the west is won
The Galway dining scene can be a disappointment, but, as Lucinda O'Sullivan discovered, an exciting new addition to the city's eateries is worth making the trip west for
Lots of Galway's many restaurants are not up to much -- some of them are surviving purely on the custom of unknowing visitors to the City of the Tribes, as local people know of these eateries' weaknesses.
A welcome new addition to Galway dining is Sheridan's on the Docks, a gastropub and restaurant owned by Sheridan's Cheesemongers, which is situated in the birthplace of the writer Padraic O Conaire. The ground floor is your typical traditional-style pub. It does casual bar food and we had a drink there before adjourning upstairs to the restaurant -- they could do with a smiling Oirish barman!
The restaurant is a lovely spot with a modern rustic ambiance, serving what we would all admire as real modern-Irish food. Beautifully crafted wooden tables are complemented by natural linen runners, silver candlesticks and rail-back and cross-back chairs.
The white-and-open stone walls feature nice paintings, and a variety of Thirties-style uplighter lampshades -- there's an overall good feel to the place. We had a table by the window, where we sat nibbling on mixed olives, sun-dried tomatoes and delicious breads.
Starters (€8.50-€10.50) included Wexford scallops with leeks, capers and crubeens. Duck liver pate was served with Yorkshire pudding and a sherry vinaigrette, while Bellingham Blue beignets were combined with quince and endive.
There is much use of seashore produce and vegetables -- as is the practice in Denmark and throughout Scandinavia -- and I really liked that element. Brendan chose Angus salt beef (€8.50), which was thinly sliced in overlapping rows, and sprinkled with fresh herbs, finely diced cucumber and beetroot, and horseradish. Delicious.
I just loved my choice of pressed eel (€9.50). It was laid on its side and layered, terrine-style, with thin slices of potato and pickles, and scattered with herbs, curls of pickled ginger, and a blob of cheeky, tangy gribiche sauce: a mayo-style sauce with chopped pickles, capers and herbs. I would drive to Galway for that dish alone.
The menu changes frequently, depending on what comes in. Skate wing might be served with celeriac, local cockles and seashore vegetables; or slip sole might come with parsnip, Brussels sprouts and cockles. On our visit, monkfish came with pork belly, watercress, salsify, and cockles; while wild mallard was served with Jerusalem artichokes, onions and hazelnuts. A rib-eye steak was accompanied by scallions, horseradish and caper butter. Brendan had three rondelles of venison (€24.50) set around beetroot, chanterelles, onions, with juniper and green herbs -- absolutely superb. I loved my fine tranche of sauteed and browned turbot, which sat on green herbs and celeriac, and also came with mussels and pickled dillisk -- it was real value. With each main course you get a choice of potatoes or roast vegetables, so we had one of each: plenty for two people. The roast vegetables were carrots and parsnips, and they were equally good.
Puddings (all €7.50) included chocolate fondant; white chocolate and fennel mousse with spiced jelly; spiced pear and suet pudding with cinnamon ice cream; and a crab apple parfait with honeycomb. We shared the crab apple parfait and honeycomb which was light and zingy: the perfect finish.
Somewhat surprisingly, they were out of our first two wine choices, a Sicilian Nero d'Avola and a Rioja Crianza so, endeavouring to keep within a relatively modest price range in line with the food and the times, we moved on to a medium-bodied Vigna di Gino Rosso Piceno 2006 (€29) which is 70 per cent montepulciano and 30 per cent sangiovese. Our bill, with optional service, came to €123.70.
We were whisked back to our hotel in a taxi by a gentleman from the Ukraine -- actually, we didn't hear an Irish voice all evening.
Sheridan's on the Docks,
New Dock Street,
Tel: (091) 564-905