It wasn’t too difficult a decision to turn down the complimentary breakfast service at our hotel in Galway. The day before my friend and I had passed a slew of cafes, bakeries and pie shops on our walk down to the pier. Each one had its own charm that beckoned us in to enjoy a coffee and a pastry on the terrace under the rising sun. We decided on a attractive little patisserie named Le Petit Délice, which had its counters and cases fully stocked with fresh French pastries by 9 in the morning. Our eyes wandered over the cakes, the mousses, the tarts and eclairs, the beautifully formed meringues and sugar-dusted chocolate tortes. Breakfast items were crumbly, flaky and undeniably fresh. The croissants looked hand-rolled and the pain au raisin had the perfect layer of glossy sugar-syrup coating it. On the counter were baskets of the more rustic 2-bite breads, rolls and pastries.
A very pleasant, Polish blonde helped us with our order; not a trace of early morning gloom on her bright and smily countenance. “For here or to go?” came her mildly accented, sing-song voice.
We asked for two coffees, a savory cheese gougère, a chouquette and a strawberry-rhubarb crumble to share. The gougère was an absolute joy to eat. A crunchy cap of melted and hardered gruyère cheese sat atop a pillow-soft ball of choux puff pastry – firm yet spongy on the exterior and largely hollow inside. It’s an airy thing, biting into which is a sensation similar to eating a buñol de vent, but a savory version. The flaky dough tumbles in on itself, revealing a slippery-wet, eggy interior and a center of smokey, cheese-scented air. It’s the perfect contrast of golden-brown, baked crust and a dough inside that feels ever so slightly undercooked, but in that satisfying, runny omelet kind of way. I regret only getting one of these, especially considering that they were under €1 and that we would be setting out on a long drive to the Cliffs of Moher right after breakfast. When in Galway, I recommend nabbing at least a handful of these guys.
Or if you’re in the mood for a sweet breakfast then grab some chouquettes, the sweet version of the latter. Same deal: golden brown and caramelized, flaky choux crust and an airy, soft interior still slightly wet from the steam formed as the ball of dough cooks. Instead of smokey cheese, the chouquette gets a jacket of thin sugar glaze and is studded with crunchy bits of pearl sugar. Again, you’re going to want a bag of these for later.
We also chose a strawberry-rhubarb crumble, which seemed to be the only Anglo-Saxon pastry in a sea of French delicacies. The cake was still warm, doubtless freshly baked for morning patrons. A sinfully buttery cap of caramelized, flaky dough crumbled into crunchy clusters that provided perfect little bursts of texture and sweetness against the tangy, bright red strawberry and rhubarb below. The jammy fruit filling had the perfect balance of acidity with natural sweetness and left a refreshing, clean feeling on the palate. The side crusts of the pie were baked to perfection. They were stiff but not hard, flaky though firm enough to hold up to the moist fruit inside. Served on the side was a ramekin of lovely, hand-whipped chantilly to smear on each forkful of cake. The smooth, white cream hydrated and added decadence to each bite.
If I had spent a week in Galway City I probably would’ve returned to Le Petit Délice for breakfast and afternoon tea each day. There were so many beautiful things there I would have loved to try! For flaky, fresh and buttery baked goods in the city by the sea look no further than this delightful pastisserie on Mainguard St.