Galway 26

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I tend to tell it like it is. Sometimes I use this space for a full-on rant, like the post I wrote about how terrible customer service seems to be in Ireland. The post garnered a whopping 40 comments from you, which proved I wasn’t the only one feeling irked by careless service industry workers!

Well today I am happy to be able to share not just one great customer service experience but a whole weekend’s worth of kind, caring service stories with you readers. Last weekend Mountaineering Man and I took a little escape to the lovely city of Galway and though we didn’t expect it were treated to some of the best customer service I’ve experienced since moving here.

hotel meyrick

It started when we checked into the Hotel Meyrick, a beautiful historical hotel smack dab in the middle of the city square. We’d booked the hotel because they offered a great value weekend package that included a standard room with full breakfasts for two days as well as dinner one night at their Oyster Grill restaurant for a very reasonable price. When we arrived the friendly check-in clerk told us we’d been upgraded to a junior suite at no additional cost! I appreciated that the Meyrick understands how valuable giving free upgrades can be; if the suite isn’t booked out it’s basically no extra cost to the hotel to give it to a paying customer. The customer leaves happy and recommends the hotel to friends – it’s a simple but effective marketing tool.

Galway 28 We were absolutely delighted with our spacious and finely-appointed suite; we had a huge king-sized bed, a nice sitting area and a large foyer with ample closets. Our bathroom, which was beautifully done in dark marble from top-to-bottom, was absolutely massive! We also had a nice view of Eyre Square from our window. Every member of staff we encountered at the hotel was on top of his/her game; from the bell boys to the valet folk, everyone went out of their way to be friendly and helpful.

After unpacking we decided to take a stroll around the city and grab lunch. As we walked down Shop Street a man stopped me and handed me a little paper bag. “A free gift to celebrate the first anniversary of Sweetie Pies!” he said. Inside the bag was the most perfect little chocolate cupcake topped with edible glittering sprinkles. Here I was, still on a happy high from our check-in experience at the hotel, and a stranger hands me a free chocolate cupcake. It was surreal, in a good way!

katsu We thanked the man profusely and went on our way to Kappa-ya, a little Japanese cafe that came highly recommended by a number of foodie friends. As soon as we looked at the menu, I knew I was in for a treat. I’m originally from Japan and I miss authentic Japanese food terribly – it seems impossible to find really simple, home-cooked dishes of Japan in Ireland. But Kappa-ya does all my favourites, including the katsu-donburi – which I ordered. It’s a crispy pork cutlet coated with Tonkatsu sauce, a tangy brown sauce, on a bowl of steaming hot rice. My meal came with a small side salad of juicy tomato wedges, crisp lettuce leaves and thin slices of cool cucumber drizzled with the most perfect Japanese dressing – the attention to detail here is *so* Japanese! There’s a lot of thought and effort put into every detail of each dish and it shows. MM had the tofu teriyaki bowl and miso soup, both excellent. The half-Japanese, half-Irish waitress was friendly and helpful. When she realized I’d left my sunglasses on the table, she ran down the street to give them back to me. [Editor’s Note: Apologies for the grainy food pics, most were taken with MM’s iPhone or my Blackberry!].

tapas tapas 2 Tofu

Later that evening, we went to dinner at another highly recommended restaurant – Cava. The tapas restaurant has an impressive menu of dozens of authentic Spanish tapas dishes; it took us forever to decide what to order! We enjoyed everything from the cured meat plate to the potatas bravas. The service here was also spot-on and there was an additional highlight at the end of our meal. I decided to buy a jar of Cava’s house Romesco sauce to take home, but I noticed all of the jars had an expiry date that had already passed (though the sauces inside the jars looked fine). I mentioned it to the waitress and she went into the kitchen to tell one of the owners. She told me that though the sauces had just been made two days prior, someone had accidentally put old labels on the jars. She handed me two bottles of the Romesco sauce and said chef and owner JP McMahon wanted to give them to me for pointing out their mistake. I tried to pay for them but she insisted. Amazing!

pork terrine

For our last evening in the city we opted to dine in at the Oyster Grill, as one dinner there was included in the Hotel Meyrick package. Our food was first-rate; I had a starter of goat cheese salad topped with crispy prosciutto, a main course of salmon with tomato and fresh basil and a lovely strawberry tart for dessert. MM had a pork terrine starter, the same salmon main and a peach gateau – everything was delicious. The waitress was not only efficient but friendly. When she realized I was American she told us of her recent stay in San Francisco and we had a short but nice conversation with her. After dinner we went to the Oyster Bar of the hotel and enjoyed a few drinks before retiring for the evening.

I left Galway with a renewed sense of confidence and faith in Irish customer service. The people we encountered throughout the weekend took pride in their work and at the risk of sounding condescending, that was really nice to see.

Galway, you’re gorgeous!