Well-known restaurateurs JP McMahon and Drigin Gaffey opened Aniar in 2011, and it soon became the most talked about restaurant in Galway. Meaning ‘from the West’, the philosophy emulated that of Copenhagen’s Noma, favouring local, seasonal, wild and foraged foods simply and elegantly prepared. Much of the menu is made up of wild ingredients.
Enda McEvoy (now nearby at this own first restaurant, Loam) was the original chef, his creative cooking and lightness of touch ensuring this small restaurant quickly became a destination dining experience. Though he has left to pursue his own business interests, Aniar’s strong food philosophy is unchanged and the kitchen is now largely led by chef patron JP himself.
Open five days a week for dinner only, this is a restaurant for those with plenty of culinary curiosity. The tasting menu in Aniar changes daily. Each menu has a specific date and diners can take home the menu of that day. There is one eight-course core menu, which expands to a ten or twelve-course menu and all courses of the tasting menu are matched with individual wines. (A non-alcoholic pairing is also available). Each one is named after one of the Aran Islands and must be ordered by the whole table. Once the trio of bread arrives – perhaps focaccia made with Irish rapeseed oil, white rolls with Mount Callan cheddar and treacle bread with seeds served with a creamy pat of home made butter – diners will realise the level of care and love in the kitchen. Although there is very little choice, there is a dizzying array with a wide variety of ingredients.
Dishes are described simply by their primary ingredients, perhaps brown crab, apple, celery and hazelnut or hogget, pea & baby gem. Plates consist of three to four food items and the culinary traditions of salting, pickling and fermentation feature heavily. (The lengthy collection of local suppliers is listed). With such fresh and natural ingredients it’s a joy to find them expertly handled and beautifully presented, with each flavour allowed to sing. Coffee is good and the accomplished petit fours finish a meal on a high note.
Service is professional, and the décor reflects the menu with slate, stone and bleached wood referencing the surrounding landscape. The impeccable ingredient sourcing means a meal here is a gourmet extravaganza. One of the most seasonally in-touch eating experiences in a city with a rapidly developing creative food scene.
*JP McMahon, who is the driving force behind the innovative Irish Food symposium for chefs, Food On The Edge (www.foodontheedge.ie), offers cookery classes at Aniar in the form of six week cooking courses and one day workshops where classes are kept to a maximum of six students.