Restaurant Reviews from CorkBilly

Status: Connoisseur

Credibility Score:
52.5%

County: Cork

No. of Reviews: 22

Member Since: 07 January 2011

Last Visit: 22 July 2011

The Best Restaurant

Isaacs Restaurant

48 MacCurtain Street, Cork City, Cork City, Cork

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Cuisine:
Bistro

Price Range:

Good
33 reviews

Reviewed 07th January 2011 ( visited 05th January 2011 )

ISAAC’S The value from November’s Dine in Cork Week is still to be found in Isaac's in McCurtain Street. From Monday to Wednesday, they offer three top notch courses for €25.00. Isaac’s is perhaps the city restaurant nearest to me and one I regularly pass by. Not last night though. Called in on spec about 6.30 and had no bother getting a table in what I thought is a very old restaurant only to find that Isaac’s reputation as one of Cork’s best has been built up in about twenty years, not quite the long running tradition I’d believed in. But undeniably, Isaac’s is a core part of the city’s food and drink scene and long may it continue. Speaking of drink, last night’s wine was a gem from the Marlborough area of New Zealand: Lawson’s Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc (€27.00 per bottle, €18.00 for 50cl, and €6.00 per glass). Quite a complex SB and very enjoyable indeed. Very enjoyable too was the starter: Chargrilled Marinated Chicken Salad with smoked bacon. Quite a substantial bowlful and really well made with no shortage of top class ingredients. I’ve had a quite few salads in the last 12 months, including a string of them in France during the summer, but this was probably the best of the lot. Other choices included: Tomato and Basil Soup, Seafood Chowder and a French Country Terrine. There were three choices for main course and I went for the grilled fillet of salmon with buttered spinach and chive champ. This was served with some root vegetables and, while maybe not as inventive as the salad, was another top drawer dish, well constructed and well cooked. Other choices here were Roast Breast of Stuffed Chicken and Penne with flat and wild mushroom sauce. There were two desserts on offer: Apple and Blackberry Crumble with Cream and Caramel Ice-cream with butterscotch sauce and bananas. Picked the crumble here and was delighted with my little dish full. Neat thin layer of crumble on top and delightful mix of fruit underneath, again cooked to perfection. Isaac’s operates in a restored 18th century warehouse
Most Visited Restaurant

Isaacs Restaurant

48 MacCurtain Street, Cork City, Cork City, Cork

View on Map

Cuisine:
Bistro

Price Range:

Good
33 reviews

Reviewed 07th January 2011 ( visited 05th January 2011 )

ISAAC’S The value from November’s Dine in Cork Week is still to be found in Isaac's in McCurtain Street. From Monday to Wednesday, they offer three top notch courses for €25.00. Isaac’s is perhaps the city restaurant nearest to me and one I regularly pass by. Not last night though. Called in on spec about 6.30 and had no bother getting a table in what I thought is a very old restaurant only to find that Isaac’s reputation as one of Cork’s best has been built up in about twenty years, not quite the long running tradition I’d believed in. But undeniably, Isaac’s is a core part of the city’s food and drink scene and long may it continue. Speaking of drink, last night’s wine was a gem from the Marlborough area of New Zealand: Lawson’s Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc (€27.00 per bottle, €18.00 for 50cl, and €6.00 per glass). Quite a complex SB and very enjoyable indeed. Very enjoyable too was the starter: Chargrilled Marinated Chicken Salad with smoked bacon. Quite a substantial bowlful and really well made with no shortage of top class ingredients. I’ve had a quite few salads in the last 12 months, including a string of them in France during the summer, but this was probably the best of the lot. Other choices included: Tomato and Basil Soup, Seafood Chowder and a French Country Terrine. There were three choices for main course and I went for the grilled fillet of salmon with buttered spinach and chive champ. This was served with some root vegetables and, while maybe not as inventive as the salad, was another top drawer dish, well constructed and well cooked. Other choices here were Roast Breast of Stuffed Chicken and Penne with flat and wild mushroom sauce. There were two desserts on offer: Apple and Blackberry Crumble with Cream and Caramel Ice-cream with butterscotch sauce and bananas. Picked the crumble here and was delighted with my little dish full. Neat thin layer of crumble on top and delightful mix of fruit underneath, again cooked to perfection. Isaac’s operates in a restored 18th century warehouse
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Blairs Inn
Cloghroe, Blarney, Cork

