Connemara Smokehouse

Mention Galway and most people smile. And it’s not just because the countryside is beautiful and the people have a naturally friendly manner. It’s because the pace of life just seems to be a little bit slower and the sense of connectedness seems stronger.  If you take a walk through the Saturday market by St. nicholas’ Church, you’ll find a staggering selection of artisan breads, seasonal vegetables and a mouth watering display of local fish at Gannet Fishmongers.

The glamourous “g” Hotel on the road into the city has started running a number of gourmet weekends which include a tasting menu featuring produce sourced from farmers and suppliers within an hour’s drive of the hotel.  A recent visit with a number of food writers was a real revelation.

The kitchen is headed up by Regis Herviaux and oversceen by Executive Chef, Stefan matz (who is also over the award-winning Ashford Hotel).  It’s an impressive team, so we knew we were in for a treat.  We started with smoked tuna from the Connemara Smokehouse, a local artisan producer where all the fish is salted, smoked and cut by hand.  It arrived on an oblong, white plate and was presented as a round of chilled smoked tuna on a pear gateau, topped with a delicate cucumber jelly – an interesting take on sashimi.  In the middle  was a glass of frothy cabbage soup.  I know, sounds a bit iffy, but this was exceptionally good.  It was deliciously savoury, pointed up skillfully with white wine and served with a  crispy tuna tuile which was balanced on top of the glass, making for a very attractive presentation.  Finishing off the trio was a warm tun and leek oat crumble.  To be honest, I have tired somewhat of the “(insert-your-ingredinent-here) three-ways” approach, but this really worked and, most importantly, the smoked tuna was given hero status on the plate.

Our second course was abalone in a crisp basil tempura served on a creamy barley risotto.  The abalone, which is raised on a farm in Galway, is what is classed as a premium ingredient.  It is a round, firm seafood snail (almost the texture of squid) and delicate in taste.  I had only had it once before, in japan, where it is much revered, so it was interesting to discover that they are being farmed in ireland.  The barley risotto it was served on was rich and buttery with a balancing note of white wine coming through. In short, a very Irish ingredient – the barley- paired with something more exotic, which worked well and made fora nice dish.

Our third course, which added a sense of crescendo to the tasting menu, was organic Connemara lamb using different cuts from the animal.  It was served braised on creamed butter beans and olives; slow roasted and char-grilled with chunky chips’ roasted and rosemary scented with a fondant potato and French trimmed and olive crusted with crushed potato and green beans.  This would have felt ‘bitty’ if each component had been served as a separate course, but presenting all elements as one dish felt confident and resolved, a fitting homage to the Connemara lamb.

Dessert was clever.  The hero ingredient this time was Bluebell Falls goat’s cheese and, bringing together the cheese and dessert courses, a support cast of Granny Smith apples and lemon balm.  The presentation, on a large square plate asymmetrically divided into four, allowed for a very attractive plating of the different interpretations.  There was a chilled goat’s cheesecake with apple glaze; a deliciously light, warm goat’s cheese soufflé with a Granny Smith apple sorbet centre; a quenelle of chocolate and goat’s cheese mousse with apple and lemon balm, and -the show-stealer a sweet goat’s cheese and lemon balm créme brûlée which was hauntingly good, the slight sourness of the goat’s cheese working perfectly with the sweet, brittle brûlée top.

The gourmet weekends, when they are scheduled, cost €225 per person sharing for two nights, which is remarkable value in such a luxurious hotel.  if you live locally, the €29.50 Dinning at Dusk menu from 6.30pm to 7.30pm (Sunday to Thursday) is definitely worth checking out.

The g Hotel, Wellpark, Galway. Tel 091-865200; theghotel.ie

Connemara Smokehouse

Stefan Matz @ Matz at the G

By Corinna Hardgrave|Irish Tatler Magazine