A sunny day in Galway is a rare commodity indeed but somehow the jewel in the West’s crown always seems to shine despite the semi-permanent misty rain. Perhaps it is the vibrant colours and cobbled streets, snug-like bars and atmosphere, but I think some of its allure is surely attributable to the genuine céad míle fáilte Galwegians offer.
A recent stay at The House Hotel reaffirmed this belief for me a thousand times over, having been welcomed warmly to the petite boutique hotel in the heart of the effervescent Latin Quarter of the city. Greeted with chalkboard sign declaring it to be Gin O’Clock, I had an inkling I would fit in just fine and the quirky kaleidoscopic decor from fuschia pink thrones to candy striped walls in the lobby definitely backed this feeling up.
Heading upstairs to check out my home for the night before exploring, I was greeted with a room just as funky as I had hoped after first impressions of downstairs, modern but inviting with a plush “Love” pillow topped king size bed as the focal point. The spacious suite gave way to a generous monochrome bathroom with a double ended bath and fantastic rainfall shower which would put the spring back in anyone’s step after a night on the tiles in Galway.
Orla Kiely toiletries and a glamorous vanity station confirmed what I had thought – The House Hotel is a haven for celebrating in style, indulging yourself and embracing your playful side, with enough outrageously pink features to keep Steven Tyler purring.
As it must be nearer to half past Gin O’Clock when I head downstairs, a sampling of the handiwork of Aileen Cunningham, House Hotel’s award-winning mixologist, was understandably necessary. Aileen has designed an extensive, bespoke cocktail menu to tempt lads and ladies alike, including Duchess of Cornwall Camilla, who visited in 2015 and had a tipple designed especially for her.
Eschewing my usual bourbon sipping persona to embrace my inner royal, I decided if it was good enough for Camilla it was good enough for me and sipped on The Duchess(€15), a sparkly concoction composed of Mumm Champagne and Dingle Gin. Blending these ultra premium pours with elderflower and a genius citrus peel and rosemary cube (the only time ice in champers is ok) before finishing with a crowning glory of lemon sherbet, this was a potent punch fit for The Duchess and her Mumm-in-law The Queen, who reportedly enjoys four cocktails a day herself.
As I was already settled in to the bar being well looked after, it made sense to sample The House Bistro menu, which was one with broad appeal, designed to cater to the varying tastes of the groups who fill the buzzy bistro every weekend. Broken into a selection of House Hits, Salads and Mains, a host of choices made it difficult to narrow down, so greed whispered in my ear and told me to sample a couple of different dishes.
The menu is well designed for this aim, allowing you to choose three House Hits for €21, small-ish plates to be enjoyed alongside cocktails or as sharing plates. I opted for Tempura Prawns first, which arrived piping hot and not too greasy as is often the off-putting case. These were nicely crisp, served with a zingy nam-jim style dipping sauce of honey, lime and ginger.
Similarly, perfectly panko-crusted Fish Cakes packed a satisfying crunch, hearty and flavoursome owing to plentiful chunks of smoked haddock rather than just potato fluff filler.
A Trio of Dips appealed to my inner grazer, with whipped lemon goats cheese (which could perhaps have been more vigorously whipped and airy, but devoured nonetheless) alongside rich sundried tomato pesto and herby coriander-spiked hummus. There was no problem swapping out sourdough for celery and carrot sticks to mop up the trio of tasty dips to preserve room for the main event, and nothing is too much trouble at House.
Facing a tough choice from a wide selection of tempting main dishes, Confit of Silverhill Duck and Angus Rib Eye narrowly lost out to Slow Braised Belly of Pork. There are few dishes as comforting and this one ticked all the boxes for warding off the dreary weather. Crisp crackling top, pull apart with a fork tender beneath, with silky sweet potato purée to cut across the richness. Tart Stonewell Cider jus and a salty Serrano ham shard finished a plate of hearty happiness.
Not that any more food was needed, but mains are accompanied by a side dish of veggies you will actually want to eat without a greying boiled broccoli floret in sight – thyme roasted carrots, beets and parsnips weren’t just an afterthought.
Just to gild the lily, I take the advice of my lovely waitress and opt for a cheeky Margarita Cheesecake for an entirely unnecessary dessert, which turns out to be zesty and fresh and not unctuously heavy as such slices can be. To really embrace the cocktail theme running through House’s menu I should have swapped out strawberry (my least favourite ice cream) with one of their boozy scoops but it was too late when I discovered Espresso Martini and Jameson and Ginger ice cream existed…maybe next time.
Heading out into the night and off to an event in the ever popular Sonny Molloy’s Whiskey Bar, I realised just how perfectly located my abode for the night was, just a couple of minutes walk (in heels) to the buzzing bar scene the city is world renowned for. That said, with a fantastic cocktail offering and a dedicated Gin menu, if I had my girls on hand there would have been no quarrels about staying put in House for the evening as it filled up with local and tourists alike.
I again sang the praises of House’s unrivaled location post many whiskies and laughs out on the town, as there was no need to wait in the rain for a taxi. Skipping back to my spacious suite, a good night’s sleep was a given but leaving such a comfy bed was difficult the next morning – luckily the aforementioned power shower did the trick!
A quick breakfast in the bistro beckoned before heading back to Dublin, and I was impressed by the afternoon tea-like tiers of freshly baked croissants, scones and breads as well as artisan cheese and charcuterie boards all laid out on a well curated buffet. Opting for my usual fresh fruit, yoghurt and granola first, I lingered over one of the better pots of coffee I’ve come across in a hotel breakfast setting and later learned it was Fonté, one of my favourites.
House takes their sourcing of ingredients as seriously as their service, which is impeccable, and you genuinely feel like a welcome house guest rather than a room number in this petite but perfectly formed little gem. While it would make the perfect base for exploring the city of the tribes, it has far more to offer than a place to drop your bags.
In one of Ireland’s most vibrant cities stands one of Ireland’s funkiest boutique hotels and I am already planning a return visit, girl gang in tow. Is it Gin O’Clock again yet?
Rooms at The House Hotel start from €109 and can be booked here.
The House Hotel
Galway City Centre
T: 091 538900
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.