BLAIRS INN Corned Beef and Cabbage. As a starter! Yes and it proved a really tasty beginning to an excellent weekend meal at Blairs Inn. What a menu they have there. If you combine the pages from the bar and restaurant menus, I reckon you could be eating there for a year and still have combinations to explore. And then there are the drinks. There is an excellent wine list, for sure. But also lots of local (and international) drinks including craft beers from Dungarvan, Carlow, Eight Degrees (North Cork) and the new cider sensation Stonewell by the Nohoval Brewing Company. After a big welcome and a chat with Richard we sat down in the cosy restaurant – they also have a lovely garden dining area – to go through the menus. My starter was a Warm Tian of O’Crualaoi’s Corned Beef and Cabbage with a creamy Parsley dressing (€7.70). If you get out there, you should really try this. The beef, supplied by the well known Ballincollig butcher, was spot-on as was everything else in this well presented cylinder shaped offering of good local food. Then on to the main course: Pan fried fillets of Sea Bass on a Chorizo mash with a sundried tomato and rocket dressing and a side plate filled with vegetables and another with gratin potato, both done to perfection. Again, another excellent plateful. And a big plateful. Indeed, both starter and mains were quite substantial, so much so that I had to forego the dessert. They helpfully suggest, on the menu, various drinks with each course; the tips for me were a wheat beer with the starter and a dry cider with the fish. I was in the mood for wine and settled on a bottle of their highly recommended an excellent Hopler Gruner Veltliner (Burgenland, Austria) 2009 (€26.95). You get a great welcome here and also help and advice. Quite a few tourists make their way here and they must be impressed with the local knowledge that the owners and staff so freely dispense. Lovely food, lovely place and lovely people. A return visit is on the cards. And not just for me.

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Augustines
Closed, Cork City, Cork

AUGUSTINE'S CLASSY €25.00 TASTING MENU AUGUSTINE’S I walked confidently into Augustine’s last evening, confident in the knowledge that I was going to get an excellent meal. Standards are constantly high here, never a let-down for this customer. It is a treat to call here: friendly welcome and then, once the coats and jackets are put away, an informative little session at the table where the different dishes are outlined and explained (if needed). You need a little advice? No problem. Last evening, I had to curtail my wine-drinking as I were going out again later on. That meant I didn't (but I will next time) take up the offer of three specially selected wines to accompany the €25.00 Tasting Menu. I was wondering about a compromise rosé on the list and then our advisor offered me a glass of their newly arrived Rosé Frizzante from Piedmont. There are six courses on the 2011 Tasting Menu here. Got off to lively start with a little Gooseberry Cordial and that was followed by a most delightfully cooked Sea Bass, with root veg and peanut vinaigrette. On then to the Cauliflower Potage which is brought to the table and poured over praline, deep fried Thyme and a little Truffle Oil. Dish number four was Pork Belly on Puy lentils and served with Potato Gratin, again beautifully done and presented. Then onto the Milleens Cheese and caramelised plum, yet another perfect match. Finished off with a Surprise Dessert that turned out to be Mixed Berry Jelly with raspberry sorbet and coulis. Melt in the mouth finale leaving one happy punter about to settle up and promise to anyone who’d listen that he’d be back, a promise meant to be kept. Early on, I had some breads from the selection offered. Enjoyed very much the Walnut and Raisin and also the Parmesan. And that Italian Rosé? Very tasty indeed, lovely red berry fruit, nice acidity and a very pleasant Frizz! Summer in a bottle even it was somewhat less than summery on Lapps Quay.

