Exploring TripAdvisor’s Top 20 Galway Restaurants in 20 Days

Galway__Ireland_Restaurants__See_250_restaurants_with_11_311_reviews_-_TripAdvisor

I’m in Galway, Ireland for a few weeks to do some work for a client.

The last time I was in Galway, I was here for year with my family. This time I’m here for 5 weeks without my family and no cooking facilities in my digs. Combine that with an allowance from my client that I can only get if I spend it, leaves me with  no choice really – I have to eat out.

So over the next 20 days, I intend to have dinner at 10 choices from the Top 20 restaurants in the Galway city center area (because they have to be within walking distance!) and another 10  – randomly selected – from all the other 230. I’ll blog about each one and perhaps suggest an alternative ranking based on my own experiences.

The aim, first and foremost,  is to get fed and have a good time getting so. The other is to check how wise the TripAdvisor crowd is. Is their #1 really worthy of being a #1?

Join me as I eat my way through Galway’s most popular eateries, sponsored by my client.

Some of the first restaurants I shall be checking out are:

How I intend on reviewing these restaurants

Well I’m no restaurant critic – I lack the pretension that I can tell my wines apart or that my steak is blue, green or grass fed.

Frankly I’m going with trying to review the entire experience – from making the reservation to how welcome they made me feel, how lovely their food looks, smells and tastes and  how accommodating they are to my requests. I’ll include how they value my time (I get fairly upset if I’m kept waiting too long for stuff) and I’ll consider the ambiance of the restaurant and the providence of their ingredients – locally sourced vs otherwise.

Where I can I would like to hear the story of the restaurant – preferably from someone other than the owner.

If there is anything you think I should include, please let me know and I’ll consider it.

Wish me luck, I’m doing this for you (ok, who am I kidding)!

People Are Mostly Good (or How I lost My Keys, Shat a Brick and Was Saved By The Kindness of a Stranger)

I recently had an experience that reminded me that people are mostly good. In fact, good people (i.e. people who do good things, often instinctively)  are everywhere.

I hope this helps remind you too.

Warning: This account involves mild to moderate panic, spontaneous anger, latent aggression and scheming that would put Wile. E. Coyote to shame.  Enjoy.

Life is Not a Walk in the Park

It was a lovely West of Ireland day (which basically means ‘sunny with an ever-present threat of lashing winds and rain’) and my family and I decided to take a walk on the Salthill promenade, via a little play park  – so we could exhaust the boys on the kids play things.

Somewhere on this walk, the seeds of my frustrating night were sown. I must admit, I was a grumpy old man on this walk – as though I knew of the impending doom!

After about 90 minutes of hanging out with my family and with the weather turning unfriendly, we headed back to the car park to head home for some dinner.

The Keys! The KEYS! Where the hell are the Keys?

I reached into my jacket for the familiar feel of my car keys, but alas, there was nothing but pocket liner and a used tissue! ‘Don’t panic Michael’ – wailed my inner voice (full of panic).
The future unfolded in my mind  like a horror movie that I was forced to watch.

As everyone does in this situation, I searched every pocket and even ones I thought I had – NOTHING!  I searched again and again, as though the keys were playing an impromptu game of hide and seek with me.  Not a trace, nada!

My facilitator mind kicked in.  I grumped to the lovely Katharine that I lost the keys and that I needed to retrace my steps. She needed to look after the boys so I didn’t have to worry about them.

Katharine: ‘Are you sure, have you checked your pockets’
Me: [Angry, very angry] ‘Of course I’m sure, I’m not some kind of nincompoop’ (aside from losing keys, of course).  

I set off retracing our steps (which thankfully were not many and the light was still good). No sign of the bloody keys.

What started out as mild panic turned into a potential diplomatic incident (I am a Brit in Ireland after all).  We called the Garda (the cops, the fuzz, the old bill) to let know them that we had lost keys and please could they call us if anyone handed them in. Then we headed off to a café to contemplate the consequences and figure out our options over a latte and a panini (must we starve as well as panic?).

