If the walls of Paul O'Meara's bistro could talk they'd have plenty to say, as Maxwells is Galway's oldest restaurant, dating back to 1866. These days, though, they'd be drowned out by the lively chatter and buzzing atmosphere of this popular city centre meeting place.
The room is bright and airy, with a wall of windows facing the street (tables here are perfect for people watching). With red-orange tabletops adding a pop of colour, the atmosphere is casual and relaxed.
Maxwells say their menu offers something for everyone, and (although vegetarians may find the options a bit limited) the range of customers certainly bears this out. The clientele runs the gamut from babies in high chairs to business people on their lunch break to friends meeting over coffee.
The menu offers the usual crowd pleasers (think Caesar salad, BLTs and penne pasta), but the chowder, brown bread and fish pie are homemade, the smoked fish platter comes from the Burren Smokehouse, the burger is made with beef from a local butcher, sandwiches are made on bread from the local Griffin Bakery, and the chips are hand cut. Suppliers are listed at the back of the menu and a chalkboard near the entrance proclaims that all meat and fish are Irish.
Desserts are also homemade, and a particularly nice option is the €1 homemade chocolate truffles, perfect if you justwant a little something sweet at the end of the meal with a coffee.
A well-organised wine list is listed by style and there are some beers offered too although, disappointingly, no Irish craft beers.
Children are not only welcome, but very looked after: as well as the obligatory chicken goujons, sausages and chips, kids can also have a half portion of anything on the regular menu, superpower soup or a tiger baby bowl (a small plate of mashed potatoes and finely diced vegetables). It's a nice change to see proper food being offered to children, and judging by the amount of kids in for lunch, it seems that local parents agree.
It's easy to see why Maxwells is so popular – the staff are friendly and efficient, the portions are generous and the cooking is solid. A good place to know about.