The thing about Galway is there is just too much to see and do. While I’m a huge fan of the city of the tribes, I rarely return relaxed as the ever-exciting dining scene from Sheridan’s to Tartare, and the cobbles of the Latin Quarter (I’m looking at you, Sonny Molloys) usually tempt me into town.
There are times to revel and rove the bustling centre and times to pay a little bit more attention to yourself, rejuvenate and lap up some luxury. In the need of the latter, a visit to Galway’s only five star, the g hotel, sounded like just the ticket.
First impressions matter, and mine was very definite from the moment I ascended the lifts to the striking light-filled lobby – g is for glamour. Galwegian designer Philip Treacy is best known for his haute couture millinery, crowning everyone from Kate Middleton to Oprah at the recent Royal Wedding.
Although our invite for that occasion seems to have been lost in the post, luxuriating in the ultra contemporary silver accented and glass-walled lounge designed by Treacy was a nice consolation prize. While the adage of all style and no substance often rings true, the g isn’t just smoke and mirrored walls.
Our deluxe room overlooks Galway bay with wall to wall glass, and it is the subtle accessories celebrating the intricate craft of millinery, from the artwork to the lithe wave-like door handles to the fascinator-style bedside lamps, that make rooms at the g feel like ladies day, every day.
Most striking of all, a conch-like free-standing marble bath is the piece de resistance of this fashionista hideout, and you can take your pick of perusing the social diaries of Social and Personal or kicking back watching Pretty Woman on the built-in flatscreen as you bathe in opulence.
As tempting as it is to refuse to leave this sanctuary, ESPA at the g is a must-visit, with a state of the art thermal suite you will want to move in to permanently. Heated stone loungers, waterfalls and Air Force One strength massage jets make it a playground for the weary – barely lit, discreet and difficult to leave. The prospect of dinner proves to be the only motivation capable of getting me to say my goodbyes.
Although the rest of the hotel is chic and inviting, I don’t immediately love the decor of Restaurant gigi’s, almost children’s birthday party-like in its kaleidoscopic array of mismatched chairs and purple conch booths. Understated, it is not, but on first bite of my Amuse I was forced to change my tune.
Our first taste of what chef Jason O’Neill has to offer came in the form of Rabbit Terrine, a gamey treat sitting beneath a sharp orange compote and feather light ciabatta crisp. Subtly smoked black pudding added yet more richness, cut across perfectly by lithe pickled carrots and pink shallot petals – straight out the gate, Gigi’s was looking promising.
My starter of Seared Atlantic Scallops with yet more of that delectable smoked pudding (Hugh Maguire’s Super Gold Award-Winning beauty, I suspect) with batons of fresh apple and a cloud-like puff of pork crackling (I wouldn’t insult its beauty by saying scratching) was the perfect surf and turf combination and duly devoured.
Across the table, the always impressive Galway Goat’s Cheese scrubbed up beautifully, perfectly accessorised with hues of violet potato and golden beetroot to make this fantastic artisan cheese look as amazing as it tastes in any guise.
From light and delicate starters to bold and flavourful meaty mains, there is no let up in the consistency of execution, with Rack of Connemara Lamb, blushing and needing only the tickle of a knife to cut.
Although I felt the red pepper purée could have been sweeter to contend with delightful bon bons of goats cheese and olive, this was atoned for with a mound of succulent and sweet pulled lamb shoulder, which managed to outshine even the perfectly pink cutlets.
Artistic plates echo the millinery theme, with height, texture, structure and of course, vibrant colour, again evidenced by Roasted Duck Breast,far more impressive than its description. Striking tangerine hued carrot purée and an aromatic and spoon-coatingly rich five spice jus cut through pleasingly succulent duck to create a beautifully balanced dish.
Approaching aching fullness, we settled on a shared Hazelnut Opera Cake with Raspberry Sorbet to round out a delicious meal. Glistening with chocolate mirror glaze and irresistible with whiskey-spiked almond sponge layers, this was plate-scrapingly good and put the idea of returning for Afternoon Tea firmly in my mind.
There are venues, which as spa destinations coast by on the food front on the merit of their thermal suites and the overall experience. With Gigi’s, the g avoids this pitfall, I am relieved to report. I could see myself dining here without staying at the hotel, which is how every hotel restaurant should be, but isn’t. In the same vein, service by the clearly dedicated team was a serious cut above the rest.
A post dinner tipple in the oh so stylish bar and lounge was a must, and turned in to more than one as we sampled a Grapefruit Smash and a classic Old Fashioned. The latter was a fine example of my favourite tipple, not too sweet and crafted with Woodford Reserve.
The former, a signature g Cocktail, the Grapefruit Smash came with some sage words from Oscar Wilde himself – “a grapefruit is just a lemon that saw an opportunity and took advantage of it.” I was delighted to help the grapefruit reach its full potential, shaken up with Jim Beam and an egg white crown.
Managing to stop at just a few, an uncommon occurrence on my Galway trips, a peaceful night’s sleep was guaranteed in a downy, cocoon like super king, as well as blackout curtains and zero noise from the outside world – bliss. Next time I’m hoping to stay awake long enough to take advantage of the vast array of in room movies on offer, but on this occasion I was feeling more Sleeping Beauty than Pretty Woman.
Wonderfully rested and ready to face the week (Sunday night sojourns are highly recommended to combat Monday-itis), an early breakfast was the perfect send off. While both the Full Irish (with more artisan black pudding) and Eggs Benedict served with melting ham hock were thoroughly enjoyable, the highlight for me was the fact that the g pours Fonté coffee, a major upgrade on most hotels which ensures your last impression is as positive as your first.
The devil is in the detail, they say, and the g hotel is best in show in the style stakes with plenty of substance to back it up beneath the glitz and glamour. Do yourself a favour, and don’t wait until Galway Race Week to embrace your inner fashionista and book in to Ireland’s designer five star.
An overnight stay with breakfast and dinner at the g starts from €135 per person sharing.
The g hotel
Old Dublin Road
T: +353 91 865200
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake Off and am passionate about discovering and creating delicious things – I can sometimes be caught in the act on TV3’s Six O’Clock Show or RTE Today. Working with TheTaste allows me to satisfy this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting. Follow me on my pursuit of deliciousness.