Open about a year now, this little gem is hidden in plain sight. You may remember this pretty corner site as a lingerie shop called Petticoat Lady. It then transitioned into an ice-cream parlor which sadly missed the opportunity of calling itself Knickerbocker Glory. Now it is home to one of my very favourite bolt holes, The Latin Quarter Wine Bar and Bistro.
Head Chef Patrick McEllin aims high, he started his apprenticeship in Ballynahinch Castle while studying catering in GMIT. After stints in London and Sydney he moved to Galway and worked in renowned restaurants such as the Malt House and Kirwans Lane. In his own kitchen, Patrick manages to pull off the delicate balancing act between classic French and modern Irish. The service is in the Gallic style too. Manning the front of house is the engaging and efficient, Rebecca Miton. Rarely do you meet a restaurant manager who fulfils her role with such effortless grace.
You can pop in here to the downstairs bar for a glass of wine and watch the world go by from a high chair at the one of the best vantage points in Galway. There is a small but interesting wine list of reasonably priced European wines, with a few more upmarket choices for those special occasions. Wines are served by glass, carafe and bottle. Ever helpful, Rebecca is always on hand with a recommendation, she hasn’t failed me yet. Lunch here is a simple affair of traditional tartines, (a French open sandwich) like Croque-Monsieur and classic bistro dishes such as Boeuf Bourguignon or Caesar Salad. Most importantly for me, they are a reliable source of offal. I recently celebrated a birthday with an excellent chicken liver tartine.
It can be busy with many walk-ins. In the evening, while you can be lucky, you do need to book ahead to be guaranteed a spot, especially if you are after one of the coveted window seats. The dining room on the first floor is intimate with exposed stone walls and shuttered windows looking out onto the old medieval buildings of Quay Street. It is an elegant room with lots of character. The atmosphere is casual with dark wood tables, ornate chairs, and lots of light from windows looking out over the bustling crowds. The room and style of dining lends itself particularly well to couples and small groups.
The short dinner menu is a promise of good things to come, a few things done right is far better than a long list of disappointments. The fish and specials change daily depending on the catch and whatever is in season. I would like to recommend one dish but I can’t, everything is great. Ham hock terrine with a crispy hen’s egg, warm confit duck salad or sautée crab claws to start? You can’t go wrong. Moules frites, linguini de la mer or shoulder of lamb with sweet breads for mains? It’s all good. I am looking forward to working my way through the new Summer menu.
There is no reinvention of the wheel in this little eatery. No claims of street food, up-cycled furniture or superfood salad. They don’t have a concept, vision or philosophy to explain. They will not try to educate you or instruct you. This Restaurant is just that – a Restaurant. One with lovely food reasonably priced, excellent wine and efficient, professional service in charming surroundings. How refreshing.
A bustling bistro with character, The Latin Quarter is entirely deserving of its popularity. It’s good to see The Latin Quarter quickly earning local support. French cuisine is alive and well in Galway. Bon Appétit.
The Latin Quarter Bistro & Wine Bar, 1 High Street, Galway. 091 530 000
First published in The Galway Advertiser 18.06.2015