged à la carte menu featuring produce like Mary's Fish. The evening menu represents good value and the food is also served in the bar area, which is a popular lunchtime meeting place for those working locally.

Hotel restaurant dining rarely fills me with enthusiasm as culinary conservatism is usually the order of the day, but my recent visit to The Maldron left me pleasantly surprised. The menu offers a balance of crowd pleasers such as pizza and fish and chips. It is a user-friendly general bistro menu anchored in traditional bar food — but then it wanders happily across continents for some more innovative options.

A dish of kale and Thai chilli tiger prawn salad with oyster dressing on a rice noodle bundle catches my eye. There is even something imaginative for the vegans, a raisin and cumin cake with radish, avocado salsa, multi seeds, and a mint dressing.

We skip starters and go for mains. The €15.50 price tag on the barbecue pork belly ribs looks steep until you see the plate piled high with very thick cut belly ribs, there is a proper wobble of melting fat in a good barbecue sauce, onion rings, chips, dips, and a fresh salsa-guacamole hybrid. Perfectly cooked ravioli is the other main, with a suspicion of nutmeg in its pumpkin filling. It comes is a rich sweet potato and coriander cream, topped with fresh parmesan cheese. At €13.95 for the vegetarian option it seems high also, but like the ribs, the portion size more than accounts for this.

The menu of desserts is short and sweet; these are made in house and served with vanilla ice cream and freshly whipped cream. I finished with a deeply satisfying apple crumble tart with the odd plump raisin hidden in its depths, and at only €4.50, well, why wouldn't you?

Simple, good quality, food for great value served in a relaxing atmosphere. Here the focus is on preparing and cooking food in a way that allows the ingredients to shine. Unlike poor Cheryl, has the Maldron Hotel found the lasting happiness it deserves with its new name? I certainly think so!

Maldron Hotel, Sandy Road, Galway. Phone:(091 ) 513 200. [email protected].

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