CoffeeWerk + Press, 4 Quay Street
You can sense the amiable buzz as soon as you walk in – the ground floor is compact (that is, very small), with a tidy coffee preparation space, while upstairs there are a few seats, a window seat, and items for sale. What we like about this place is that it doesn’t hit you over the head with its credentials, but rather allows you to breathe in (and smell) the coffee. We sat and watched the world go by below on Quay Street, and when our attention drifted we looked around at the very different products – unassuming, purposeful, mindful – on display.
Rouge, 38 Lower Dominick Street
Seriously, if the words ‘patisserie’ and ‘boulangerie’ don’t grab your attention via the sign outside this French-centric restaurant, then when you enter the bare walls and antique shop furniture will. This is the kind of out-of-time place you would find in parts of Paris, so to see and experience it in one of Ireland’s most singular cities is both a surprise and a treat. We had freshly made ham and (blue) cheese sandwiches, slathered with garlic mayo and garnished with crunchy lettuce and juice-trickling tomatoes. It gets better: there’s a piano. Three words – we’ll be back.
Kindf_olk, Middle Street
A relatively new opening (from September 2021), Kindf_olk is a trés hip multi-brand shop that mixes shrewdly curated (from locally sourced to Portuguese and Japanese) sophisticated, predominantly male clothing with lifestyle and self-care products. An added if somewhat curious addition is a coffee shop corner that while not necessarily suited for a lengthy stay with a laptop is nonetheless a bright area perfect for a book or (hello 19th century!) a newspaper.
Cava Bodega, 1 Middle Street
It seems that Middle Street is Tapas Central, what with Sangria and Umbrella on the same strip of the laneway, but the origin of the species is Cava Bodega. Opened in 2008 by acclaimed chefs JP McMahon and Drigín Gaffey, the menu offers over 70 regional Spanish tapas across two floors, ground and basement, of which the former is your best bet for atmosphere during summer months (or sunny days/warm nights – whichever there are more of!). Friendly and helpful staff are there to help you choose from the wide array of food on offer, so don’t feel overwhelmed by the choices.
Tigh Neachtain, 17 Cross Street/Quay Street
As anyone who has enjoyed Galway’s nightlife will tell you, there are loads of pubs to walk into and stumble out of, but if you want to blend a good time (and by that we definitely don’t mean getting wide-eyed and legless) with genuinely individualistic surroundings and a huge range of rare craft (and home-brewed) beers, then this bar/socio-cultural institution is a must-visit. Tip: it’s the coolest place on a hot Galway day.
The Galmont Hotel, Lough Atalia Road
Located minutes away from Eyre Square, the former Radisson property has quickly embedded itself as one of the city centre’s best options, not only price-wise but also for facilities (the in-situ spa, swimming pool and gym areas are bang on the money), the general atmosphere (spacious foyer, cool bar and relaxing areas, smart dining spaces) and the rooms, which unlike some other 4-star hotels in and on the periphery of the city, deserve every one of its stars.
Hazel Mountain Chocolate, 9 Middle Street
Ah, here! Chocolate AND coffee? An onsite chocolatier who produces a daily dose of truffles? Stocked to the rafters with bean-to-bar chocolate products, raw cacao retail treats, local and international coffees, signature hot chocolate and cacao-based beverages, gluten-free Fika pastries, beautifully designed eco-friendly packaging, and milk that comes from free-roaming, grass-fed cows? As a certain famous American tennis player once shouted out on Wimbledon’s Centre Court: you cannot be serious. With its flagship store and factory based in the Burren, the urban element of Hazel Mountain Chocolate opened in 2014, and from then has delivered an award-winning service that extends to the casual visitor as much as to the chocoholic professional. One word: sinful. Two words: thank God.
Éan, Druid Lane
From the people behind Galway’s Michelin-starred Loam restaurant, Éan is (by day) a bakery/café and (from 6pm onwards) a wine bar and sharing-plates restaurant. Having had lunch elsewhere, we visited at around 3pm for a foot-breather and discovered an airy, candle-lit room with some terrific original art on the walls and racks (and even more racks) of wine. A helpful member of staff suggested a couple of wines to choose from, and we opted for a glass of Turner Pageot, a Languedoc (and biodynamic) blend of Grenache and Syrah that slipped down like silk. A quiet beaut of a place.
Sangria, 19 Middle Street
There are, perhaps, better-known tapas joints in Galway, but I can say with experience of them (and certainty) that Sangria is the best. There are several reasons, and the first, obviously, is the food. Head chef Byron Godoy Flores takes his Guatemalan culinary heritage very, very seriously (if not religiously) and delivers food invested in the home cooking philosophy of using every part of every product. The result is a far-reaching assortment of meat, seafood and vegetarian plates – little dishes to swoon over and share, to reach across and spear. Another reason why we love this place more than others in the city? The rooms are gorgeous – nothing fancy or OTT, but rather a natural evocation of the distinctive culture and geography that brilliantly informs what is delivered to your table.
WHAT’S ON FOR JULY
Galway International Arts Festival
Renowned worldwide as one of the best multi-strand arts festivals, GIAF rightly takes back its position this year as a must-visit. What was severely truncated in 2020 and 2021 is back on track with an events schedule that only those who have mastered the art of bilocation will be able to attend. Running from July 11th-24th, there is visual art, theatre, music (of all stripes), dance, conversation, street art, comedy, and the usual accompanying vibe that Galway city always provides. Lucky are those that have tickets to any event, is what we say.
Galway Races Summer Festival
Taking place from July 25th to July 31st, the Galway Races have been held at Ballytbrit for over 100 years and are recognised as the best and most well-attended mid-summer festival in Ireland. Following interruptions to normal proceedings (via two years of you-know-what), the iconic Galway Races are well and truly back. We have neither choice nor embarrassment, therefore, by ending this article with “and they’re off”!
Article written by Tony Clayton-Lea