Gort is a lucky town to have an innovative proprietor like Sarah Harty running her charming and lovely Gallery Café. It does exactly what it says on the tin; it’s a gallery, heaving in an effortless, eclectic style with paintings, etchings and so many other things to catch your eye.
To call it a cafe is an understatement. This big, stylish room harks back to the good room; the dining rooms of great Irish houses. They serve the best of food made with locally sourced and reared ingredients. Sarah herself grows organic veg in her polytunnel at home, while the chef brings fresh Irish fish from the market in Galway every morning. Even the plates are designed and made across the street by potter Michael Kennedy, with a hand from Harty too.
This is real food, food with life in it, food that’s been treated with love by chef Pawel Karnefal. Bright salads like Stuffed Peppers with bacon and Cratloe cheese with buckwheat and roasted pumpkin fill a much-needed craving for exciting, filling and healthy food. Original pizza combos like McCarthys peppered pastrami with roasted potato, caramelized onion, Cashel blue and rocket with horseradish, or roasted beetroot and St.Tola, set the bar way high while pushing your taste buds right out into the fields and surrounding hills.
The dinner menu starts with the most perfect plate of perfectly caramelized scallops - thankfully with roe intact - crispy slices of pork belly, celeriac and quince puree. A dish of perfect balance and exciting textures, contrasts and colours with a style of ‘thrown on the plate’ chic, finished with bright microgreens and taste sensations.
The soup of the day was Carrot and Coconut, with a velvety texture, served with both spelt and wholegrain breads. Vegetarians are of equal importance here with Potato gnocchi, salsify, Mount Callan cheddar and sage burnt butter or Puy Lentil and roots steamed in cabbage leaves with battered cauliflower.
The fish special of Brill with Clams, white wine and pickled seaweed was a warming and delicate showcase of Irish flavours, with ingredients so perfectly treated by the chef. The venison, was properly char-grilled, almost black on the outside, and perfectly pink inside; charred yet sweet and juicy, sitting on a bed of crushed root vegetables, with a rich and sweet sloe reduction, and Jerusalem artichoke and vanilla puree. It was a dream on a plate, a warm reassurance, yet full of surprises. Vegetables aren’t treated as mere sides here, they marry with the meats and stand where they should, at centre stage. This is the stuff some restaurants talk about but few deliver, real local and cooking with the seasons.
Deserts made the pleasure almost too much; a delicate and decadent chocolate mousse topped with honeycomb, a walnut tart with orange and whiskey jelly, a lemon tart, all are exquisite but the blackcurrant parfait was the star, rich and dark, creamy yet light. How can one place get it so, so right??