At its best, a restaurant’s cuisine should act as a mirror of the place in which the food is produced, cooked and served. The food on the plate should reveal the work of the people whose craft brings forth the foods you are eating, and it should offer you the sense of the place in which these people work. The cooking in Aniar, in Galway’s West End, does exactly that. Jp McMahon has travelled non-stop over the last couple of years, and it shows in his cooking. The food in Aniar today is more flamboyant, and more personal, than before. McMahon and his team – and he has several brilliant young talents alongside him – have found a new pitch for their restaurant. The cooking of the ingredients acts as an aleph to the entire region. You see the place – the west of Ireland – through the magic of this cooking, its scents, textures, culture, history, its potential. It’s fitting, too, that Mr McMahon has such a fondness for using one ingredient or utensil to act as a nest for another ingredient, whether it’s a tiny spoon hand-carved in County Mayo, or a piece of soused herring on a crisped leek skin. A hen’s egg is cut across the top, then filled with a pillow of potato foam with duck confit at the bottom, and a single slice of pickled onion is the nest for Mossfield organic yogurt. McMahon is cradling his ingredients right to the plate. Cashel Blue cheese is baked into the tiniest, fluffiest scone. Galway Hooker stout fortifies a sublime brown soda bread, whilst Dingle Gin is the marinade for sliced cucumber. Venison from Scariff is fashioned into tartare and comes with malt crumbs and gooseberry. Plate after plate is both a visual, tactile and sensual delight. This is landscape cooking, with every ingredient you can imagine summoned to play its part, from girolle to Atlantic wakame to arrow grass. Aniar offers transcendent cooking, the taste of the people, the place and the products.
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