In the very centre of the city and perched on a bustling one way street, the much loved Park House Hotel gives out good vibes from the moment you enter the door. It is located on Forster Street, an area of the city that shows signs of getting a new lease of life and already has a lot of popular, new eateries within wine-spitting distance. Park House first opened its doors in 1975 and as such is a hotel with a difference, built on nostalgia. Attentive staff in waistcoats and the warm decor all send out the right messages to arriving guests. Check-in, in the bright lobby, is a pleasure for both business and leisure guests, thanks to the efficiency and helpfulness of friendly receptionists who explain the hotel’s amenities and make everyone feel at home. Good food is a highlight of a stay at this pleasant hotel, and it is obviously appreciated by local diners too, as the restaurant and bar tables are likely to be fully occupied most evenings.
The dining room is comfortable with a rich colour scheme, mirrored surfaces and tables dressed with very good glassware, cutlery and heavy linens, and hung with a handsome framed collection of beautiful oil paintings depicting quiet corners of Galway, the work of the late Derek Biddulph. It offers a full bar and an extensive wine list, far too extensive to go into in any great detail, with a selection of around ninety labels, both old and new world. Suffice to say that there is something to suit every taste and many are available by the glass. We settled on a couple of glasses of a good Pinot Grigio to better contemplate the menu.
From 6 – 7.30pm Sunday to Thursday, you can avail of the well priced early evening ‘Value Menu’. This offers three courses with tea or coffee for €32 or two courses for €28 with plenty of choice such as oven baked cod, grilled minute steak or chicken madras. They also have a special menu consisting entirely of seafood, an impressive array of scallops, lobster, oysters and claws in season.
The set dinner menu at €41.95 and the Ã la Carte include all the usual crowd pleasers, but the really interesting dishes are the ones with history. Park House specialize in old school classics, you won’t find chicken Maryland on any other menu in town and nowhere else can pull off a prawn cocktail quite so successfully.
The bread basket is biblical with no less than six types of freshly made bakes including brown walnut, sundried tomato and scones, slightly let down by the not very four star individually wrapped butter. Our starters arrived on smart, white tableware. A light vegetarian dish of goat’s cheese wrapped with a little pesto in filo pastry, samosa style, served with a sharp rhubarb and apple chutney and a small dressed salad for color at €9.75 and the afore mentioned prawn cocktail with generous amounts of soft prawns and crisp salad leaves in a rich pastel pink sauce at €10.50. Both were well judged and very enjoyable.
Mains included the famous rack of lamb, €29.50 – well flavoured, sporting a crust generously spiked with mustard and served perfectly pink, and the infamous Chicken Maryland €17.25, garnished with grilled bacon, tomato, banana fritter & pineapple, (with a cherry on top) a real blast from the past. A fresh fruit Pavlova with berry compote and a great chocolate and orange pudding at €7.50 apiece, were the perfect ending to a good meal.
These are the classics with little contemporary twists, the area that The Park House excels in. Everything is accurately cooked, correctly seasoned and well presented – and, with well paced service to match the confident cooking, the knowledgeable and friendly staff make eating here a pleasure. The set menu is good value too, so its popularity, even when we were last there on a cold Monday in February, is easy to understand. There is calm and assured service from beginning to end. This is food for all tastes in a cosy hotel setting and service with a huge, beaming smile.
Park House Hotel, Forster St, Galway. Tel: (091) 564 924. www.parkhousehotel.ie
First published in The Galway Advertiser 03/03/2016