Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

[Review] The Malt House, Galway

I spent a night recently in Galway, staying at the Hotel Meyrick on Eyre Square. I had been looking forward to visiting Galway, as it is a city which I do not visit often. But to be honest, I found Galway, at least in the tourist areas, to be a city without an identity, or at least, a mildly schizophrenic city. It just can't seem to make up its mind as to whether it's arty and cool, or else a party town with thumping music. Maybe all those years of overpriced Galway Races and Fianna Fail tents have left the city permanently damaged.

Take the King's Head pub. It's got amazing old features, and yet it was packed full of hens and lads on the p*ss. Loud music made conversation hard, and it's hard to enjoy your drink when gaggles of girls wearing too-tight dresses are thundering past on their way in. Our hotel room had featured an advertising brochure for the King's Head, and associated sister restaurant, The Malt House. Unfortunately, this brochure was half masquerading as a Guide to Galway, which didn't endear these establishments to me.

However, when we walked past the Malt House later in the night, I was pleasantly surprised by the menu on display outside and the overall feel of the place. (Being associated with the King's Head in the brochure isn't doing it any favours). Even better, the Malt House offers a permanent Value Menu, whereby 2 courses from the evening menu cost €25, or 3 courses for €30. (Eligible dishes are marked with an asterisk on the menu).

The dining room is smart casual with comfortable low lighting. Our server offered us a standard table for two in the middle of the room, but was happy for us to take a more comfortable table for four in a corner banquet. Jugs of water were offered, along with the chance to order some drinks.

The menu appropriately references a fair amount of seafood and local producers. I chose Coleran's Smoked Suckling Pig with Savoy Cabbage and Cider Jus (€6) and Baked Haddock & Pan-Fried Prawns with Bacon & Pea Risotto (€19) for my courses, while he chose the Malbay Crabmeat and Crabclaw Risotto (€9) and a special, Braised Beef Cheeks with Garlic Mash (€16). 

My smoked suckling pig turned out to be two generous slices of crispy fried pork with a subtly smoked taste. I didn't get the advertised Savoy cabbage, but I did get plenty of dark green regular cabbage with a gently spiced cider gravy. His starter of crab risotto was nicely creamy with plenty of good fresh crabmeat. However, a slight skin had formed on top of the risotto, suggesting that it had been left under the kitchen lights for a while before being served.

The size of the main courses, when they arrived, impressed upon us that this was a restaurant used to catering to people with big appetites. I received a substantial piece of haddock, 100% perfectly cooked (slightly translucent and flaking) along with 3 fried prawns, all sitting on a mountain of risotto. The fish was pure perfection, with a slight dusting of paprika adding some flavour. The risotto was very good, too good in fact, given the size of the portion. His order of beef cheeks fell apart into juicy, slightly gelatinous chunks when poked with the fork and came atop a large dollop of garlic mash (which appeared to have a lovely flavour of roasted garlic) and accompanied by a tasty jus, which didn't try to compete with the rich beef or garlic flavours.

Suffice to say, the Malt House exceeded my expectations. We received a very good meal, with good cooking skill and flavours. Prices are competitive and the value menu offers even better value. Diners with hearty appetites will not feel short-changed here and the support of local fish and produce is admirable. This restaurant embodies a standard to which more local restaurants could aspire.

The total, including alcohol, came to €66. Damage to the waistline is a bit harder to estimate.

The Malt House, Olde Malt Mall, 15 High Street, Galway, Ireland  
Telephone: +353 (0)91 567 866

Malt House on Urbanspoon

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