It was one of those very Galway nights: sideways rain with an unmerciful wind that seems to blow into every crevice of even the most dutiful winter coat. We scurried down Dominic street and pulled open the door of Dela Restaurant. We shook off the last raindrops and hung up our coats, finally able to take in our cosy surroundings. Friday night and the end of a long week requires that sense of ceremony that you’ve survived another one unscathed. Twinkly lights and gentle clinking of glasses: check. That TGIF rite of passage to the weekend is here.
This was my first time back in the restaurant since my old favourite, Cava (now on Middle St), was here, where the wine flowed into the fish-bowl glasses and the tasty tapas rolled out from the kitchen to the swelling dining room every night of the week. I was apprehensive that those great memories would fall short with a new restaurant, but the party continues with Dela’s own personality and charm. We arrived a little early and though the restaurant was busy, felt immediately welcome and relaxed. Our table wasn’t quite ready so the waitress seated us at another table while she assured us “a much nicer table” was just getting set up.
Dela (from the Latin for ‘little pleasures’) owners Joe and Margaret Bohan pride themselves on home-grown produce from their farm in Moycullen. During peak growing season, they boast “our greens and eggs have a ‘plot to plate’ time of minutes”. This strong connection between the restaurant and farm can be traced in their dishes with the likes of dehydrated candied beetroot and an overall ‘earthy’ aesthetic to the dished plates. Their ethos is rooted in the fashionable “Scandinavian style of eating with an Irish twist” where the emphasis is on the local, the seasonal and the wild.
After choosing our courses my dining partner, Colm, settled into a glass of spicy La Petit Balthazaar Merlot (€7) while I, eight months pregnant, settled into the delicious breads – a homemade multi seeded brown bread and a pillow soft foccacia embossed with plump mushrooms. Then came a little amuse bouche: a perfectly white snowball of goats cheese rolled in poppyseeds perched on a wooden board, decorated with a sliver of dehydrated blood orange and a scattering of walnut pesto.
Our waiter kindly informed me that the cheese is pasteurised and without a further word I dig in. The tart, smokiness of the goats cheese sits gorgeously with the delicate crunch of the poppy seeds piled on top of the seedy brown bread. It’s a wholesome start to the evening and possibly even too filling given the size of the portions to come.
To start we ordered the Veggie Mezze of veg pakora, falafel kalamata olives, walnut pesto and minted feta, and the special starter of Cured Irish mackeral with rhubarb and beetroot, both at €8. The Veggie Mezze was a complete feast for the eyes with vibrant pops of colour from some artfully placed florets of beetroot. In fact, it took me several moments to dig in as I was so transfixed by the beauty of the arrangement.
The veg pakora (traditional Indian deep fried mouthfuls) were air light and the quality of the veg encased within the light batter was excellent, ensuring naturally great flavour. The falafel were some of the tastiest I’ve had, crisp on the outside and a filling spiked with spices and lots of texture from the chickpeas. With so many competing flavours, the winner overall was the excellent minted feta (supplied by Sheridans) which complimented the other components with its sharp crumbliness adding a creamy note to the spices.
Colm, clearly suffering a bout of menu envy, hovered his fork over my plate. The cured mackerel tempted him away in the end with meat that was plump and plentiful, and the oiliness of the fish balanced by the tartness of the rhubarb.
Appetites well and truly whetted I was looking forward to my main of Pan Fried Monkfish & Connemara Mussels in Adobo Sauce, crab, potato & smoked bacon croquettes (€23), which came with a surprise side of baby potatoes with garlic butter. The solid, pearly white flesh of monkfish is undoubtedly my favourite fish and in this case was robust and meaty enough to hold its own against the smoky paprika of the adobo sauce. The mussels were a little on the small side which was a shame given our proximity to the sea but were still very tasty.
With my stomach rapidly decreasing in size due to the ever expanding tenant, I found myself getting full pretty quickly. Not one to admit defeat, I took a break and and enjoyed the lazy atmosphere encouraged by the twinkly lights and laid back feel. The croquettes were crisp balls of fluffy potato loaded with smoky bacon, if not a little light on the crab. They were the perfect sponge to soak up all of that fantastic sauce.
Despite toying with the idea of hake and the special rack of lamb, Colm eventually settled on the promise of that Friday satisfaction only obtained from Brady’s Striploin Steak, Jerusalem artichoke purée and caramelised shallots with green peppercorn sauce and crispy chips (€26). He took it medium and marvelled that it was cooked exactly to his taste though the meat itself he noted lacked somewhat in flavour.
The balsamic sweetness of the shallots enhanced the dish and made the perfect accompaniment even more so, he thought, than the pepper sauce. The crispy chips were exactly as you might hope and then some. He also opted for an extra side of Dela house salad (€3.50) which showcased Dela’s forte as master producers.
Full to the brim, we laughed at the waiter’s outrageous suggestion of dessert. But the last laugh was on us as he had us at ‘beetroot chocolate mousse’. Intrigued were we. I am someone who will always go for cheese over chocolate, but this mousse took me by surprise: the wild card of the evening and stealer of the show. It was placed in front of us with little fanfare but the spectacle on the plate was enough to leave us agog. So beautifully placed were all of the individual components that it reminded me of a sort of wonderful secret garden, keeping in tune with Dela’s green fingered roots.
The chocolate was not dark but had instead, an enthralling milky earthiness further intensified by the beetroot. With our two spoons fighting for every morsel, the mousse never stood a chance and vanished in minutes. A robust coffee and seasonal blood orange tea made us ready to face the westerly winds once more. We settled our bill of €91 for a beautiful three course taste tour, a glass of wine and bottle of sparkling water.
Dela isn’t just about its celebrated brunch; it’s a fine eatery that brings its own colour to the palette of Galway’s West End dining scene amongst the likes of Kai, Rouge, and the Michelin starred Aniar next door. It is, indeed, one of the city’s ‘little pleasures’.
51 Lower Dominick St
T: 091 449252
Sarah is among many Irish people living in London, where she delights in exploring its exciting food scene. She is passionate about food markets, spending her weekends trawling around Borough market grazing, chatting and stocking up on all things edible.
She dedicates a blog to her adventures in the markets, and through that and TheTaste she share tales from the food front line with fellow eager eaters.