"Martine's Heart Coeliacs", says the menu.
I Heart Martine's, too.
We arrived at the bar downstairs, waited for a small throng in front of us to be turned away disappointed, and proudly announced that we had a reservation. We were immediately shown up an unglamourous staircase ('Oh rubbish, they're going to stick us in the overflow') into an intimate, low-lit space ('Score!'). Offered our choice of table, we selected one at a jaunty angle to the bay window so both of us could look down onto colourful Quay Street. Our coats were taken from us, and we were left comfortably to ponder the menu as well as some fun art by Martine herself.
In Galway, you just have to go for oysters. Shunning the baked alternative, I went for six plainly presented Galway Bay oysters, served with parsley and a wedge of lemon. These bad boys were fresher than fresh, barely a briney scent; they tasted minerally and then sweet and perfumed. I was in heaven. Sarah had the chicken liver pâté, which she awarded a confident 8/10.
Martine's excels in both turf and surf. Cuts of steak and catches of fish vary daily, and are displayed on a chalk board. Our waitress recommended the cheapest fish dish on there, wild plaice, for its buttery, flaky flesh - and man alive was she right. Served on a bed of mushroom risotto, it sang an uncomplicated but beautiful solo. 'For research purposes', I sampled Sarah's steak - robust flavour and cooked perfectly, served with sweet slow-cooked onions - and chips - earthy, chunky, golden, a solid B+ grade from a tough marker.
Filling fare to restore and comfort at the end of a frosty day's exploring the West. No dessert required (the bill was presented along with mini chocolate brownies), but we enjoyed a glass of wine each. Sarah had an easy-drinking French Les Jamelles 2010 Merlot, and I surprised us both by opting for a crisp, dry Italian with a name I can't remember. Very decent wine list.
All in all, a quintessentially Galwegian dining experience: friendly, self-assuredly Irish with a Latin twist, top-notch local produce from land and sea, and memorable for all the right reasons.
Martine's menu is mostly coeliac-friendly or can be made so with a few minor tweaks. Staff are helpful and knowledgeable about gluten-free food. Highly trustworthy and coeliacs won't feel limited in their menu choices.
Starters €5-12, Mains €12-30, Wine by the glass €5-7.50 (Lunch menu also available)
www.winebar.ie 21 Quay Street, Galway, Ireland 00353 91 565662