Glenlo Abbey Hotel – The Pullman Restaurant
A couple of months ago, I was invited to stay at the Glenlo Abbey Hotel and eat at the Pullman restaurant.
I adore Galway and I didn’t have to be asked twice! I had heard great things about the Pullman restaurant and I was more than happy to grab a night away in the luxurious surroundings of the newly refurbished hotel.
The Pullman Restaurant is nestled on the expanse of green that lies between the Glenlo Abbey and the banks of Lough Corrib. On a clear day, you will catch a glimpse of Ashford Castle, across the (very large) pond, in Cong.
A visit to Galway also means I get to say howya to Cathal McBride, the big sounder that it is. Cathal was my guest at the Pullman restaurant. He was the perfect companion for me on this particular occasion as he enjoys the finer things in life and loves food. Especially local food, seasonal food, which is exactly what you can expect from the Pullman Restaurant. It was great fun discussing the menu and trying to imagine the dishes
I never did see the Glenlo Abbey before its refurbishment but the executive chef, Dominique Majecki, kindly gave me a grand tour of the property, the many dining area options and more importantly of the kitchens. From what he explained, I know the refurbishment was extensive. We’re talking air con, new wardrobes, coffee docks and painting. The estate grounds have had major work completed: two car parks have been extended which means the third car park is now a gorgeous garden. This means the view from the bedrooms is much greener than it used to be and the environment generally more pleasant. Final planning permission has been obtained and it will see Glenlo add another 25 rooms to the property. This will bring the total number of rooms to 75
I was extremely trigger happy as myself and Dominique strolled through the property and I’ve added some of the photos below. I’m no interior decorator but I found the decor absolutely beautiful. The only way to describe it is cosy luxury. Gorgeous wall paper and art pieces everywhere you look. There are nooks and crannies and hidden spots to curl up and read all over the place and as much as the gardens are glorious on a sunny day, the hotel must be gloriously inviting on a rainy afternoon. Log fires and muted lighting along with the most welcoming of personnel add to the homely feeling of the Glenlo Abbey.
Much like Hunters Hotel in Wicklow, Glenlo Abbey is listed on Ireland’s Blue Book. Its understated charm and wonderful charm makes it the kind of place that would make you feel at welcome, cared for and at home.
The accomodation was fantastic but truly, the Pullman restaurant was the highlight of my stay. The cooking is adventurous but not overly etheral. The head chef is Michael Safarik and he is originally from Bratislava, Slovakia where he studied five years at a prestige Hotel academy and management school, specialising in cooking in Slovakia, Bratislava. He trained under Frantisek Janata the president of Slovakian Union of chefs. He arrived in Ireland in 2004 and his career has been exceptional. Amongst others, he has worked at the Lyrath Estate, in Ashford Castle and he was part of the opening team of Loam in Galway.
At the age of 15 he decided to become a chef and his inspiration was his family’s Sunday lunch and traditional chicken broth. Broth is something you still find on his menu. When I was there it was, the stand out dish was the most simple one, some lamb sweet breads served with chopped greens in the most delicate broth I had ever had. Hours and the best ingredients went in that broth and when I’m feel unwell, I often thing back to that glorious liquid.
Dinner in the Pullman restaurant is definitely a unique experience. Very randomly, the carriage you dine in, once transported the dead body of Wiston Churchill. How’s that for a slice of history?
Below are some photos of the dinner. I know very little about wine so Cathal chose it. All I can tell you is that I loved it.
Finally, I want to tell you about the lovely long chat I had with Dominique Majecki, the executive chef. It was particularly pleasant and relaxing as like me, he’s been away from France for about half his life and we speak this kind jumpy Franglish which is so good for a tired head. It doesn’t matter if we start the sentence in French and shift to English halfway through because we both know what we’re trying to say. It’s something I have found with most long term french expats and I love it.
Dominique is from Laval in France and he arrived in Ireland in 2000. By now, he has been cooking for 23 years. I asked him a few questions as I am wont to do.
How did you get into cooking?
I use to hang around my grand uncle’s bakery as a kid. I was going to the market every weekend with my family, always helped in the kitchen from a young age. I decided to go to catering school and start a career in the hospitality industry.
What’s the difference between a head chef and an executive chef?
Depending on the size of the establishment you are working for, I see the headchef as being more able to focus on the food whereas the executive chef has a lot more administrative and management duties to deal with.
What is Irish food?
It’s a very good question and I dont know if there is one right answer. Irish food as such evolves all the time. I think a lot of chef have travelled a lot and are back now to show that ireland is not just stew or bacon and cabbage. There are a lot of very good products in ireland and a lot of wild products too. Times have changed and we are educating ourselves a lot more about what’s available to us and we love to pass it on to our guest.
I find it very easy to build strong relationships with our local suppliers here at Glenlo. We order direct from a few farmers (Castlemine farm, Andarl farm, Galway Goat farm, Dooncastle oysters, aran island cheese, leah beekeeping for honey…) rather than just going to big suppliers for everything.
I think that’s what’s exciting about irish food. It is the combination of producers who thrive to create products that are unique to ireland and chefs who are engaged with them to make food that could compete with the best in the world.
What’s your favourite cuisine?
I should really say french🙂 but I have travelled a bit and I love all kinds of food. Asian and south American are the two I like to explore at home at the moment. I do my bit of cooking at home but Aedin (my partner )is also a very good cook. My 2 daughters are getting involved a lot more which make diner time interesting sometimes.
Tell us about a memorable meal you have eaten.
My top outstanding meal was at Geranium in Copenhagen. It was very creative cooking and fun meal each course had its own story and each dish was more amazing than the last. It’s been 7 years and I still remember it like it was yesterday.
What do you think make the food special at the Glenlo Abbey and the Pullman restaurant?
I think it’s the quality, we work closely with our suppliers to make sure we get the best for our guests but also the creativity and passion of the team who works hard everyday to produce the food.
The menu at the Pullman restaurant is inspired by nature and locally sourced food. Foraged food is a big part of the menu. Michael Safarik manages the kitchen for me. He is a very talented chef and bring new ideas and flavours to the guests all the time. We change the menu seasonally but also whenever a new product comes along that we feel should have its place there.
PS: Final note, whilst the hotel is fully accessible, the Pullman restaurant is far too narrow for a wheelchair user. Someone with limited mobility might manage it but it is small space and you should be aware of it.