Gastronomic Ireland – Cork Restaurant Recommendations
Cork is considered the “Food Capital of Ireland” and gastronomic tourists reap the benefits of this regions unique focus on food. Why is Cork so famous for food? For me the main reason is County Cork’s rich diversity of farmlands and artisan food producers, some which are even tourist friendly. Local Cork City chefs have unique access to these hyper-local ingredients at the English Market. This is why Cork restaurants thrive and attract foodie travelers from around the world. In the words of Sylvia Meulmeester, Food Champion of Cork, “Cork is the Best!”
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When you dine at one of Cork’s restaurants, “Farm to Table ” is a standard practice, making the food extremely healthy, seasonal and flavorful. Cork offers a wide variety of restaurants from pubs to fine dining. This post will highlight a restaurant in each category and provide you a bucket list of restaurants that I didn’t get to try.
Fine Dining - Greene’s Restaurant
The fine dining scene is Cork was relatively small for the size of the city and culinary prowess. With my limited time in Cork, I only had time to try one fine dining restaurant. Based on the recommendations of several local food bloggers, we tried Greene’s Restaurant at the Issac’s Hotel.
Greene’s restaurant perfectly fits into my description of modern Irish cuisine, fresh local Irish ingredients and a subtle influence of modern Mediterranean techniques. This is must try restaurant when you visit Cork. Located just over Bridge street, Greene’s Restaurant is located in the “locals” area of Cork, just steps away from the bustling and touristy St.Patrick’s street. You enter underneath an archway and are greeted with a lit waterfall at the entrance of the restaurant.
What we ordered:
Deep fried Ardsallagh Goats Cheese The core of this dish starts with very high quality goats cheese from a small family goat farm called Ardsallagh Farm. The cheese is very lightly battered in panko and and deep fried to deep brown color. The goats cheese balls are garnished with a sweet tomato marmalade and chunky walnut syrup. The rich goats cheese paired nicely with the sweet acidity of the tomato marmalade and sweet and bitters of the walnut compote syrup.
Scallops served in a Pastry Basket Pan seared Irish scallops were arranged on layers of flash baked pastry, julienne carrots, leaks and a tomato dressing. It was topped with micro greens and garnished with a green herb emulsion sauce. This dish is a great example of international influence making it’s way into modern Irish cuisine.
Grilled Skeaghanore Farm Duck Breast Grilled duck breast from Skeaghanore Farms is simply grilled to a perfect medium and served atop a fluffy potato mash and a red wine and shallot sauce. It is served with confit potatoes and ratatouille stuffed tomato. I really loved the flavor and presentation of the duck breast at Greenes. The red wine and shallot sauce was made with fat dripping, I could drink the stuff by the cup alone it was so good.
Pan-Fried Monkfish A fluffy cut of monkfish loin was pan seared to a light brown and served atop green beans and a saffron and fennel sauce. This dish was a study of flavor, from the sweet and buttery monkfish to the pronounced saffron and fennel sauce. I really enjoyed the saffron sauce with this dish. Keeping the monkfish company was a whole langoustine.
Upscale Casual Dining - Liberty Grill
Lamb Burger – The lamb burger is made with locally raised Balea lamb. It was served on a crispy thin bun, almost as what Americans would called a English Muffin. The burger was dressed with cucumber, dill mayo and soy tazatziki. The lamb burger had a herbal quality to the meat, perhaps it is the fact that grass fed Irish lambs eat wild herbs and clovers. County Cork lambs is simply amazing.
Crab Cake Appetizer – Liberty grill made a lovely crab cake that was chocked full of real crab meat and minimal fillers. Each bite was dense full of real crab meat. The crab cake had a crisp exterior and smooth interior, creating a wonderful texture contrast. It was garnished with lime and a sweet and tangy sauce. Locally caught crab makes the best crab cakes.
Key Lime Cheesecake – Like all the cheesecakes I experienced in Ireland, this one was also creamy soft and left a thick coating on your mouth after you take a bite. There was definitely fresh key limes grated into this pie as the flavors of sweet lime popped on the palate and was mellowed out by the cream.
Cork is the best place to experience an Full Irish Breakfast
Cork has a thriving Bed and Breakfasts community, many of them are located on Western Road, by the University. Coincidentally, these B&B’s are perhaps one of the better places to experience and authentic “Full Irish Breakfast.” Why? They are usually owned and operated by a Mom and Pop team and use their own family recipes for breakfast. Eating breakfast at a B&B is a little like eating breakfast at your favorite Grandma’s house. They will fuss over you until you are stuffed and can’t take another bite. Most B&B’s also get their ingredients from the English Market, so the ingredients are very fresh.
The owner of The Garnish House was not satisfied until I ate a full Irish Breakfast plate, fruit, coffee, tea, breakfast rolls and the fresh fish of the day. When she noticed that I was uncomfortably full, then she let me go. Most bed and breakfasts in Ireland charge a supplemental for their breakfast, so don’t be surprised when you are charged at checkout.
While Visiting Blarney Castle….
You can not visit Cork without making the compulsory tour of Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney stone. It is a right of passage for all tourist. One of the questions I received from many readers is there are places to eat nearby. Depending on your mood and time, you have two choices. First, you might consider packing a picnic with supplies gathered in Cork City and have a leisurely lunch at the picnic benches by the Blarney gift shop. Cork has plenty of little shops who can sell you cheese, meat and bread for a wonderful picnic.
Otherwise I recommend you cross the park and walk into Blarney town and enjoy a leisurely lunch in one of the pubs. We tried out the Muskery Arms pub, located in the village, just on the other side of the Blarney Stone Gift Shop. They made us a really nice casual lunch of Fish and Chips and a turkey Sandwich, of course I had a Guinness with my meal
Many pubs in small towns also double as a family restaurant. While we were sipping on a Guinness over my fish and chips, I noticed families coming and going. I asked the waiter about all the families entering the pub and he said in the day time, pubs are also family restaurants. Usually they have a separate dining hall in the back. I could hear the families in the back having good “craic. “
Other Restaurants and Culinary Destinations that I highly recommend in Cork
- The Cornstore – The Cornstore is known for their dry aged beef. Irish food bloggers and critics really love this restaurant. They have a nice wine bar and vegetarian options
- Address: 40a Cornmarket St Cork, IE
- Café Paradiso – This is perhaps the most well-known restaurant in Cork and is also a vegetarian restaurant. Located near the River Lee hotel, it is located in a quite spot in Cork. This restaurant takes advantage of the abundance of fresh produce from County Cork. Even if you are not vegetarian, expect and amazing meal.
- Address: 16 Lancaster Quay Cork, IE
- Jacobs on the Mall – This restaurant is a former bathouse that was converted to a restaurant. This restaurant is well respected by the critics. Fromers said they use “Fresh ingredients and focus on detail”
- 30a South Mall, Cork Ie
- Boqueria – A Spanish tapas bar in the hear of Cork. Cork has many Spanish transplants, so expect the food to be O.G.
- 6 Bridge St Cork, IE
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