Tigh Neachtain (Naughton's) is one of Galway's oldest pubs - the origins of the building are medieval and it has been in the McGuire family for three generations – and the interior has remained unchanged since 1894. Quite unspoilt, it has great charm, an open fire and a friendly atmosphere - and the pint is good too.
But time has not been standing still here in the drinks department: 25 wines are offered on the bar list, including Cava for the first time - and Jimmy McGuire stocks a staggering one hundred and twenty eight malt whiskeys. He has also contracted the craft Galway Hooker Brewery to produce a seasonal brew for the pub, of which the first was a zesty ale for Galway Arts Festival & Races.
The excellent food served in Tigh Neachtain is all prepared by the independently operated restaurant above the pub, Artisan.
But perhaps the nicest thing of all is still the way an impromptu traditional music session can get going here at the drop of a hat.
Above the pub, in a tight space overlooking busy Quay Street, you'll find one of the most interesting Galway Restaurants.
Approaching along the city’s busiest street, you may spot unexpected settings on tables outside this little restaurant: crisp linen, and glistening glass! Then a soft grey tweed carpet on the narrow stairs brings you to a busy warm space with navy blue and cream walls and old oak floor rescued from a church. Little polished round tables at each of the six windows look onto perfectly tended flower boxes and then on to bustling Quay Street and Cross Street...
Owner manager Matt Skeffington has quietly given a lot of attention to this space. His own unusual artwork includes a large wood carving of an old penny and some 3D maps, and there's also an amazing tree of wire and amethyst hanging over the serving counter, created by a local artist from Oughterard. Music is low and mainly blue note jazz, and candlelight adds warmth to a room that is already full of character.
Working closely with Chef Mark Campbell from Ballinasloe and GMIT, Matt is developing their own take on modern Irish food with a twist: food that is light, fresh, no dairy and seasonal. Seafood features strongly and autumn brings a lot of game.
Menus include an early dinner and full à la carte, and some evening dishes find their way onto the lunch menu too. Choosing may not be easy, but sourdough bread with black olive and herb arrive to ease the decision making.
Unusual Pernod and tarragon infused Atlantic seafood chowder makes a fine starter (also offered for lunch), as does Clare Island Salmon tartare, with gherkin, pear, parsley and guacamole; or a mini monkfish burger, with potato fondant, pickled cucumber and red pepper jam could also be a treat. Charcuterie francaise may catch the eye - this 'selection of France's finest cured meats and salamis' is served with homemade pork rillete and crisp crostini and, wile excellent, may surprise some diners as the local charcuterie from Oughterard is renowned.
Main courses, which include ever-popular steak, a house speciality lamb trio (rump, boudain and sticky rib) and a vegetarian stack, are generous to a fault - the duo of confit pork belly and scallops, with cauliflower purée and thyme jus, for example, will satisfy the hungriest diner, as would a dish of oven roasted hake fillet with crushed baby potatoes, bacon, baby gem & peas.
All of the à la carte starters and mains have matching wines, and the wine list offers cocktails, eight wines by the glass and 60 other wines to choose with detailed notes.
Desserts tend towards the rich and creamy so you might as well give in to the Assiette of Chocolate (profiteroles, bitter chocolate & ginger biscuit and a white chocolate and raspberry mousse), which is superb, although the clever France v Ireland cheese selection may also tempt.
Intriguing combinations are a feature throughout, and the beautifully presented dishes are promptly served by friendly staff with really good menu knowledge.
This is a great place to know about, and full of character.