179 Upper Salthill
Awaking to a forecast of sunny skies, early one friday morning, we hopped in the car to grab a weekend out west, and, before we knew it, we were in Galway enjoying a day of food, fun and shopping. With the feet walked off us and our appetites growing, we headed out to the main drag in Salthill, where, I’d been told, there was a fab tapas restaurant called Black Cat.
Hugely popular with the locals and tourists, the vibe here is warm and inviting, with a clean cut simple décor and lots of jazzy tunes playing in the background. They also do live jazz nights at Black Cat, so if you fancy yourself a cool cat with your paw on the pulse, then this is just the place for you.
The focus here is all about making you feel comfortable. There’s no pretention or airs, just good food. Along with their tapas menu, which is expansive, they offer a fab assortment of afternoon specials until 6pm daily. Think crispy tempura fish & chips with mushy peas; cherry tomato bruschettas; a chickpea stew; or a homemade seafood chowder with brown bread. Their Black Cat Pot of prawns, chorizo, baby potatoes, chickpeas and veg in a tomato sauce is a popular choice, I’m told. They also do gourmet sandwiches during the day, with the likes of a roast beetroot and goats cheese on ciabatta; an open crab sambo with spring onion and mixed greens on homemade brown bread; as well as a ciabatta filled with crisy calamari rings, garlic butter, harissa and organic leaves.
We, however, were on the hunt for a more substantial feed having spent the day out and about in the city of tribes. The problem, of course, with tapas menus is that you want everything and it’s so easy for your eyes to get bigger than your belly, especially when the menu is filled with so many tasty sounding dishes. There was beef & pork meatballs with Parmesan cheese and garlic crostini; seared scallops with black pudding, a smoked bacon, pea and sage butter and squash puree; along with chicken livers with smoked pancetta and wholegrain mustard. Grilled halloumi was there with courgette, red pepper, toasted pine nuts and salsa verde; not to mention an Aran Island goat cheese with toasted almonds, beetroot puree, basil and garlic oil. They also had a variety of salads, like a chilli beef salad; an in-house smoked chicken salad; as well as a veggie friendly raw energy salad.
After 6pm, they also have a menu of, more substantial, evening specials, which on our visit included venison loin with parsnip puree, beetroot, walnut and a chocolate jus; a Mediterranean fisherman stew; along with a Colleran’s chargrilled Angus sirloin steak served with celeriac & smoked Knockanore gratin, flat cup mushroom, a Micil Poitín & pepper sauce and a side of homemade chips.
After much hemming and hawing we finally made some decisions, sticking with their tapas menu. Brendan ordered the slow-roast beef cheeks, which he found tender and full of flavour with a tasty stout & honey glaze and some cauliflower puree. Making a surf n’ turf of his meal, he also enjoyed a lovely bowl crab claws in fresh chilli with ginger, white wine and a garlic & chive butter, plus a side order of homemade chips. I went for the lamb sliders – delicious little Castlemine Farm lamb-burgers on mini brioche with rocket and some Aran Island feta cheese. Also on my radar, and not escaping, was a delicious lightly-battered monkfish tempura cooked to perfection and served with a spiced harissa. A side of tasty garbanzo (chickpea) stew went down a treat with mixed veg, chorizo and tomato sauce.
Having thoroughly enjoyed my plates, along with a crab claw and a few chips from across the table, I was looking forward to the sweet finale. The desserts included chilled amaretto poached pear with toasted almonds and vanilla ice-cream; a classic crème brulee; as well as cheese and fruit boards. For me, a white chocolate and Baileys pannacotta was the perfect finisher with its rich berry compote, whilst himself was more than happy to indulge in a warm chocolate brownie with walnuts, a hot chocolate sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.
Delighted with our meal, but exhausted from a long, but utterly enjoyable day, we headed for the hills.
So, if you’re looking for some great food, music and atmosphere, then head for Black Cat in Salthill. It’s got a touch of magic about it.