As Cava rises phoenix-like from the flames on Middle Street in the city centre, its old lodgings have been given a makeover into a Scandi-style eatery known as Dela. On walking in the door, it's impossible for any regular of the previous occupant not to compare one to the other. The layout is pretty much the same, there's a lunch-time deal of soup and a sandwich with coffee for €10 just like the old days and they have Patatas Bravas on the menu, but then again, who doesn't these days? And there ends the similarities, as they are as different as the proverbial chalk and a sharing plate of Sheridan's cheese.
Dela is owned and run by local couple Joe and Margaret Bohan. So, what inspires a couple to open a restaurant in a space previously occupied by one of Galway's best loved restaurants? Would you have to be certifiable or just confident to open in an area of the city that is home to many of the cities best eateries? Take 'Kai' for a start, just this weekend was announced the best restaurant in all of Connacht with Jess Murphy being highly commended as best chef to boot. There's the very popular 'Oscars Seafood Bistro' and the amazing value in 'Rouge'. If you are going to be the meat in the sandwich between barbecue kings 'Creole' on one side and the Michelin-starred 'Aniar' on the other, then you had better have something special to bring to the table. Luckily for them, they do.
The dining room at Dela is lovely and bright with clean, simple lines and wooden tables dressed with pretty pots of herbs. The weekend brunch has all the favorites along with some more unusual items, Sourdough Toast with Cheddar and Marmalade; Bellinis; Bloody Marys and Affogatos. Even their fry is made extra special with eggs from their own hens. The newly started lunch menu has Beef Ragu served with potato gratin; or Spanish Omelette with roast peppers and saffron aioli to choose from along with the aforementioned Sandwich & Soup combo, keenly priced with all items €10.00 and under.
The Bohans are very hands on in Dela. Margaret, graciousness personified, greets the guests herself at front of house and it was she who seated me when I popped in for dinner last week. She is also green fingered and grows lots of the herbs, salad leaves and gorgeous edible flowers used in the kitchen, but not the tomatoes. She doesn't want to talk about the tomatoes. The tables are provided with complimentary breads and compound butters, not that common anymore and a nice surprise. We had a sundried tomato butter and a pesto one which were lovely, particularly with the freshly baked focaccia and brown bread.
The evening menu reads well at the beginning and end, with some difficult territory to navigate in between. First are the Sharing Plates – charcuterie, cheese or seafood in sizes small and large and using the best of Irish ingredients and local suppliers. The menu also includes traditional main meals – Steak, Pork Belly or Sea Bass with vegetables and potatoes for an additional €3.95 for each.
Then there are Tasting Plates – which are starters by another name; a selection of Salads/Plates and lastly 'Small Plates' which one might take to mean tapas, but are not. Matched with a very good wine list with some classic reds and whites, divided into new and old world for ease of choice and the best of Irish Craft Brews such as Trouble, Dungarvan, Kinsale, Tom Crean, O'Haras and Stonewell.
We started with one of the Sharing Plates, a classic combination of seared Rossaveal scallops with black pudding. It looked a picture and came with a river of lemon cream and a buttery bright green, pea purée. This was a glorious plate of food that I will no doubt daydream about for years to come.
A main of Monkfish for my companion came with a cream sauce studded with vanilla seeds on a buttery hill of mash, a side of ratoutille included. We also had the Patatas Bravas and the Sautéed King Prawns in garlic and chilli from the Small Plates. While the potatoes were as expected, the prawns lacked a little in both chilli and garlic and sat uncomfortably with a salad full of walnuts and parsnip crisps. It's inclusion in the small plates was questionable as it was a sizable plate of food.
Dessert choices of the day included Bread and Butter Pudding and an Eton mess. We had a nice, chewy Chocolate and Hazelnut Brownie, and a Lemon Tart with berries which suffered from a bit of a soggy bottom. The desserts were just a little on the 'rustic' side - perfectly alright for the day menu with a coffee, but lacking in elegance for an evening menu, more of a plating issue than a tasting one.
For a four month old, Dela is already a solid performer with a growing club of regulars. The brunch and lunch menu offer real value for money for such good quality food. There's a little fine tuning and tinkering required for the evening menu as one or two menu items are conspicuous by seeming immoderately high in comparison to the rest, but Dela is certainly more than good, getting better and has all of the potential to be exceptional. All-in-all Dela is a great addition to the West-End's dining district and another great reason to make that river crossing.
Dela Restaurant, 51 Lower Dominick Street, Galway. Tel: (091) 449252. Currently open every day from 12 until late.