The hammer is coming down on pubs across the county. While licensed premises are being sold – the demand has nothing to do with their appeal as working pubs. Closed pubs are being purchased mostly for alternative uses as the supply of pubs in County Galway seems to be far exceeding demand. The trade hit a huge slump in recent times, contributed to by the practice of below cost selling of alcohol in supermarkets.
Now there is sustainability for fewer pubs in each of the major towns in the county with the rest barely struggling by as a result of this the downturn in the trade. We have all seen the closed up premises in towns in County Galway that will never pull a pint again. Pubs are now being bought for use by offices and legal firms which are selling on the valuable licenses. The trade has changed dramatically in recent years and the fact is that now there are too many pubs in County Galway and too few punters.
Brownes, a well known landmark building in Tuam, was one of these pubs that had been closed for several years and fallen into a state of disrepair. The story could have ended there except for the intervention of husband and wife team, Stevie Lane and Amanda Fahy. They had met many years before, working together in this, the very pub they have lovingly restored and reopened. They share a passion for hospitality and have spent time honing their skills in Dublin. Now they are back in their hometown of Tuam to breathe new life into Brownes. Today, they offer contemporary Irish cuisine showcasing quality local, seasonal, produce. Stevie and Amanda's modern restaurant reflects their passion for creative and high quality food.
This old pub converted into a gastro pub late last year and has experienced a complete metamorphosis. New menus and new customers, only the name of the old pub remains because, like boats, it is bad luck to change it. Inside the smart front door, arriving diners are welcomed by the cheery fire and cosy bar in by far the most charming part of the premises, a small front room known as The Grocery Bar. Here they proudly offer Guinness on tap as Brownes was always renowned for its pint of stout. In addition to that they have some Irish craft beers on tap, 8 Degrees, Independent Connemara Pale Ale, and MacIvors Cider number among them. A rotation tap with visiting beers allows diners to regularly sample new and exciting brews from the rest of Ireland's craft breweries. A good wine list offers familiar styles mixed with hidden gems discovered on their travels. A short snack menu is also available in the Grocery Bar with treats such as black pudding cigars, Castlemine pork croquettes, and house roast nuts to nibble on.
The lunch offering is simple with a choice of three sandwiches, one soup, and one salad. The fare is tasty and hearty, designed to be enjoyed in the limited amount of time available during a working lunch break, and the menu varies from week to week. Smoked chicken wrap with chorizo mayo and onion jam, or goat's cheese foccacia with pear and walnut pesto are the sorts of sandwiches you can expect. Salads range from bean with squash, jamon, and kale to quinoa, carrot, and pomegranate. The possible addition of a bowl of hot soup with brown bread, beef dripping chips, and a chocolate brownie for afters make this a very attractive lunch offering and at a very reasonable price.
Contrary to what the name may lead you to believe, Brownes is not so much a gastro pub, but more of a bistro. The dining room is plain and pleasant, white washed with a view of the open kitchen. Tables that line the walls are well sized to comfortably enjoy your meal, the atmosphere is relaxed and the service without fuss. The menus offer contemporary Irish cuisine showcasing quality local, seasonal, produce served tapas style in small tasting portions. The cooking is accomplished and there are some very tasty dishes, most with three word descriptions, goats' cheese, onion, walnut; crab, apple, tarragon; haddock, cauliflower, mussels. Everything is made freshly in-house by Lane, designed to showcase the quality of his ingredients. The choice of dessert is limited but delicious nonetheless, maybe a panna cotta with honeycomb or a chocolate parfait, prettily presented, or a selection of Irish cheeses. The short menu is mouthwatering and the dishes are far from disappointing and sometimes even magical.
Stevie Lane is committed to creating exceptional food with premium ingredients and passionate about serving the very best from the west in his home town. All round, Brownes has the makings of a very pleasant neighbourhood restaurant and there is no longer any need for the people of Tuam to make the trip to Galway to experience top quality cooking.
Brownes Gastropub, Market Square, Tuam, Co Galway. Tel (093 ) 60700.