JP McMahon's newest venue - Tartare - didn't fail to impress when we made the trip to Galway to test it out
We visited Galway at the tail-end of Storm Emma: the snow was finally slipping from the slates, but the frigid breeze of the Atlanti c still stung as we entered Tartare, the newest in a trinity of restaurants by culinary dream team JP McMahon and Drigín Gaffey. We nestled into a warm corner by the window, directly facing one of its sister restaurants, the Michelin-starred Aniar.
The Sunday brunch menu is short, but highly considered, with a range of cocktails, snacks and breakfast favourites. We started at the top, choosing a refreshing, sunrise-coloured Cava mimosa (€6.50) for me and a tart, strong Dingle gin and elderflower mojito (€8.50) for my dining partner. A pretty-as-a-picture St. Tola goat’s cheese and sheep’s yoghurt tart provided the perfect accompaniment, its brittle, buttery casing contrasting beautifully with the soft, creamy centre (€3.50).
Our mains arrived together and elicited a brief display of round-robin as we each tried to lay claim to our favourite of the artfully-plated dishes.
I settled on fish fingers first – pollock, according to the friendly server – listening for the subtle crunch as the golden breadcrumbs yielded the white flesh beneath. As is often the case, it was a touch dry, but the accompanying eggs more than compensated. They also served as a valuable reminder that while we can all scramble eggs, very few of us can transform something so simple into something so special. There were but three ingredients – eggs, butter and dill - and yet they produced pure alchemy, stunning in its luscious perfection (€11.50)
My companion, meanwhile, was tucking into sausages. You know you’re veering close to Michelin territory when the untidy ends are removed, leaving elegant, burnished-brown trunks of richly flavoursome pork, imbued with the delicate sweetness of leek and onion. They lay like fallen trees across a pebbled puddle of green lentils, Scandinavian-style sour cream and red onion jam (€10.50).
The highlight of the meal was also the least complicated: a rustic, hearty bowl of sliced, sautéed Pink Firs, served with earthy mushrooms, salty bacon lardons and a scattering of scallions (€10.50). A pool of rich, silken seaweed hollandaise snaked around the ingredients, binding the dish together with a comforting flavour.
We finished with a sturdy apple pie (€3.50) and a peppermint tea (€2.50), watching Galway’s quotidian life through the window: guitar-carrying musicians, ruddy-cheeked runners in purple checked jerseys and hordes of hungry-looking tourists, reading every menu on the street. I wanted to rap on the glass and beckon them in. Tartare can show them all they’ll need to know about Irish culinary heritage; it can tell them a story of abundance as well as scarcity, of the bountiful Atlantic and the fertile Golden Vale, of ancient ingredients married with modern skill. And all for less than the price of a round of drinks in Temple Bar.
We Loved: the locally-sourced, thoroughly authentic and innovative food
We Spent: €57 on two cocktails, three dishes, a side and dessert with tea
56 Dominick Street Lower, Galway.
Open: Every day, see website for times