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Star Anise
4 Bridge Street, Cork City, Cork

Just have to tell you about Star Anise in Bridge Street. Had the most fantastic lunch there yesterday. It is a very convenient venue, so close to Patrick Street. Inside, the colour scheme is just gorgeous, the room bright. The food too is gorgeous and the people you’ll meet are friendly and efficient. Had dinner there a good few months back and so we were expecting a high standard. We weren't disappointed and herself reckoned it was her “best lunch ever”. My starter was certainly the best Tomato and Basil Soup I’ve ever had. This was a darker colour than your normal effort, topped with Parmesan shavings and also a swirl of Olive Oil; it leaves all other such soups in the weakling category. The other starter was Marinated Olives with salad and hummus; another top notch opener, the most beautiful herby/garlic marinade and, if memory serves me right, for just over 3 euro. I always have an eye for the specials as does the other half who went for the Lamb Kebab with Couscous and a Cucumber/Yoghurt dip. Could start wading through the Thesaurus for superlatives but let me just say that it was brilliant. I picked the fish of the day which was fresh Haddock, served with rustic sliced potatoes and haricots verts in the most delightful sauce of Fennel, Tomato and Saffron. Could go with brilliant again or maybe just wow! Presentation all round was excellent. Ended with a selection of desserts (they do a Dessert Plate for Two there) and enjoyed a sample of Vanilla Creme Brulée, Vanilla Panna Cotta and a New York Style Baked Cheesecake. Finished off with some excellent coffee having had a delicious Chenin Blanc to accompany the earlier courses. What a day: sunshine outside and a taste of the Mediterranean inside.

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The Bosun
The Pier, Monkstown, Monkstown, Cork

“For over a hundred years, we have provided sustenance to the traveller.” There are some terrific food traditions in Cork and Monkstown’s The Bosun is one of them. I “travelled” down there this week and can report that the team, who won the Irish Pub of the Year in 2002, are still serving up top class food, as many of you know. It is a lovely harbourside destination and there were a few eating out of doors there at lunchtime. Food is fine and portions large and the service is excellent. Started off with very acceptable seafood chowder and, since I was by the water, carried on with a Baked Hake with Mushroom. The house chowder was excellent but the Hake was beyond that, the sauce superb. It came with baked potato, a side dish of veg cooked to perfection and another dish of lovely chunky chips. Wine by the way was from their newly installed list which features many from the huge James Nicholson Wine range. AA Badenhorst, one of their South African suppliers, is larger than life with a superb talent for producing wines of character and all it took was a glassful of the Swartland Chenin Blanc to bear that out. There are wines from all over the world, including six fine wines available by the glass from a special system on the bar counter. Finished off with a fine cup of coffee. Just had to give myself a half day after that!

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Castle Cafe and Restaurant
Blackrock Castle, Castle Road, Cork City, Cork

Dined in a castle last Friday night and it cost me just over 30 euro. Incredible? Not really, just take yourself down to the Castle Cafe and Restaurant in Blackrock Castle and you’ll see I’m not kidding. The cafe is divided into two rooms and has a full bar. Service is excellent, friendly and considerate and efficient, and the seating is quite comfortable. We were seated in the back room and from the nicely printed one sheet menu I picked Asparagus, smoked salmon and mussels with a hollandaise sauce (7.95). The Asparagus was tip top as was the salmon and the whole thing was a treat. Gorgeous. Now on to the main course: Pan Fried Sea bass with a tian of Mediterranean vegetables 17.95). Hard to beat this one. The combination was light and tasty and still quite substantial. Desserts cost just over 6 euro each but I passed on that. Wine was the house Sauvignon Blanc at €5.50 a glass, 12 for a 0.5l carafe. Of course you can spend more here. Steaks will cost you in the mid 20s. You can spend less – I spotted a Pan fried Chicken dish for 11.50 and they also have a selection of pizzas around that mark. Well worth checking out. The restaurant is open for lunch seven days and serves evening meals on Fridays and Saturday. Phone: 4357911; info@castlecafe.ie

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Amber Lounge
Fota Island Hotel, Fota Island, Cobh, Cork

