Q&A: Aoife Flaherty, Gather, Tuam

Aoife Flaherty of Gather restaurant, Tuam, Galway

The décor and atmosphere of a restaurant are crucial to the quality of the dining experience. Care taken over colours and cutlery undoubtedly complements the food, drink and service. Aoife Flaherty from Gather in Tuam tells Barbara Collins how she took inspiration from her travels, her hometown, and charity shops when she curated the award-winning restaurant’s look.

“I really like the industrial kind of style, but it’s everywhere, so we wanted to keep things rustic and industrial in a way but use natural materials as well. I wanted it to be welcoming. That was the big thing so that people wouldn’t feel intimidated or that it would be too pretentious,” said Aoife.

Food for Thought – FFT.ie: The tables are quite rough-hewn. Are they recycled?
They are scaffolding planks that we sourced in Abbeyknockmoy where we are from. There are two brothers who live out there who are builders. They had these scaffolding planks that were for the dump. They couldn’t be used again. They were covered in paint. So our carpenter took them back, brought them back and sanded them and made the tables. They were upcycled.

I like the fact that they are from Abbey and they weren’t fit for anything but they were upcycled. It’s the same with some of the light fittings on the wall. They came from trees which had to be cut down on our land. They were going to be used for firewood, but we were able to use some of the wood.

This place used to be an Italian restaurant. It seemed smaller?
It was quite dark in here. There was a suspended ceiling so we took that down and that gave us a lot of space. There was a lot of brown, orange and yellow. There was carpet on the stairs so we just got rid of all of that and tried to brighten it up. The palette that we used has a lot of greys, whites and off whites with the teal as an accent colour.

The art is quite modern.
Yes, we have the work of a local artist Ciara. I went to school with her. She saw an Instagram post before we opened of the colours we were using and she approached us and said she thought that she had something suitable. That’s her piece there on the wall.

There are lots of jars of pickles on display and there are flowers in a beautiful blue teapot. Where did you get that idea from?
That’s just random. I love charity shops. The teapot could be from my house, I don’t remember, or it could have been a charity shop find. We use lots of jam jars and pots too. All of the vases are from second hand shops as well.

What about the crockery and the cutlery? Where did that come from?
We don’t do tablecloths. We like the rustic, casual look. I like stuff that looks natural. The crockery is from Bunzl. I’d love at some stage to do our own pottery range but that’s down the line. I’d like customers to be able to buy what we use in the restaurant.

You have a dresser with some products for sale. Is that something you want do more of?
Definitely. We have some products which we make here ourselves and we also like to showcase what’s available in the West of Ireland. At the moment, there is tomato relish, salsa verde and red onion jam – all from Gather and Connemara Organic Seaweed, The Lodge flavoured mustards and beeswax candles and wraps.

How has your style evolved over the years?
Again, Instagram is huge for this. I suppose I take lots from different places. There is some Galway City in there from when I was involved in Il Vicolo. What is huge for me is Venice in California in LA. There are certain restaurants there. I haven’t been to them yet but I love what they are doing. They do the lifestyle goods and homewares and all that stuff. Everything just looks so fresh and clean. So, I take bits and pieces from everywhere but I don’t feel like it’s too sophisticated here. I want it to be approachable.


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