Above the long-established wine shop and delicatessen, McCambridge's of Galway now have a casual - but predictably quality-conscious - restaurant on the first floor.
Accessed by a wide curving staircase from the ground floor shopping area, the decor is a sort of warehouse-modern with wooden beams and exposed girders, heavy-duty stainless steel spotlights and sensible sturdy pine furniture.
Natural light from the windows overlooking Shop Street adds a free-and-easy feel to the dining space and, while white hotel ware may suggest a sensible and practical approach, tasteful touches - such as the miniature canvas sacks used for homemade bread (specially designed Judy Greene pottery with the McCambridge logo) - hint at a restaurant that’s above the norm.
Predictably, to those who know the longstanding ethos of this family business, the restaurant uses only Irish meats and poultry and asserts its supports for local and artisan producers (albeit without crediting the suppliers by name). Constant supervision by the McCambridge family is noticeable, giving an immediate sense of being in good hands – and, with chef Heather Flaherty, formerly of The Gourmet Tart Company, in the kitchen, the cooking should not disappoint.
The daytime menu offers familiar choices - Soups, Sandwiches, Salads, Hot Dishes, Cold Platters, Sides, Sweet Treats – but unusual items and first class ingredients stand out in all categories.
Dishes especially recommended include a light and creamy Seafood Bisque – based on a good stock and beautifully presented in a covered tureen, it contains a rich variety of clams, mussels, salmon, whitefish and chives and offers great value, as does a Charcuterie Platter of McGeough's air-dried lamb (from Connemara), almond saucisson, coppa, bresaola, country terrine, brandy & garlic paté (about €6.95 and€11.95 respectively).
Some dishes – such as a Tuna, asparagus, basil, red onion, chick pea and pine nut salad with spicy tahini dressing - are available in small and large sizes (€5.95/9.50), and sides (all €3.95) include unusual options such as Lebanese fried potatoes, sweet potato fries and dressed Steve's leaves.
Sweet treats are served from a central buffet table: there’s a great selection of tarts, cakes, scones - priced individually - and Murphy's Ice Cream (from Dingle) is also offered.
A glass of Elderflower Prosecco (€6.75) would make a refreshing start to a meal here and there’s a worldwide selection of wines by the glass as well as beers and Port. Better still, all the listed wines are available in the shop downstairs, and can be bought upstairs for an added corkage of just €6 per bottle.
Although the style remains casual, evening menus are more structured, offering dishes such as a starter of Homemade Chicken & Black Pudding Sausages with Apple Cider Chutney (€5.95) and mains like Fillet of Irish Cod wrapped in Pancetta with Roast Cherry Tomatoes & Rocket Walnut Pesto (€14.95).
A great feature of the vibrant Galway dining scene, Upstairs@McCambridge’s is warmly recommended.