In the centre of the city, perched on a bustling one way street, the much loved Park House Hotel gives out good vibes from the moment you enter the door. Located on Forster Street, an area of the city that shows signs of getting a new lease of life and already has a lot of popular, new, eateries within wine-spitting distance, Park House first opened in 1975. This is a hotel with a difference, built on nostalgia. Attentive staff in waistcoats and rooms with warm decor all send out the right messages to arriving guests. The bright, comfortably furnished, lobby, is a pleasure for both business and leisure guests to check in, thanks to the efficiency and helpfulness of friendly receptionists who explain the hotel's amenities and make everyone feel at home. Good food is a highlight of a stay at this pleasant hotel, and it is obviously appreciated by local diners too, as the restaurant and bar tables are likely to be fully occupied most evenings.
The dining room is comfortable with a rich colour scheme, mirrored surfaces, and tables dressed with very good glassware, cutlery, and heavy linens, and hung with a handsome framed collection of beautiful oil paintings depicting quiet corners of Galway, the work of the late Derek Biddulph.
The restaurant offers a full bar and an extensive wine list, far too extensive to go into any great detail, with a selection of more than 90 labels, both old and new world. Suffice to say that there is something to suit every taste and many are available by the glass. We settled on a couple of glasses of a good Pinot Grigio to better contemplate the menu.
From 6pm to 7.30pm Sunday to Thursday, you can avail of the well priced early evening value menu. This offers three courses with tea or coffee for €32, or two courses for €28, with plenty of choice such as oven baked cod, grilled minute steak, or chicken madras. There is also a special menu consisting entirely of seafood, an impressive array of scallops, lobster, oysters, and claws in season.
The set dinner menu at €41.95, and the à la carte, include all the usual crowd pleasers, but the really interesting dishes are the ones with history. The restaurant specialises in old school classics; you will not find chicken Maryland on any other menu in town, and nowhere else can pull off a prawn cocktail quite so successfully.
The bread basket was biblical with no less than six types of freshly made bakes including brown walnut, sundried tomato, and scones. Our starters arrived on smart, white tableware. A light vegetarian dish of goat’s cheese wrapped with a little pesto in filo pastry, samosa style, served with a sharp rhubarb and apple chutney, and a small dressed salad for colour at €9.75, and the aforementioned prawn cocktail with generous amounts of soft prawns and crisp salad leaves in a rich pink, cream sauce €10.50. Both were well judged and very enjoyable.
Mains included the famous rack of lamb, €29.50 — well flavoured, sporting a crust generously spiked with mustard and served perfectly pink, and the famous chicken Maryland €17.25, garnished with grilled bacon, tomato, banana fritter, and pineapple (with a cherry on top ), a real blast from the past. A fresh fruit Pavlova with berry compote and a great chocolate and orange pudding at €7.50 apiece were the perfect ending to a good meal.
There are the classics with little contemporary twists, this is the area that Park House excels in. Everything is accurately cooked, correctly seasoned and well presented — and, with well paced service to match the confident cooking, the knowledgeable and friendly staff make eating here a pleasure. The set menu is good value too, so its popularity, even when we were last there on a cold Monday in February, is easy to understand. There is calm and assured service from beginning to end. This is food for all tastes in a cosy hotel setting and service with a huge, beaming, smile.
Park House Hotel, Forster Street, Galway. Tel: (091 ) 564 924. www.parkhousehotel.ie?