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Gourmet Getaways: The best places to eat and drink on a weekend break in Galway

Top tips, from food markets with artisan produce to must-book restaurants

You may think you know a city, but if you want to see it in a whole new light, go on a food tour. You don’t have to be “a tourist”. Sheena Dignam set up Galway Food Tours 10 years ago, and there is no better way to discover the city than on one of her tours.

How else would you get to magpie signature dishes in some of the city’s top restaurants and bakeries, visit a speciality coffee shop and learn how local coffee roasters source their beans seasonally, depending on which countries are harvesting? Try an Ethiopian blend before heading to a pastry or chocolate shop.

At Tigh Neachtáin’s, one of Galway’s most iconic pubs, rope mussels from Renvyle, Flaggy Shore oysters with buttermilk and home-made brown bread will keep you nicely sated while you learn that the pub was once the townhouse of Richard Martin, who founded the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1824, and that the Martins were one of the 14 Tribes of Galway. By the end of the tour, you will have eaten the equivalent of a meal. If you go on a Saturday, it will also include a tour of the food market around St Nicholas’s church.

In Galway, everything is interconnected. Just like investigators are advised to always follow the money, here, all you have to do is follow the produce. In restaurants, you will find vegetables from Leaf and Root Farm, Fergal Anderson and Emanuela Rosso’s regenerative small holding; wild, local fish and seafood from Stefan Griesbach; and cheese from Sheridan’s.


There’s an ebb and flow to the food scene in Galway. It has had its share of Michelin love with JP McMahon’s Aniar and Enda McEvoy’s Loam (which is now closed). But it always seems to sense when a regeneration is called for. The third-wave coffee scene in Galway is strong, with Fairhill Coffee, Little Lane, Urban Grind and Coffeewerk + Press, and now it’s the bakeries which are also attracting the queues.

Cian Mooney is the baker at Magpie, which opened at the end of May last year. After producing exemplary sourdough and pastries at Ean, it is no surprise that owners Enda McEvoy and Sinéad Meacle backed this new bakery in Cornstore Mall. Proving baskets and sacks of organic flour are piled high in the small shop where you can see through to the bakery at the back. Be prepared to queue and know what you are going to order by the time you get to the top.

Among the favourites are the pecan and dulce de leche croissant and cruffins (which change flavour every week), as well as the ham and cheese twice-baked croissant with Gubbeen, hot smoked ham and Comte cheese. The sausage roll in buttery flaky pastry was pretty phenomenal when I visited, and so too was the plum Danish, just out of the oven so the custard and fruit were still warm.

There is a seating area with benches outside in the mall, but you may have to settle for a perch elsewhere as it’s always full. Charlie Byrne’s independent bookshop opposite is just the distraction you need, with shelves inside and out, wrapping around the contours of the shop.

In fact, bakeries are very much a thing in Galway. Jess and Dave Murphy of Kai opened Hapi Bakery just over two years ago, where Molly Fitzpatrick is the head baker. You will find their sourdough in Ernie’s close by, the last original greengrocers in Galway (where you can buy everything from Irish speciality food products to Sarah Jenkinson’s beautiful handcrafted traditional willow baskets); and their focaccia has earned its own fan base.

Head into Plámás on Dominick Street Upper, where you are encouraged to ordaigh an bosca lóin as Gaeilge – delicious sandwiches such as The Burning Man, with whipped feta, corn koftas and harissa mayo loaded into large slabs of Hapi Bakery focaccia.

The wine scene has also been on a trajectory. Sheridan’s has been at the forefront of this, with an ever changing list of organic and biodynamic wines imported by Enrico Fantasia of Wine Circus. The upstairs wine bar still feels like an insider secret.

Ean on Druid Lane, which is a bakery and coffee shop by day, is an atmospheric wine bar in the evening with a menu of small plates and sharing dishes. The squid toast has been a hit since day one, and other tasty bites include a shiso leaf taco filled with ajo blanco paste, smoked Lough Neagh eel, fermented carrot and pickled mustard seed. It’s textured, floral and savoury, reminiscent of the sort of snacks that were served in Loam. A slice of toasted brioche is topped with smoked cod’s roe emulsion, salmon roe and lightly pickled fennel.

Daróg, on Lower Dominick Street, is Galway’s newest wine bar, with a serious team behind it. Zsolt Lukacs, is the former sommelier at Aniar, and his wife, Edel McMahon-Lukacs, is JP McMahon’s sister. Attila Galambos, the former sous chef for Aniar and, more recently, Lignum, creates deliciousness on a plate in the compact, semi-open kitchen. Dishes have a Scandi influence using Irish ingredients, and the award-winning wine list has plenty by the glass chalked up on the board.

