I have stayed overnight in the 5-star g Hotel a number of times and on each occasion I have luxuriated in the elegant and striking surroundings of the Philip Treacy designed hotel. Located in Wellpark, not far from Galway city centre, the hotel is ideally situated being within easy reach of the city’s main attractions, bars, restaurants and shopping areas.
On my most recent visit I noticed that there have been a few changes. Restaurant gigi’s, the hotel’s main dining venue, under new Head Chef Cedric Bottarlini, now offers a choice of four menus from which diners can select. Depending on your mood you can opt for the ‘Share’ menu which consists of an assortment of sharing platters, the ‘Steakhouse’ menu – perfect for meat lovers and the ‘Delight’ and ‘Indulge’ menus which are structured in the more familiar starter, main-course, and dessert format.
Like the rest of the hotel, Restaurant gigi’s is sumptuously decorated in deep rich colours and plush fabrics that are warm and inviting. Despite being spacious there is nothing stark and minimalist here but rather, this is a room that encourages you to spoil yourself! With this in mind, and after being shown to our table, we decided to have cocktails whilst we examined the menu in greater detail. Sipping on a very well-mixed Negronis and nibbling on the wonderful selection of breads which had arrived at our table soon after we were seated, we decided to opt for the ‘Indulge’ menu.
Our starters of Crab & Asparagus and Crisp Irish Free-Range Pork-Belly were both beautifully presented and we descended upon them with gay abandon. Mixed through the crab were little nuggets of diced apple which complemented the crabmeat perfectly and leant a fruity freshness to the dish. The quenelle of crab bavarois presented atop the crabmeat was, by contrast, rich and silky-smooth and completely addictive. The classic paring with steamed green asparagus along with a spear of lightly pickled white asparagus and an asparagus purée excited the taste-buds as all the best starters should… leaving an air of anticipation regarding the dishes to follow.
Pork-belly seems to be everywhere these days and unfortunately, it is often a huge disappointment. This is a cut of meat that requires long, slow cooking in order to render the layers of fat down as it is this fat that tenderises the meat as it cooks. Here, the pork-belly had been treated with love and attention to detail, resulting in meat that melted in the mouth. The accompanying rhubarb in two forms – roasted and puréed, cut through the richness of the pork, whilst puffed pork crackling created welcome textural contrast. This was a wonderful dish.
Moving on to the main course, my choice of the Line-Caught Cod Medallion arrived accompanied by a delightful selection of seafood including clams, octopus and prawns. The thickly-cut piece of cod was meaty to eat and gave the dish substance which sated the appetite. Beautifully turned potatoes had been flavoured with saffron which is a notoriously difficult spice to handle as it requires a light touch; too much and it imparts a soapy flavour which can be over-powering and unpleasant to eat.A light and airy lobster bisque foam finished the dish off perfectly.
The other main course of Sliced Peppered Sirloin Steak & Braised Rib was absolutely superb. Here wonderfully flavoursome sirloin steak had been perfectly cooked medium-rare to order. This was a well-aged, prime cut of quality beef so perhaps it was to be expected that it would be good, but the slow-cooked rib was every bit as good. Thinly sliced radishes with their fresh peppery crunch and sweet heritage carrots danced a metaphorical jig across the plate, so artfully had they been placed. This was a dish that screamed EAT ME! The spinach purée with its iron-rich flavour was faultless. In fact the only questioning note I have about this dish as a whole, is whether the large potato hash cake is actually required. Granted we had also ordered sides of Pan-Fried Mushrooms, Sweet Potato Fries and Green Beans so that may have coloured my view-point!As an aside, I would strongly recommend the Sweet Potato Fries… believe me, they are truly exceptional!
Desserts created by Head Pastry Chef Martina Crotty are beautiful to look at and delicious to eat. One of my favourite flavour pairings is basil and strawberry, so it was a given that I would pick the Style Strawberries and Cream. The intensely flavoured fresh strawberries and strawberry sorbet were both magnificent but what brought the whole dish together were the shards of pale green, basil meringue and the very delicately flavoured rose petal shortbread crumb.Whilst fresh and light on the palate this was a wonderfully indulgent dessert.
The Ivory Cocoa & Rhubarb Verrine came presented in a cocktail-like glass through which you could clearly see the various constituent elements of the dish. Everything about this dish was so well balanced from the freshness of the sorbet to the fruitiness of the rhubarb compote, the cruch of the ginger crumb and the creaminess of the rich white chocolate mousse. The vividly coloured ‘plank’ of white chocolate was so stunning to look at it, you almost didn’t want to eat it (but we did)!
The wine list, comprising some interesting choices including bottles from the Lebanon along with a number of notable reserve options has been sensitively selected and after some dithering, we decided on a New Zealand Pinot Noir. Given our contrasting menu choices, this seemed the best option and we weren’t disappointed. The acidity of the Pinot cut through the inherent richness of the pork-belly starter yet was light enough to enjoy with my crab starter and seafood main.
For the quality of the food on offer, Restaurant gigi’s offers great value for money. Rather cleverly, the restaurant has managed to provide options that will appeal to the more conservative diner but also something for those with adventurous palates. Each dish that I ate was beautifully presented and contained elements that surprised and charmed in equal measure. Too many establishments, in an attempt to entice as many diners as possible, create menus that are lengthy in order to be all-encompassing and appealing. However, it is folly to try and cater for every possible taste and to aim to be everything to everyone because what invariably results is that a plateau of mediocrity is reached where everything is ‘nice’ and nothing is outstanding.
Each individual menu in Restaurant gigi’s arsenal is just the right length and overall there is plenty of choice and many tempting dishes. More importantly, what restaurant gigi’s does, it does well… very well!
Service was impeccable with staff who were friendly and attentive and well-informed about the menu and the ingredients used. This is a restaurant that clearly has high ambitions and a desire to create a delicious dining experience using quality, locally-sourced ingredients. This it achieves and it is easy to see why it has been awarded and has retained an AA 2 Rosette rating for three years running.
‘Share’ Menu: 3 course for €99 for 2 people ‘Delight’ Menu: 2 courses for €29.50; 3 courses for €36 ‘Indulge’ Menu: 2 courses for €42; 3 courses for €48 Irish Steakhouse Corner: Individually priced
The g Hotel & Spa
Wellpark Galway City
Niamh believes Ireland produces some of the best food in the world, and travels around the country; seeking out the best food producers, and places to eat.
An accomplished cook and baker, Niamh is also a previous MasterChef Ireland finalist. During the competition she had the opportunity to cook in some of Ireland’s top restaurants and experience life on the other side of the kitchen pass.
Working with TheTaste allows Niamh to write about her experiences and to share her passion for food and cooking with a wide audience.
Visit Niamh’s blog The Game Bird Food Chronicles.