The Cellar has existed as a bar since the seventies when pubs were mostly for drinking in, and it was a more Bohemian place entirely then, a hotbed of music with Irish artists such as Mickey Finn and Frankie Gavin regularly playing there. It has changed hands a few times since then, in recent years becoming well known also as a casual restaurant which closed down at the end of 2010. It was not destined to stay closed for long and reopened in its current reincarnation in April 2011.
I have a soft spot for The Cellar Bar, and I doubt that I am the only one. I have been there during the last two refurbishments, seeing its transformation from a dingy watering hole to a modern venue offering good value food and lively nightlife. There can be few people who spent time in college in Galway in recent years who have not had the ‘all day breakfast’ at least once. The location makes it a great city centre meeting spot for lunch or for after-work drinks. And of course, most importantly, the food is that rare combination of good and fast.
The staff are young and friendly and have lunch service down to a fine art. Glasses of water are lined up and coffee cups ready to go — there is not much of a wait for either food or service here, ideal for city workers on a tight lunch break as well as tourists and students. The children’s menu has something for even the pickiest child and there are half portions from the regular menu on offer as well.
Every day without fail at around 12.30pm, half of Galway decides to descend on this old building. The Cellar attracts a lively, varied, crowd of all ages, enjoying each other’s company over coffee and drinks. The Cellar is divided into two spaces around a central bar and these zones are pretty fluid. There is, of course, the basement from which it gets its name, a multipurpose venue downstairs. The bar area is very comfortable with a mixture of cafe style seats and comfortable couches on different levels. Large windows look out on to Eglinton Street and the landmark Brown Thomas building.
The first thing you notice when you walk into The Cellar is that it always smells pleasantly of freshly buttered toast, it is known as a good place to get the 'full Irish'. Other favourites are the oatmeal crusted chicken goujons with chips and dip, chicken and roast vegetable korma on rice, and hearty pasta dishes and sandwiches. On our most recent visit we tried the steak sandwich and this is a plate that nails it, exactly what you want to eat with a crisp cold glass of hoppy craft beer. Three big slices of perfectly charred Irish minute steak on ciabatta with garlic and wholegrain mustard mayonnaise. This came with chips, sautéed onions, mushrooms, and a big bowl of peppercorn sauce.
The burger comes either of two ways — served on a wholemeal bap with the usual trimmings of lettuce, sliced tomato, red onion mayonnaise, and relish, and stuffed full of extra flavour with Emmental cheese, bacon, pineapple, and jalapeños. We had it country style on a mound of mashed potatoes with onions and gravy, a good, well seasoned, burger either way. Fusilli pasta with chicken and vegetables in tomato sauce from the children’s menu was the birthdays girl’s choice, served with garlic toast. Chunky peppers and other Mediterranean vegetables in a freshly made and very tomatoey sauce with a little touch of cream and basil to it. The other lady had the chicken wings from the main menu.
There is tempting selection of desserts, ice creams, deep dish apple pie, and cheesecake, and these are exceptional value at €4.25. There is good coffee and of course, as it is a pub, you have the full choice of beers, wines, spirits, cocktails, and soft drinks that you would expect. We shared the chocolate fudge cake, a slab of good spoon-sticking, sweet chocolate stickiness with ice cream arranged on a stripe of chocolate painted on the plate. Warm and delicious, it was made all the sweeter by the addition of a candle and a rousing rendition of 'Happy Birthday' by the obliging staff.
The Cellar offers reasonably priced, honest, hearty, dishes in lovely surroundings. With good food and fast service, there truly is something for everyone on their menu, and they are making a proper effort to feed people well.
The Cellar Bar, 12 Eglinton Street, Galway. Tel: 091 563966. Email: [email protected].