Ard Bia at Nimmos, Aoibheann McNamara’s cool café and restaurant at the Spanish Arch is a treasure. This relaxed and informal spot serves only the best, locally sourced food and sometimes drinks. Overlooking the river Corrib, which flows quickly by outside, Ard Bia occupies the old customs office, which dates back to medieval times and is rumoured to have once been visited by Christopher Columbus. Whether this was on his way to discover America or not isn’t part of the legend, but we might as well assume he was.
Outside Ard Bia has what must be considered one of the best locations in the country, and on a warm day sun seekers are dotted al along the bank of the river on either side. The building is grey granite with a red door and inside the décor is very country casual, with mis-matched pieces of furniture and tables and chairs dotted around the charming room, and a large serving bar in the centre surrounded with loaves of home made bread and which also sells the jams and chutney’s that make to take home.. Bentwood chairs are painted red, and the walls are white, setting a two colour theme throughout.
Through to the left is another smaller room, at the back of which is the kitchen, while and open wooden staircase leads to the upstairs restaurant and evening wine bar. Up stairs the restaurant is light and airy as a result of roof lights which run the length of the dining room.
Ard Bia is however, all about the food. They use local artisan producers wherever possible, and the last time we were there we also enjoyed Ali’s foraged elderflower cordial, which was delicious, and only €2.50 for a large jug. The menu is described as Irish meets Mediterranean, but there are also some Moroccan influences, and you will even find a bottle of wine from this North African country on the wine list. We also enjoyed a bowl of the excellent chowder, and a rib steak casserole with sweet potatoes and spinach.
Because everything is so fresh and locally sourced, the menu changes very frequently, but in the café you can have a hearty breakfast featured James McGeogh excellent pork products, or at lunchtime expect to find homemade soups, smoked haddock and mussels chowder, a ploughman’s platter lemony hummus on sourdough and some type of Dahl or curry.
At the weekend’s there is a wine bar with a very extensive list of wines, while the dinner menu upstairs features the same care and attention to detail in sourcing the ingredients, and dishes such as Killary mussels in season, the Ard Bia mezze, spiced Connemara lamb or beetroot cured Donegal sea trout plate.
Ard Bia is a Galway gem, and the city is lucky to have it. There is certainly nothing comparable in Dublin, and whether you are a local who hasn’t tried it yet, of planning a trip to the City of Tribes, make sure a visit to Ard Bia is included, we can’t praise this restaurant and café highly enough.