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Daróg Galway review: An impressive team with Michelin pedigree at this new wine bar and restaurant

Delicious food and a clever wine list at this small gem with a mighty heart

Daróg Wine Bar
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Address: 56 Dominick St Lower, Galway, H91 K225
Telephone: 091-565813
Cuisine: Modern International
Cost: €€€

Is it possible to be two things? It is, some might say, a risky strategy. But already, as we are ensconced at a small round table in Daróg in Galway city, there is a sense that it is both a wine bar and a restaurant.

There’s a steady stream of people dropping in for a glass of wine, from a list that has 28 options by the glass as well as a handful of specials chalked up on the blackboard. These walk-ins are perched on high stools by the window and at the sizeable bar counter, flanked by shelves of wine bottles with colourful labels, the low-intervention brigade. They seem to know everyone in the room, as Galway folk generally do. Indeed, one even nods “hello” to me on his way out. It is only afterwards that I realise that it is Diarmuid Ó Mathúna of the wonderful Pota cafe in Connemara.

And then there is the menu, which reads very much like a small-plates restaurant, doing the snacks, cold and hot schtick, all the dishes coming in under €20, with the exception of the dry-aged beef and a charcuterie and cheese plate. Our fellow diners are at a handful of low tables and four high tables at the back.

The premises was previously home to JP McMahon’s Tartare restaurant, and is across the street from his Michelin-starred restaurant, Aniar. It feels like it has been open for way longer than just two months; probably because the owners are seasoned industry people – Zsolt Lukács, the former sommelier at Aniar, and his wife, Edel McMahon-Lukács, JP McMahon’s sister. Just popping into view in the compact, semi-open kitchen is Attila Galambos, the former sous chef for Aniar and more recently, Lignum; his head bent down as he tends to the dishes.


From the snacks section, two Dooncastle oysters (€9.50) are tickled with fermented cucumber, crème fraîche and dill oil; they’re fresh and delicious with nicely balanced flavours. They are a perfect match with the Domaine Maire “Grand Minéral” 2018 (€32), a Chardonnay from the Jura region which is the entry-level bottle on a well-chosen list. In fact, the list won a gold star in the sustainable wine list category of the recent Star Wine List awards.

We follow with line-caught mackerel (€15) from the cold section. The fish has been lightly cured and grilled over charcoal for just enough time for the oils to start flowing and the skin to char. Cut into small pieces, it sits on a crème fraîche sauce jewelled with fennel oil. Dabs of fennel emulsion are topped with deep-fried salsify and micro greens.

In the hot section of the menu, some of the dishes read as if they have a Japanese influence, with mentions of miso, ponzu and daikon, but in fact are more Nordic in execution. Scallops (€16.50), seared until they’re golden, sit in a ponzu sauce, a beautiful melange of butter, citrus and mirin, foaming over tiny cubes of daikon and leeks.

Baby turnips (€13) topped with opaque slices of radish, come with the earthy, autumnal flavours of confit maitake mushrooms, balanced by a pumpkin seed miso sauce with a cut of acidity. We should have ordered bread to mop up this wonderful sauce.

Dry-aged beef (€28) has been cooked over embers, two slices cooked rare, with baby leek, celeriac and brown butter. A thick aroma of sizzling meat drifts across the room, I am hoping that a superior extraction system is on the shopping list. But this is the only fault I can find with the entire evening, particularly when we start tucking into the deep-fried hasselback potatoes (€7.50), which are quite spectacular with a frothy tarragon hollandaise.

Dessert is another joy: coffee cream caramel (€9.90), encircled with candied pumpkin seeds which add the crunch and texture of praline, and a few delightfully aromatic tagetes leaves (Mexican marigold).

Daróg means small oak tree and this really feels like a small restaurant with a mighty heart. It has the convivial atmosphere of a casual wine bar, yet many of the sophisticated dishes here would not be out of place on a Michelin-starred menu. The flavours are vivid, the produce top-tier and the service is polished in a relaxed way that doesn’t distract from your evening.

It is a real bar where you can drop in for a glass of wine as much as a meal. This is not an easy thing to achieve.

Dinner for two with a bottle of wine was €131.40.

THE VERDICT: Delicious food and wine from a team with Michelin pedigree.

Music: Sister Sledge and Luther Vandross.

Food provenance: Glenmar, Mary’s Fish, Brave Herders, Andarl Farm, the Bullaun Ark, Bia Oisín and Stephen Gould.

Vegetarian options: Grilled French toast with cheese custard, Toonsbridge mozzarella, grilled baby courgette with goat’s curd, baby turnips with pumpkin seed miso sauce. Dishes can be adapted for vegans.

Wheelchair access: Accessible with accessible toilet.

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes a weekly restaurant column