3 TIERS OF TEMPTATION AFTERNOON TEA IN THE AMBER LOUNGE Following a tip-off, I called to the Fota Island Hotel http://www.fotaisland.ie/ last Friday to sample their Afternoon Tea. Now, I’m passing on that tip. If you want to treat yourself and your loved one, maybe a pal or a visiting relative, then make a beeline for the Fota Resort and call to the Amber Lounge. You will be met at the door of the hotel and guided to the lounge and the helpful, friendly and informative staff there will take over, seating you and laying down the table covers, as this is something special. First comes your tea or coffee. We had tea, well made, and each of us had a separate pot. Then there is a gasp as the three tiered cake stand holding your goodies arrives at the table. Let us start at the bottom. Here we have some beautiful Irish breads, topped with the best of beef, an egg mixture and also gorgeous smoked salmon on a well made slice of brown bread. All six pieces freshly done, all magnificent. After a suitable pause, we move up to the second rank. Here, to share, we have a brown scone and a fruit scone, both warm and polished off with the butter, home-made real fruit jam and clotted cream. Then three slices of cake for sharing. On Friday, we enjoyed Walnut, Banana and a superb Madeira. More tea poured and we are ready to onto to the top rung of temptation: melt slowly in the mouth Jameson Truffle, irresistible Raspberry Mille-feuille, also a splendid Strawberry “cup”, and a classy Irish Coffee Chocolate Mousse, all the creations of their Executive Pastry Chef Rachid http://www.fotaisland.ie/recipes.php . Now you are full and you say Never Again. But you know you will be back. You’re hooked. How sweet it is! Afternoon Tea (for 2 people) €25.00 A selection of Open Sandwiches on Irish Breads, Warm Scones, Tea Cakes, Jameson Truffle, Raspberry Mille-feuille, Irish Coffee Chocolate Mousse, Seasonal Preserve and Clotted Cream. Served with your choice of Tea or Coffee

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Farmgate Cafe
Old English Market, Princes Street, Cork City, Cork

A budding Irish food producer asked a more experienced operator if he should make something new and spectacular. “No,” was the reply. “Do something simple and do it well!” The wise head must have had Cork’s Farmgate Cafe in mind. They buy the fresh ingredients downstairs in the English Market, cook it well and then present it on the tables upstairs. Just brilliant. And yes, I know, one needs a great deal of training and expertise to get the simple things so right. Like many restaurants around town, they are using the occasional Irish word (mainly heading) on the menu. Perhaps with more justification than others as the food here has always been the best of Irish, ingredients and dishes. A multi-national group next to my table (maybe the IMF) were guided through the menu and most went for the Shepherd’s Pie. They could have had Tripe and Drisheen or Irish Stew. I picked the Lamb’s Liver and Bacon with potatoes and seasonal vegetables (13.50) and we also got Grilled Lemon and Thyme Free Range Chicken, also with spud and veg and also 13.50. Both combinations were absolutely spot-on, not a thing out of place. And the high standard was maintained for Milseog: Fruit Crumble for me, Apple Tart for her, each 4.50. Oh yeah, just to round it off, they made us a perfect pot of Barry’s Tea. I mean perfect and sad to say you don't get that everywhere! Just goes to show: do it simple, do it well! And before I finish, just to let you know the Farmgate is in two sections. The informal Balcony and the Dining Room which is hardly more formal but does offer table service and in which tables may be reserved. Service is considerate (but not fussy), friendly and efficient. Get all your info here before you go. But do go.

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Market Lane
5/6 Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork City, Cork

MARKET LANE Market Lane is always a good bet when you’re in town and wondering where to go for lunch. I was in the area on Friday and called in and enjoyed it. Quite a range of prices on the menu. For instance, the mains go from €10.95 to €16.95. I went for the Spaghetti with pan fried tiger prawns, marinated salmon, roast vine tomatoes, cream and parmesan (€16.95). A beautiful well balanced and colourful bowlful and I was very happy with it. The other main dish ordered was Pan Fried Hake fillet with broccoli, bok choi, peppers, sautéed potatoes and a walnut and lime pesto (€16.95). Quite a plateful and, aside from the fact that the broccoli piece was pretty much on the hard side (house style here), a really gorgeous and very satisfying mid-day meal for the hungry person across from me! Desserts all cost €6.25. I should perhaps have selected the mini-chocolate cup at two euro but greedily picked the Chocolate and Bailey’s Tart with hazelnut biscuit base with cream, of course. The whole thing, including the crispy base, was really gorgeous. The other dessert, Orange and Vanilla bread and butter pudding, was huge, even looked big as it was carried across the floor. Probably too much for just one person but it was very very tasty. Two coffees (no wine!) brought the total to about €51.00. Market Lane, by the way, have recently taken over the Cafe/Restaurant/Bar at Blackrock Castle. They do lunch seven days a week and evening meals on Friday and Saturday. That venue is now on my list!

