The food and wine scene in Ireland has grown in leaps and bounds over the past couple of decades. Once known for a culture of overly-boiled vegetables and meats, Irish restaurants have garnered quite a bit of buzz for their creative fare made with local, seasonal ingredients, and inspired by the many cultural influences that have shaped the country.
One restaurant in Galway that truly speaks to the city’s bohemian leanings, artistic cooking, and access to farms and fishermen, while maintaining some historical and cultural significance is Ard Bia at Nimmo’s, proud winners of many Bridgestone and other awards and is part of Slow Food Ireland.
To access Ard Bia, one must pass through the Spanish Arch, an extension of the city walls, built in 1584.
Ard Bia is located along the Long Walk, which follows along the River Corrib where it meets the sea. The restaurant is literally feet from the mouth of the rushing river. If you are lucky enough to get a river-facing seat, you will be looking straight down into the water and across at The Claddagh, the village in which the famed ring originates.
Ard Bia is in a stone building with thick walls, narrow windows, its slightly menacing appearance brightened with splashes of red and colorful glass.
Inside is quite the reverse from the stone exterior. A café and bakery area exude warmth, while a friendly staff makes you feel right at home. Mismatched wooden tables, dripping candelabras, and beams of natural light make Ard Bia the perfect place for a leisurely lunch and a glass of wine. At night time, candlelit dinners create a cozy escape from the often tumultuous outside weather. This is the most romantic place to dine in a storm! And if you are lucky to catch good weather, an ideal place to watch the famous Galway Bay sunset.
On this particular day, we were sort of between lunch and breakfast, and we decided to go with both. My husband had a giant, fresh scone with homemade Ard Bia jam, a strong coffee. . . and a glass of Rosé from Catalunya. Quite the pairing! He said that the Rosé did pair well with the fruity jam on the scone, and who I am to judge. If you like it, it’s good!
I opted to start with one of Ard Bia’s freshly made juices, ginger, carrot, and apple. Still feeling tired from the flight and sluggish from a day of Thanksgiving eating, it was nice to get a burst of juicy nutrients. I chased my juice with a glass of Nero d’Avola, a beautiful Sicilian wine that warmed me up nicely on the brisk day.
My lunch was simple perfection, a bowl of roasted red pepper and tomato soup served with hearty brown bread and butter. For me, one slice for breaking up and tossing into the soup and one slice for eating slathered with Irish butter. Vegetable soups are featured on nearly every menu in Ireland, and they usually tend to be delicious and to hit the spot. Ireland’s weather, while it tends not to get as cold as the Northeast, is raw and makes it impossible to warm up. Hot soup, tea, whiskey, and wine all help.
Ard Bia translates to fine food in English, and while we didn’t experience some of their more creative dishes on this visit, we have eaten dinner here in the past. Local dishes, especially anything seafood based, are sure to please, and draw in tourists and locals alike.