Small plates include Dooncastle oysters with fermented cucumber, crème fraîche and dill oil; cured and grilled line-caught mackerel; scallops in ponzu sauce; barbecued dry-aged beef; and coffee cream caramel with candied pumpkin seeds. It is as much a place to have dinner as it is a casual wine bar for a glass and a quick bite at one of the high stools.

Galway is particularly good when it comes to restaurants in the mid-price range, with Rúibín, Cava Bodega, Ard Bia, Il Vicolo, Wa Sushi, and Dela. A recent visit from the Michelin Guide had the inspectors raving about the pear tarte Tatin at Kai, which holds a Michelin green star, reflecting its focus on sustainability. It’s casual during the day and decidedly more special occasion in the evening. Pro tip: if you want a private barbecue for a group, chef Jess Murphy also arranges barbecues in the Soul Garden at Massimo’s, which feels like a secret haven.

At the top end, Aniar is the only Michelin star restaurant in Galway, offering a 24-course tasting menu for €156, which ranges from small bites of lobster cornet to game and meats in season. Go early and go hungry. Asia Mahealani, who worked with Alain Passard in Paris, is the new pastry chef, bringing her creative take on desserts, like a “Magnum” which is made with hay ice-cream. When you book online, you will be asked to give details of a food memory (this is optional), an idea that originated in Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck restaurant, so you may find yourself with a surprise dish over the course of the evening.

The premises will be reopening on February 9th after a complete refurbishment by Aidan Conway of Marmar, one of Ireland’s edgiest young architects. With a completely new kitchen fit-out, it promises to be even more intriguing with its focus on Irish produce.

McMahon has commissioned custom-made concrete tables with shells cast into the surface (these are due to arrive in March), a seaweed wall, and cabinets of curiosities wrapping the whole restaurant internally to add a bit of theatre. Organically shaped doors of different sizes can be opened to reveal interesting local items which are backlit, perhaps an ordnance survey map of the Aran Islands, oyster shells or seaweed. It’s a collection that will evolve and change.

The bar scene in Galway is legendary. Apart from Tigh Neachtáin’s for a cosy fire and a pint, check out MP Walsh’s on Dominick Street Lower, a former post office which has plenty of its original features intact. Hughes on Woodquay is one of Galway’s oldest pubs, a no-frills horse racing joint where you’re guaranteed a good pint of Guinness; Garavan’s on William Street is the place for whiskey; the Bierhaus on Henry Street has 24 taps pouring local and international craft beer; for a trad session, head to The Crane Bar on Sea Road; The Universal does very tasty small plates, and for creative cocktails and clever snacks, nip into the bar downstairs at Rúibín where you might just land a seat without a booking.

If you head to Salthill, Blackrock Cottage has great food throughout the day, and there’s plenty of good coffee in Kali Coffee Bar and The Pear Tree Café & Wine Bar. But if you’re looking to do something extra special, when you’re heading out of town, book the €85 Sunday lunch in Lignum (or indeed book dinner from Friday to Sunday). It is an incredibly beautiful restaurant in Bullaun, with an impressive team in the kitchen.

Headed by co-owner and chef Danny Africano, the news that Matthew Smith has joined as his head chef has got tongues wagging in gastronomic circles. The pair worked together in two-Michelin-star Kadeau in Copenhagen, so there will be plenty of Nordic-level focus on produce and technique. You can expect to see hand-dived scallops from the Isle of Skye with new-season rhubarb, and Africano says that his stunning lamb dish is back on the menu. It is aged for a week, then cooked slowly on the bone over the embers of the Argentinian grill so that the fat renders, the skin crisps and the meat is pink and succulent. This was a triumph of a dish when I tasted it in 2022. With that sort of partnership, you can expect this restaurant to land a Michelin star next year. So my advice is, book now.

Accommodation in Galway can be pricey. It is one of the country’s most popular weekend getaways, so it’s well worth heading off in the quieter months when the city is less busy and you’re more likely to get a booking in the popular restaurants, because booking is absolutely essential. The Galmont (previously The Radisson) served us well on my recent trip; it’s close to the train station, has an amazing terrace looking out to bay, and when the weather is good, you’ll get impressive views as you scoot up to your floor in the glass lift.

Corinna Hardgrave was a guest of Fáilte Ireland.