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Annie's Bar & Restaurant
89 Sunday's Well Road, Cork City, Cork

ANNIE’S BAR & RESTAURANT They have a big blackboard in Annie’s Gastro-pub in Sunday’s Well. They need it. The menu, which changes daily and is drawn from Munster, the Midi and the Maghreb, is extensive, inviting and imaginative. But it takes time to take in all the dishes. There are about 12 each of starters, mains and dessert, plus close to ten red wines and ten whites sold by the glass or bottle. As it happened, our table overlooked the main blackboard but I would really prefer a typed, even photo-copied, menu at the table, just to linger a little longer in anticipation of the fruits of the work of Head Chef Zico Ali, who has a French-Moroccan background. The venue is on two levels, one slightly higher than the other, has an oval bar in the middle and is comfortable. Service is friendly, considerate and efficient. Some delicious breads and oil were delivered to the table while we waited. My starter was: Chargrilled squid marinated in Lime and Chilli, served with Chargrilled vegetables and slow roast tomato €8.00. A very promising start indeed and a clean plate went back. The promise continued to be fulfilled in the mains: Pan Roast Snapper served with Celeriac and Fennell and a saffron sauce €22.00. The Snapper was done to perfection, the veg were perfectly tasty (not too hard, not too soft) and the sauce was probably one of the best I’ve ever come across. Fantastic stuff. The desserts are squeezed onto the board. I spotted the Blueberry Cheesecake and dispatched a generous slice with pleasure. Wine was Heart of Stone Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough New Zealand, €5.50 a glass, €22.00 bottle, tangly and fresh and worth the money. Highly recommended.

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Electric
41 South Mall, Cork City, Cork

ELECTRIC Just a few years back, I had my first encounter with Sauerkraut*, in an Austrian monastery on the banks of the Danube. Not a very pleasant meeting, very sharp stuff indeed and the English ex-pat alongside was having a laugh: I told you so! Got back on the boat and headed for Vienna. A few days later at aHeurigen (wine tavern that serves food, and the only place I ever got wine in a half-litre tankard ) near the city, the Sauerkraut was on the menu again. Never afraid to research in depth, I tried it again and found it much milder and every enjoyable. And, thankfully, it was the latter type (this from Alsace) that accompanied my Pheasant (€20) on a dinner visit to Electric. Bacon and Morteau sausage were also in the pleasing mix, along with some mashed potato. A really well balanced dish and one happy customer. The other side of the table was delighted with her Roast free range chicken with carrots, parsnips, goose fat roasties and onion gravy (€17). The chicken was exceptionally flavoursome, the whole combination so well done and a pleasure to eat. We had skipped the tempting starters and so had room for desserts. Again these were top notch. The Cocktail Alexander (brandy panacotta with espresso chocolate mousse) looked classy and inviting and it sure was a treat. Unusually, I went for the tri-partite Chocolate Explosion (€8.00): a dark mousse, a light mousse and a chocolate cake, each separate in the well presented dish. Quite a substantial dessert but there was nothing left! Drinks included Brown Brothers late harvested orange muscat (€4.5 a glass), Les Jamelles 2008 Vine De Pays d'Oc Merlot (€4.9) and NZ Old Coach Road 2009 Nelson Riesling (€5). Decent wines at decent prices. The new restaurant is on the second floor with views, depending on where you are seated, over South Mall, end of Grand Parade and the adjacent river. It is a very pleasant place to visit with good food and good people at all levels of the interaction. *Choucroute in France

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The Pantry of Midleton
Distillery Walk, Midleton, Cork

