Kasbah rocks: a cosy lunch in Galway’s Tigh Neachtain
Meal Ticket: head chef Sarah Croffey creates comforting pub food with her own stamp
Tigh Neachtain is on the corner of Cross Street and Quay Street in Galway
Is there anything more Galway than a cosy snug at Tigh Neachtain? I think not, particularly when it’s used as shelter from a blanket of misty rain, the type so distinctive to the west of Ireland. The stories shared at the tables and songs sung around the bar of this century-old pub have seeped into its walls.
The restaurant upstairs of this pub has also played host to plenty of Galway legends. In the 1950s, I’m told that sisters Millie and Tillie served food – chips and crubeens mostly – late into the night so that the bar could keep serving, creating what is thought to be one of Galway’s first nightclubs. Aoibheann McNamara’s Ard Bia restaurant lived here for a while in the late 1990s and early 2000s before moving to Nimmo’s on the Spanish Arch.
In keeping with the tradition of strong women at Tigh Neachtain, head chef Sarah Croffey currently leads the kitchen team at Kasbah, a wine bar serving tapas-style small plates in the evenings that was opened by Jimmy McGuire, the owner of Tigh Neachtain’s, in June of this year. By Croffey’s side are sous chefs Claire Conway and Agata (aka Guga) Lisik. They’ve created a daytime menu to serve in the pub downstairs which they launched in July.
“I had to figure out a way to create simple and comforting pub food but also put my own stamp on it,” Croffey says. Originally from Ballinasloe, Croffey worked at Ard Bia before she moved on to become sous chef at Kai under head chef Jess Murphy.
Culinary past and present
On Tigh Neachtain’s lunch menu, you can taste the influence of Croffey’s culinary past and present, mixed in with a respect for the tradition of the building. There are platters of Flaggy Shore Dainty Oysters served with Cuinneog buttermilk, dill and pickled shallots (€12 for half a dozen), an Atlantic Creamy Chowder (€7) and stout-braised beef stew with a puff pastry lid (€10).
Things start to get interesting with the Parmesan Polenta Chips (€4.50), which replace regular chips on the menu. They’re crispy on the outside, salted perfectly, and soft and herby on the inside. The polenta is flavoured with chicken stock, which further explains their yumminess. Vegetarians may want to look elsewhere. Elsewhere on the menu is a Ted Brown’s Crab and Vietnamese noodle salad (€12) and a Friendly Farmer free-range chicken schnitzel sandwich (€10).
Few are the people who can resist a savoury cheesecake. Croffey makes an Ottolenghi-inspired roasted cauliflower and Five-Mile-Town goats’ cheesecake (€8.50). It’s not a nap-inducing snooze-fest but instead is the ultimate in comforting lunchtime slices of pie. It’s surprisingly light with an almost crispy exterior, and the accompanying caramelised onion jam is delicious. It replaces quiche on the menu, and we’re all the better for it.
Ordering coffee at Tigh Neachtain doesn’t feel right when some of the creamiest Guinness in the land flows from their taps, as well as a great selection of craft beers and whiskeys. At any rate, Coffeewerk + Press is right next door, where you’ll find the best take-away coffee in Galway.
In Tigh Neachtain, Croffey has created a superbly judged balance between new flavours and comforting, familiar favourites.
Tigh Neachtain, 17 Cross Street, Galway 091-568820 tighneachtain.com