Recently we were on a little overnight road trip out west to Galway, somewhere I’ve never been! Every time I mentioned this to people they were shocked. It seems like a rite of passage for Irish people that they go to Galway for a weekend, either on a stag/hen, New Years, a birthday, Galway Races or just a weekend away. Somehow this passed me by.
As this trip was going to be brief, I decided to ask around for some recommendations. The most popular place, recommended by people like Katia over at ProperFood, Russell at GastroGays, and Kenneth at The Kinneagh Kitchen, was Kai.
Kai is run by David and Jessica Murphy and recently picked up a hat trick of awards at the Irish Restaurant Awards including Best Chef in Connacht and Ireland, and Best Digital Marketers. Open since 2011, Kai (the Maori word for food) serves up local sourced fresh food on a daily basis. As well as picking up some Irish Restaurant Awards Kai was also awarded a Michelin Bib late last year.
The first thing that grabs you about Kai is the relaxed setting and uncovered stone walls. The dining area is well lit with natural light and some stylish light fittings. The table and chairs and place settings are really cute and inviting. And as for the menu….. You’ll want it all!
The options for starters included dishes like ceviche and our choice Heirloom Tomatoes, Toonsbridge Ricotta and Lovage. The tomatoes were so fresh! They tasted like they like had just been plucked from the plant, and combined with the smooth, silky ricotta this was a brilliant start to the meal.
As there were 3 of us we were able to pick some different mains and try more of the delicious foods on offer. Again this took some deliberation and we finally decided on Monkfish, Sea Spaghetti & Clams, Katsu Crumbled Pork Chop with Pickled Cucumber and Halloumi in Polenta with Asparagus, Fennel and Pea Hummus.
Let’s start with the fish. The monkfish was served in a broth with the clams and some “sea spaghetti”. The meaty, chunks of monkfish sat on top of the clams which were opened nicely and had that delicious fresh, sea salty taste. The flavours from the broth and monkfish, which has slightly charred, was beautiful together and this dish was one of the nicest dishes I’ve had in Ireland in a while.
The pork chop was massive! It was more like a pork leg given it’s size. Crumb coated with katsu flavouring and served with cool pickled cucumber that had a hint of spice to it, it was cooked perfectly and was nice and juicy to taste.
Onto the halloumi. We’re big halloumi fans and this was a lovely dish but the polenta crumb took away from the halloumi a bit. Halloumi is at its best when it is grilled, allowing that unique saltiness to come to the fore. Covering it in polenta meant this was lost, and it could have been any breaded cheese on the plate. The fennel was perfectly charred and the pea hummus was a delicious accompaniment, but the main attraction of the dish was a slight disappointment.
Along side our dishes we were also served some fluffy mashed potatoes, and crispy onions, and they tasted exquisite.
Dessert options were plentiful as well and as with the main we struggled with our choices! Eventually we chose 3 different ones. First up was Strawberries and Cream with Elderflower Granita. This was absolutely incredible. The strawberries were so fresh and the hint of elderflower from the granita really lifted the dish.
We couldn’t resist the pavlova with passion fruit curd for dessert. It was light and tangy, with a chewy centre and topped with fresh cream and edible flowers.
Finally, the Peach Melba Sundae topped with chocolate, was delightful. All of the desserts sounded so simple but tasted anything but. They really were a fantastic way to top off an incredible meal.
Overall Kai was a treat. The food was great and the atmosphere really nice. They’ve done an exceptional job here over the last few years and long may it continue!