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Gastronomic Ireland Part 5 – Top Picks for Cork Restaurants

Gastronomic Ireland Part 5 – Top Picks for Cork Restaurants

Gastronomic Ireland – Cork Restaurant Recommendations

Cork Ireland English Market Farmgate Food Capital

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!”

Ireland Cork Restaurants Farm Fresh Collage

County Cork is the California of Ireland, diverse in farmlands and artisinal food producers. Cork Restaurants take advantage of these fresh ingredients.

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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.

Ireland Cork Greenes exterior

Greene’s restaurant in located on the other side of Bridge Street 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.

Ireland Cork Restaurants Greene's
Greene’s Restaurant has a nice waterfall and bay windows. It is very relaxing to gaze out at the waterfall after a full day of touring.


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. 

Deep fried Ardsallagh Goats Cheese- One of the best I tried in Ireland

Deep fried Ardsallagh Goats Cheese- One of the best I tried in Ireland


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.

Ireland Cork Restaurants Greene's

You can see the subtle meddeteranian influence in this scallops dish. Amazing flavors in this dish.

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.

The flavors in this duck dish were pure and simple, allowing the duck to stake center stage on this dish.

The flavors in this duck dish were pure and simple, allowing the duck to stake center stage on this dish.


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.

This locally caught Monkfish melted in my mouth like butter.

This locally caught Monkfish melted in my mouth like butter.

Blood Orange and Honeycomb Cheesecake was a unique presentation of “cheesecake”. Irish dairy is probably the best ingredient on the Island, so it made a great excuse to eat cheesecake in almost every meal. This interpretation uses a blood orange infused cheesecake cream . The dessert was sweet and creamy, with  chunks of honeycomb providing unexpected bomblets of crunch. 
I like the diversity of flavors and texture in this cheesecake, especially the honeycomb crumbles

I like the diversity of flavors and texture in this cheesecake, especially the honeycomb crumbles


Upscale Casual Dining – Liberty Grill

Ireland Cork Restaurants Liberty Exterior

Ireland Cork Restaurants liberty Grill 7

Cork has a lot of great casual dining restaurants that serve high-end food, at reasonable prices. A great example of these upscale casual Cork Restaurants is Liberty Grill.
This restaurant gets  very popular during the summer. Why the popularity? My opinion is that this restaurant uses extremely fresh and local ingredients and prepares them in a delicious and unpretentious manner fitting for a casual meal with friends. The menu said that they have a “New England” influence to their menu, although the ingredients and preparation were pure Irish to me.
Here is what we ordered:
Grilled Sea Bass – This dish was fresh and generously portioned. The entire sea bass was grilled skin-on, simply seasoned with salt and pepper. The result was one of the better executions of sea bass that I have experienced in a while. The naturally creamy flavor of the sea bass stood out. The fish  was accentuated with the sweet butter flavors of the sweet potatoes. It also came with a salad, but whatever, the fish was the star of this plate..
Ireland Cork Restaurants liberty Grill 3

Liberty Grill’s Sea Bass, served skin on.


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.

Ireland Cork Restaurants liberty Grill 2

I have never eaten a lamb burger this fresh and flavorful


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. 

Ireland Cork Restaurants liberty Grill 1

I loved the pure flavor of crab in these 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.

Ireland Cork Restaurants liberty Grill 6

Fresh limes make this cheesecake pop. Irish dairy is the best, so don’t be surprised that I ordered so many cheesecakes ;)

Cork is the best place to experience an Full Irish Breakfast

Ireland Cork Restaurants Garnet House BB 1Cork 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.

Ireland Cork Full Breakfast

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.


What is an Irish breakfast? The Irish saying goes, “Eat breakfast like a King, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper.” The root of the full Irish breakfast originated from manual laborers who needed a full calorie breakfast before they went out into the cold for hard work, knowing that their lunch would be eaten on the go, or not at all. Based on interviews I conducted in Ireland, there appears to be some disagreement on what should be included in a “Proper” full Irish breakfast. The Garnish House’s version of the Full Irish Breakfast includes  locally made sausage, white and black (blood) puddings, potato hash, sautéed mushrooms, roasted tomato, muffin, Irish bacon,  and two eggs. After eating this dish I was full until dinner and ready to shovel some coal.

Ireland Cork Restaurants Garnet House BB 9

The “Full Irish Breakfast” ocally made sausage, white and black (blood) puddings, potato hash, sautéed mushrooms, roasted tomato, muffin, Irish bacon, and two eggs


While Visiting Blarney Castle….

Ireland Cork Blarney

20130531_010345You 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.


Cork Muskery

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 :)      Ireland Cork Blarney Pub 3

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. “

Aside: Craic (verb) – Irish slang for having a good time, usually accompanied with laughter. The first time I heard this word, I thought they were referring to drugs 😉 The things you learn 

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
  • 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.
  • 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”
  • 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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About Tom Holmberg

Tom grew up in a cultural diverse neighborhood and a culturally diverse family, so he has learned to appreciate all types of food. "I am not a Chef, nor do I play one on T.V., but I have learned to appreciate food from years of eating and cooking." Tom also spent 10 years in the restaurant industry in various roles, from Prep Cook to server.


  1. Great reviews! I will hopefully get there one day.. The food i hear from this blog and others is amazing!

  2. Everything looks SO GOOD! definitely need to visit Ireland :)

  3. I have never heard of ‘Cork’ before and I have never been to Ireland :( The pictures look so good and I am sure the food is yummy.. Great review there :)

  4. OMG those goat cheese balls at Greene’s Restaurant look to die for. And then to get to sit by a waterfall and eat them!

  5. My mouth is watering.. That is so amazing to see these different places.. I want a king breakfast!

  6. I could go for the lamb burger. What an amazing trip you had!

  7. What a great trip this would be! Have to bring my foodie children with me!!

  8. Everything looks so good, Monkfish is delicious. Ireland is on my Bucket List.

  9. Those scallops in the basket look amazing. You sure do have a great job!

  10. Thank God I already had dinner or those picture would drive crazy :)

  11. YAY! I’m glad you made it to my pal Denis’ restaurant (Liberty Grill) I always take brunch there and get the crab cake eggs Benedict. His other two ventures, Electric and Cafe Gusto with partner Marianne are also amazing. Should you return, my friend Kate has Fenn’s Quay ~ another critically acclaimed city centre eatery. Greenes is where I ate monkfish for the first time and fell in love. Ah, looking at your pictures makes me itch to return to my favorite city.

  12. Such great reviews. Never been to Ireland ever but all I know is that the food here is really mouth-watering specially the Full Irish Breakfast, its perfect!

  13. Monkfish… really? I haven’t heard of these things. I’m currently part of a weight loss team, so unless I can get a calorie count, I don’t see myself indulging on those tasty looking meals for a few months (if ever, depending on the count). They look great though!

  14. Looks delicious, I love to taste all the dishes.

  15. It all looks so good. That key lime cheesecake is caling my name

  16. I just had breakfast, and now I’m ready for dinner. I really want to go there someday and experience that part of the world and their culinary yums!!!

  17. SurrealSister photog

    Oh man all that stuff looks incredible, must be a fun adventure to blog about food!

  18. This post makes me want to go back to Ireland! The English Market was amazing as well as Greene’s and Liberty Grill & while I enjoyed kissing the Blarney Stone, it was flat out scary!!

  19. Sounds great! I think I would have loved the crab cakes at Liberty Grill!

  20. I didn’t know that Cork was a foodie Capital in Ireland. Although I have not traveled there yet, but I hope to some day. I love scallops and that plate looked delicious. I also hope I am brave enough to try things I would not normally yet while abroad!

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