Cava Tapas and Bodega has relocated across the Corrib to the Latin quarter of Galway. It is now beside the Dail Bar, just around the corner from Nigh Neactain.
Cava is owned and run by Jp and Drigín Gaffey, and it was a surprise when the original Cava closed down as it was one of the city's most popular restaurants. Even more surprising when you realise it was also one of the best tapas restaurant in Ireland, and was run by the same people as Aniar, Galway’s own Michelin Star. That’s all in the past now, and Cava is back with a bang.
The new premises has a traditional shop front, with a small dining room inside, with some traditional tables and some high ones, which are typical of Spanish tapas bars. The decor is pleasing and the atmosphere is friendly and warm. Downstairs there is a larger dining space which is delightfully designed using the natural textures of the walls, juxta positioned with wood, metal and some riotous colour. The space feels very airy for a basement, and some great art - including two Picasso prints and a stylised photo of co-owner Jp rocking his academic credentials - add to the individuality of this space.
The menu has a pretty cool lay out that divides the dishes into categories, to make ordering easy. Starting with some Pinchos - essentially Spanish canapés - nibbles or some cured meats on one side of the menu, the wine list is below these, before you flip over the A3 card and find the full list of tapas, divided between vegetarian, fish or meat, and the desserts. In addition to the wine list, each section has a smaller selection of recommended beers and wines. The list is impressive and too long to list here, but you can see the full menu here.
I started with a Pincho of Jamon Serrano, Manchego cheese and quince, served on good bread. The rest of my order would come as they were ready, and so next up was clams with chorizo in sherry, which was really tasty and gave me an opportunity to mop up the sherry with some of my bread. Catalan spinach and patatas braves came almost together, with the bravas salsa being very good indeed, while the spinach was sprinkled with raisins and lemon juice, and was a perfect nibble with the rest of my feast.
Hay smoked quail was delicate and beautifully smoked, while a second fish dish of sole escabeche with organic carrots, and samphire was the only dish I was unsure of. The final dish was without doubt the highlight; beef cheek, slowly cooked, and served on Jerusalem artichoke purée and apple pieces, was sprinkled with oats and leek ash and was a beefy, meaty treat that set off little taste explosions.
The others led up to this finale perfectly and I found myself unable to try the desserts, and so finished with a good coffee. The new Cava is if anything better; the space is very much a reflection of what the restaurants seeks to be, it's almost an extension of the vision of the owners. Cava has come home, and you need to go pay your respects. Excellent.