THE PANTRY The Pantry is a cafe, bakery and foodstore in Midleton. It is not the biggest of places but is clean and comfortable and has a well stocked foodie shop with everything from Jim Beam Teriyaki Marinade to Donegal Rapeseed Oil, from the French Lorina Cloudy Lemonade to Cahir’s Sparkling Apple Juice. Thought I was in for some good basic food when I ordered my Ardsallagh Goats Cheese with Oven roasted vegetables and Pesto Bruschetta, set on Crisp Leaves and a balsamic Reduction. I got quite a surprise for my €8.95. And that surprise started with the high class presentation, the food laid out neatly, almost in the form of a star. The food itself was top class. The leaves were crispy and the Bruschetta tasty with the pesto while the vegetables (mainly peppers and red onions) were perfectly done, a gorgeous match for well known local cheese. Service was calm and friendly and considerate. Desserts, a Rhubarb Crumble and a Beard and Butter Pudding, were also very good and also well presented. Couldn't have asked for more. This was top class, five star stuff. Our table was very close to the shelves full of mainly local artisan food and we helped ourselves to some (including the Karmine Apple Juice and some chutney from Janet’s Country Fayre) on the way out. The cafe is open from 8.00am until 6.30pm and is situated at Distillery Walk, Midleton, 021 4633335, info@thepantrymidleton.com. They know what they are doing here. When the plates come out, you see that they also love what they are doing. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area!

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Fenns Quay Restaurant
Sheares Street, Cork City, Cork

FENNS QUAY The folks at Fenns Quay were delighted last week to received their confirmation letter that they were again on the Michelin recommended list. It is a well deserved recommendation. We had a little celebrating to do ourselves on Friday and started off with a couple of glasses of their lively Prosecco and nibbled on their excellent breads while waiting for our main coursers. The main menu here is always enlivened by some daily specials and these are always worth considering. I picked from the day’s list and was very happy indeed that I did. The dish was: Chargrilled Tuna with Rustic Potatoes, roast flat cup mushrooms and cannellini bean compote (24.95). Sometimes Tuna can be a bit on the dry side but not here. It was perfectly cooked and the mushroom and compote, not forgetting the moderately spiced potatoes, gave it all a perfect balance,. My wife picked her main dish from the regular list and it was: Chargrilled “Slaney Valley” Lamb chump with spiced roast potatoes and a cassoulet of vegetables and a mint pesto (22.50). The tender pieces of lamb were again cooked to perfection, just as ordered, and again the veg and pesto were spot on to give a very tempting and tasty ensemble. It was a busy night in the city centre venue, full up from about eight on, but service was friendly and relaxed and efficient as we’ve come to expect! Our dishes came off the a la carte menu but there is also a very good value Supper Menu available.

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The Rising Tide (Glounthaune)
Glounthaune, Glounthaune, Cork

THE RISING TIDE Enjoyed a terrific meal at Glounthaune’s Rising Tide Brasserie on Friday night. Quality local produce featured strongly across the menus and must say that their early Bird (2 course for €20.00, 3 for €25.00) is top class and fantastic value). I was on the al a carte and herself, her allowance cut, was on the Early Bird! But it was no punishment – I’ll have to think of something else. Her starter was just fantastic. Two generous rings of Jack McCarthy Wild Boar Black Pudding (€6.95) and served with cider apple & seasonal leaves. A brilliant combination and an absolutely well balanced starter. She followed that with the Rich Seafood Pie (€14.95), with monkfish, smoked haddock, cod & salmon in a leek sauce topped with creamed mashed potato. There was nice thin piped potato crust on the top but over 90 per cent was fish, fish, fantastic fish. She was very happy and so was I. My starter was the House Speciality: Rising Tide Mussels (€8.50). There are three versions and I went for them steamed in a white wine and cream sauce. Mussels were excellent and just as well there was a spoon there for the wickedly tempting sauce. The Chef had a board full of specials up and I picked Jack McCarthy’s Pork Rack (€21.95) with mustard and brandy sauce and sun-dried tomato and potato mash. Two serious chops, done to perfection, challenged me to do my worst and, yes, I wiped the plate clean. Pork Chops might not sound too exciting but put McCarthy and chef Kiely together and you get a top class dish. It is quite a comfortable room, reached through the bar where they also serve food. Service is efficient and informative and very friendly and has been for a long time. Excellent eating here and that Early Bird allows you an inexpensive introduction if you haven’t been. Try it.