The Bogeyman Has The Keys and Will Soon Have Your Car and your Life.

People are mostly good, I believe that almost wholeheartedly – I have experienced enough of the goodness of people to know.
I say ‘almost wholeheartedly’ because when faced with this situation, I chose to believe that some nameless, faceless mastermind criminal had found the keys, knew that my car was parked in this specific car park and clearly intended to come back later to steal it.

Katharine and I went over the options.
This was a rental – so the most I would lose would be the insurance excess – aside from the bloody inconvenience of making claims , revoking cards (Katharine’s handbag was in the car also) and the like, this was acceptable. I could get replacement keys on Monday (today was Saturday), so the singular issue was how to secure the car and prevent the evil Criminal Mastermind from pinching it.

Forget the limited financial loss, I was shitting a brick that the Criminal Mastermind would win the day. I visualised how he would vandalise my car, violating my space. Whatever options I had, I had to stop this from happening.

Good People Make Your Problem Their Problem

One of the first things I did was call the rental company (Avis in Shannon). A very nice guy – Patrick –  answered and I explained the situation to him. He thought about it and , I’ll remember this for a long time, he said “Our options for this problem are…”.  The inclusiveness of himself in my problem was heartwarming. He immediately made me feel less alone.  He could have given me the company policy of “You are liable [blah blah blah]”. But he didn’t.

Patrick was magnificent. He called locksmiths on my behalf, spoke with the car recovery company and basically sprung to action on my behalf.

Good People Think About You and With You

Of course, my house keys were also unavailable (I had locked them in the car too!), so the challenge of how might we get back into the house was a real one.  We called our landlady to get her parents’ number – so we could get a spare from them (because she lives in a different town to us).  We explained the situation and she was so empathetic.  As it turned out, she was in town and offered to come pick us up with the spare key . We agreed to be picked up 45 minutes later (it was during this time we had our light , hasty supper).

Our lovely landlady – Emer, newly wedded ( no kids,  very hip chick) – shows up in a family sized car with 2 child seats!!   In the time it took to come into town, she had somehow commandeered a car with child seats so that my children could travel home safely.  I was lost for words, Katharine was speechless (a rare treat!). Our love for Ireland just got upgraded!

Good People Don’t Seek Recognition

I’ll save you the detail but here is what I tried/considered to secure the car in the car park…

  • Hire a clamp and clamp a wheel till Monday
    Didn’t happen, couldn’t figure out where to rent a clamp (might be a business opportunity to explore though)
  • Hire a tow truck and tow the car home (spent a good deal of time on this with a tow truck guy)
    Didn’t work because the car park has a height barrier that prevented the tow truck from coming into the park.
  • Sleep in the car park overnight and keep watch over my car
    Are you kidding me!?
  • Immobilise the car by letting the air out of two of the tyres – late breaking idea from my neighbour!

Finally, as I was about to leave home to let the air out of the two of the tyres, the phone rang.  It was the Gardai.

Garda: Mike Sutton?  I have some good news for you.

Me: Oh wonderful, someone found the keys?

Garda: Yes, Fella just walked in and handed them in.

Me: Fantastic, what was his name, I would love to thank him, maybe buy him a pint.

Garda: Oh, he didn’t leave his name. Just walked in.

 

All’s Well Ends Well

I have never really understood what this actually means. All wasn’t well , even if it did end well!

However, this experience led me to reflect on how I came to not expect that people would be good, by default.
How did I conjure up this Bogeyman (aka Criminal Mastermind)?  Why did I choose to indulge in the fantasy that , despite my experience to the contrary, he would triumph and had to be stopped.

It also got my inventive juices flowing. I imagined a device that you could put on a keyring and never had to again suffer the indignity of not finding lost keys. These guys beat me to it.