Eating Out: Lucinda O'Sullivan at Aniar Restaurant, Galway
Noma, in Denmark, has been voted best restaurant in the world two years running. Now brace yourself, says Lucinda O'Sullivan, for the rush of Noma copycats opening here. Two restaurants in Galway try the terroir-inspired ethos, with mixed results
We can expect to see mini Nomas popping up worldwide faster than high-street copies of catwalk designs. Rene Redzepi's Noma Restaurant in Copenhagen, voted the San Pellegrino World's No 1 Restaurant for 2010 and 2011, has dazzled chefs like no other.
It is to chefs what Dior's post-war New Look was to designers back then, and the chefs are all hopping on the gravy train to be Redzepi clones. Redzepi's ethos is terroir-based, matching foods with the natural elements that surround them in the wild. At weekends, the kitchen crew go out foraging at the seashore and in the woods; they don't just go down to the local park, or let suppliers do the foraging for them.
Anyway, what people want nowadays are different offerings by way of dining out. Small and funky, quirky and cheap, the days of fine dining with fine white tablecloths and flunkies have lost their lustre. Several such funky new restaurants have just opened in Galway, including Aniar and Kai. Aniar is owned by Drigin Gaffey and JP McMahon of Cava Spanish Restaurant, with Enda McEvoy, formerly of Sheridan's on the Docks, as head chef. McEvoy recently spent a month at Noma. Aniar is all dickied out in cool aqua Nordic cafe colours. Five each of starters, mains and puds were on offer by way of an ultra-hip staccato listing of each dish's ingredients -- not specifying that "oyster" or "smoked potato" might be by way of a foam or a sauce -- as explained by our sweet waitress. From the starters (€8.50/€10.50) I had scallop, oyster, dillisk, woodsorrel, smoked potato -- geddit? Three seared scallops (€10.50) entwined with woodsorrel were set on dillisk and bathed in an oyster foam, succeeding in imparting a delicious raw taste of the sea. Sir had pig's cheek croquettes (€8.50) involving hazelnut, apple and cucumber -- also pretty and delicious. To follow, pink tender tranches of lamb loin (€29.50) were centred with a finger of crispy lamb belly, and 'barrels' of turnip, all on a ramson (wild garlic) puree, liberally scattered with green peas and landcress. The perfect finish on this, for me, would have been a ramson vinaigrette to add sharpness and sweet moisture to the dish. Sir had a fantastic, meltingly tender braised beef cheek (€23.50) which was sizeable and showered with beetroot 'barrels' and apple slices, mustard and sprigs of woodruff. He then had a heart-stopping elderflower and gooseberry parfait (€8.50) enhanced with a deep honeycomb crisp, pink petals and strawberries, while I nibbled at crispbreads with four cheeses (€8.50). With a 50cl carafe of Sauvignon Semillon 2008 (€16.50) and Montepulciano 2009 (€21), our bill with optional service was €138.50.
Genuine enthusiasm and buzz here.
The second spot is Kai, owned by New Zealand chef, Jess Murphy. Retro funky decor with rusty, outback-style light fittings is the setting here. A great atmosphere, but the lunch menu was disappointingly short and basic: soup and four light offerings on the blackboard. Eschewing peperonata on sourdough and yellow lentil dhal, I kicked off with a thick beetroot soup (€4.50) with gorgeous chunky bread. Smoked mackerel and cheddar quiche (€8.50), however, was a modest enough slice with greenery and a smidgeon of peperonata, while Moroccan roast chicken salad (€9.50) had some shards of mature chook on a pile of greenery with two bits of roasted red pepper, a cherry tomato and a flower, but a light sprinkle of a spice on the chicken skin didn't lift it from being a very ordinary -- if pricey -- dry and stringy chicken salad. With a bottle of O'Hara's beer (€5), bottled water (€2.50) and coffee (€2) the bill was €35 with service. Ouch!
53 Lower Dominick Street,
Tel: (091) 535-947
Kai Cafe + Restaurant,
Tel: (091) 526-003