Aniar is the third best restaurant in Galway. If we are to believe the TripAdvisor rankings, that is. Yes, the only Michelin starred restaurant in the whole of Galway currently takes the bronze behind the "consistently good” Gourmet Tart Company and the "excellent little gem" that is Oscar's Seafood Bistro. With The Galleon and Kirwan's Lane restaurant completing the top five, you may or may not agree with this analysis of the current state of dining in Galway.
But a quick look at the reviews for the newly-starred Aniar will show that there is something not quite right with the system. While the contributors are in general fair and honest, now and again an isolated bad experience skews the numbers often leaving fine dining restaurants like The West in Barna out-ranked by cute, popular, little cafes like Cupán Tae on Spanish Arch. Like is not compared with like.
There are a few 'inarticulate rants' wherein restaurant owners are painted as dishonest crooks trying to separate the general public from their cash instead of decent people working their way through a recession in an industry with notoriously tight margins. Of course, and I of all people should know, restaurant criticism requires no qualifications. If you can afford your lunch, you are perfectly entitled to write about it. Bloggers, bon viveurs and the army of virtual food critics do so every day.
While most reported to be "blown away" by Aniar with the food being "absolutely amazing and excellently presented", a small but vocal minority had their “worst meal in years” and found it to be “pretensious (sic) & waste of money”
I have never eaten there myself, early criticism from friends had persuaded me to give them more time to find their feet before venturing in and I also find it difficult to pass by Cava next door, where I know I will get a quality meal at a good price. Alas, now I will just have to join the very long queue forming for a table.
The reviews for Aniar clearly show what kind of establishment it is and what sort of cuisine is on offer, as much can be gleaned from the negative comments as the positive. One person's 'cramped dining room' is another persons 'cosy, intimate setting'. Are you an adventurous eater? Is fine dining your thing? No? Then keep on walking. There are 190 other places to choose from and one of them will suit you. Common sense can tell you that if you are the sort of person who puts salt on your food before tasting it, likes portions that will require an elasticated waistband and absolutely must have chips - you might not be happy with your experience there.
In general, I believe that these types of restaurant recommendations sites and their advice is informative and useful in avoiding a mediocre meal that will not be to your taste. But overall you would be well advised to take TripAdvisor and their ilk with a large pinch of Maldon.