I have found the perfect wine bar, that’s also a bakery by day

Top marks for originality at this stripped back small plates restaurant in the west

   

Éan

  • Proprietor: Enda McEvoy Sinead Meacle
  • Flood Street, Galway
  • 091 374 154
  • www.eangalway.ie
  • Irish

The prefix “that” is often responsible for provoking a stampede to a new restaurant or bakery – that shiitake miso butter, that oyster, that choux – to be followed by gushing Insta posts, as serious scoffers beat a path to the home of the latest must-eat morsel.

Add the squid toast at Éan in Galway to that list. Paired with a chilled glass of Aphos Vinho Verde, the Michelin Guide, whose inspectors have been doing quite the grand tour of Ireland and making plenty of noise about it on Twitter, pronounced it the “combination of the week”.

It is no surprise that they were checking out Éan, as the people behind it – Enda McEvoy and Sinead Meacle – are the owners of Loam, which landed a Michelin star in 2015, just 10 months after it opened, bagged the first Michelin sustainability award in 2019, and its successor, the Michelin green star, last year. It’s pretty much the Michelin poster-child for restaurants.

Ean wine bar on Druid Lane in Galway city. Photograph: Julia Dunin Photography
Ean wine bar on Druid Lane in Galway city. Photograph: Julia Dunin Photography

But it is not McEvoy in the kitchen here, it is Christine Walsh, a talented, low-profile chef who worked in Waterford Castle, Chapter One, Tom Aikens and Noma, followed by three years in Loam, then Allta in Dublin, before heading up the team here.

Éan, which is a bakery and casual restaurant by day, and wine bar by night, is in the Druid Theatre building, and there is an interconnecting door between the two premises. Exposed stone walls are the perfect backdrop for a large communal wooden table on one side of the room; and shelves of organic and biodynamic wines, and wooden tables and chairs on the other. It’s a stripped-back, industrial vibe.

Do leave room for dessert. The caramelised croissant is smashed and topped with brittle caramel that has a hint of bitterness, and comes with a soft coffee and almond ice-cream, topped with toasted hazelnuts

Before going for the squid toast, I order the house-made sourdough, €4.50, which generally serves as an effective litmus test for what is to follow. It is seriously good, quite sour, with an open texture and a gnarly crust, and comes with what now seems to be a prerequisite, whipped cultured butter. With a bowl of top-quality mixed olives, €3.50, and a glass of Uivo Curtido Branco, €40 a bottle, it is just what I need as I study the list of small plates and plan my ordering strategy.

There are 24 low-intervention wines from top producers on the list here, many of them imported by Enrico Fantasia of Grape Circus, and although there are just five below €40, the mark-up is very reasonable.

But back to the ordering strategy. Previous experience has made me jittery when it comes to small plates. They can arrive in “no particular order”, a suit-the-chef-screw-the-diner expedience, pile up and go cold when they all arrive together, and launch a sneak attack with a “small plates, big bill” shocker.

So, it’s a one-by-one approach my end, and the staff are totally cool with this. The squid toast, €14, arrives, four toasty triangles of sourdough, dotted with a white miso emulsion – house-made miso, of course – and sprinkled with gochujang flakes. Inside the crusty exterior is a blitzed mixture of Irish squid, shio koji and ground dillisk, bringing smoky flavours of the sea, heat from the chilli, and a spike of acidity. There’s no need for the Aphos Vinho Verde for me, the Uivo works spectacularly with the toasts.

Cime di rapa tempura, €9, the brassica for cruciferous haters, has been coated in batter, deep-fried till crunchy, and dotted with miso, the heat and flavour building as the chilli, sesame seed, and nori in the togarashi spice kicks in. And the beef tartare, €16, which is partially hidden by foamy squiggles of horseradish, is incredibly delicious, the precisely chopped meat combining with briny, diced Castelvetrano olives and crunchy dehydrated onion.

Do leave room for dessert. The caramelised croissant, €7, has been smashed and topped with brittle caramel that has a hint of bitterness, and comes with a soft coffee and almond ice-cream, topped with toasted hazelnuts. It’s a big dessert, you could easily share it, but we have also ordered the blueberry cake which cleverly is kept quite savoury, with lemon verbena adding sharpness.

There is nowhere quite like Éan in Ireland. It is the perfect wine bar, where you can take your time, order at will and not feel rushed. Like Loam, sustainability is at the forefront, with cooking that is assured and mature. Another green star must surely be in the pipeline for this restaurant, and with the quality and affordability on offer here, it just might get another Michelin combination of the week, and land a Bib Gourmand too.

Dinner for two with a bottle of wine was €102.

The Verdict: 9/10 Great food, wine, atmosphere and prices
Facilities: Smart, fluffy towels and perfume diffuser
Music: Good soundtrack, very much in the background
Food provenance: Gannet Fishmongers, meat from local farms, vegetables from Leaf and Root
Vegetarian options: Vegetarian and vegan options
Wheelchair access: Room is accessible but no accessible toilet