Go Fork Yourself: Cactus Jacks, Galway
That Cactus Jacks is hardly fine dining is beside the point. It’s got an intentionally broad remit: Mexican fare for the Irish palate, more theme than cuisine. It functions best as a friendly place to grab a tasty meal before a night out – it’s lively and central – so while you’re expecting a flavoursome nosh-up, you know it’s not going to be Michelin starred. That said, our most recent visit to the popular eaterie fell quite a bit short of even that modest mark.
We’d booked a table for three on a Saturday night and naturally, the place was full of chattering diners. We were seated immediately by the friendly maître d’, but our menus were brought by a rather less enthusiastic waitress, who was pleasant enough but very much moving on auto-pilot. As it was a weekend booking, we had agreed to vacate the table an hour and a half after arriving for the next seating – no problem, as that’s more than enough time for dinner with a couple of friends. We ordered promptly – main courses only – and opted for a bottle of Yellow Tail Pinot Grigio, which was slow to arrive. We waited another twenty-five full minutes for our food, a bit of a drag, but something one could waive given that the place was full.
My companions both had the Tiger Prawn Chimichanga and I had the vegetarian enchiladas. The portions were off-puttingly massive, but the food was tasty and went down rather too easily. One of my companions asked for a portion of guacamole alongside her main; it arrived in a tiny pot such as you’d find the usual condiments, but with an alarmingly non-condiment price of €1.95 attached, excessive for the measly portion allowed. The heat of the dishes was well-balanced, with just enough of a kick to challenge unadventurous Irish palates.
It took another half an hour for our server to clear the plates and bring us the dessert menu, irritating, considering we had agreed to vacate the table for another booking. I chose the Chocolate Fudge Truffle Pie, one of my companions joined me, and the other opted for the Banoffee. The server asked if we wanted coffee, which we weren’t ready for given we were still drinking wine, and otherwise left us alone – an offer of the cocktail menu may have been taken up had she thought of it (three thirtysomething women dressed up for the evening and you don’t offer them the cocktail menu? Missing a trick there, lads), but in the end we were glad we hadn’t called her back as our desserts arrived just ten minutes before our set finishing-up time.
The banoffee was bland, set on a biscuit base which was much, much too hard (to the extent that a knife might have been a good companion to the dessert fork), and our Chocolate Fudge Truffle Pies were actually just chocolate fudge cake, which you don’t need to be a pedant to agree isn’t exactly the same thing. My fellow chocoholic grumbled that they could have at least heated up the cakes before they arrived at the table, but a couple of forkfuls later, we realised they had warmed them up, but they’d obviously been left sitting on the counter long enough to cool back down again. They were moist and sweet slices, but they weren’t pie. And they were bloody late.
The bill for a main, dessert and wine came to €30 each. We did manage to get out in time, but only because we didn’t finish our desserts. Still, with Neachtains only around the corner, it was just as well we didn’t have much to walk off.
Cactus Jacks is on Druid Lane, Quay Street, Galway. Tel: 091 563838