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Cafe Gusto
3 Washington Street, Cork City, Cork

CAFE GUSTO Is Cafe Gusto http://www.cafegusto.com/ in Washington Street in a class of its own when it comes to cafes in Cork? Coffee and scones (and more) in the morning, followed by a gradual build-up though lunch and then into even more substantial stuff late into the evening. The owners & staff are always working on something new, something even tastier, a better choice for you. And remember this is one of the few places you can bring your own wine. With its huge choice http://www.cafegusto.com/ and long opening hours, I don't think there is another venue like it in Cork. My visit this morning was for a cup of coffee and scone and that was served up with a smile and we enjoyed it. And then when Denis O’Mullane arrived on the scene, the talk (sparked by my recent reading of Mark McAvoy’s Cork Rock) turned to bands (Cypress, Mine!, the Frank and Walters, and Ruby Horse) and the connections between them and several Cork restaurants.

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Les Gourmandises
17 Cook Street, Cork City, Cork

Les Gourmandises Delighted with my most recent visit to Les Gourmandises. Fine French Dining is printed on their card and it is no empty motto. They live up to it and you may live it up here. If you find yourself in the Cook Street establishment (lucky you!), then start with their Tasting Plate. It figures on both their menus. On Friday night, we got an eye popping plateful (on their well known slate) which consisted of Prawns in Filo Pastry, Rabbit Terrine and Artichoke Soup. Gorgeous and quite substantial. The other starter at the table was Rillette of Castletownbere crab, the slate also containing some poached pear & mustard grain. The container looked quite small but the ever so tasty crab was packed tightly and there was more than enough for the two pieces of delicious toast and so I brought their excellent crunchy brown bread into play. I’ve had a lot of Confit de Canard, both here and in France over the past 12 months, and the one served up on the Gourmandises slate was one of the best, of not the very best. Billed as Roast duck leg confit with confit potato, Blackberries and Red Cabbage, it was superb, cooked to perfection. Would have liked a touch more “moisture”, by way of sauce or vegetable, but was well satisfied with it. Dessert was an Orange panacotta with Almond mandolin and Citrus Fruits. All three elements were served separately on the plate. The sweet panacotta, the tarty fruits (orange and red grapefruit) and the more neutral mandolin made for a smashing well balanced dessert. My desert wine (from a choice of five) came from Jurancon in the south-west of France. The Symphonie de Novembre Domaine de Cauhape (7.95 per glass) is 100% Petit Manseng which has spent ten months in oak. Honey, orange and quince in the bouquet, it is fresh and creamy on the palate, not as long in the finish as the likes of Tokaji but a really lovely sweet wine. Also very happy with the red wine that we had at the earlier courses: Cabardes, Chateau de Jouclary (6.85). This was a really well balanced mix

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Jacobs on the Mall
30A South Mall, Cork City, Cork

Got off to great start on recent visit to Jacobs on the Mall. I went for the Pumpkin Fritters with Parma Ham & Salsa Verde. Nicely balanced starter. Main course was a Duck Confit with lentils and chorizo ragout, buttered kale and champ. Normally you get one piece of duck but I got two moist legs, crispy on outside. The matching ragout was spot on. The desert was also top class: Date & Butterscotch Pudding with Fudge Sauce & Vanilla Ice Cream. Delighted with it. And indeed delighted with all three courses, even if some of them didn't feature on the advertised menu, but that will happen a bit as the restaurants buy fresh in the markets. Jacobs sell four whites and four reds by the glass. Enjoyed a Chilean Morande Pionero 2008 Chardonnay (€5.75) and a New Zealand Ta Moko Sauvigon Blanc (€6.25). Oh and by the way, the coffee was also of a high standard. Jacobs is quite a venue, as many of you will know. For those who have not been, the high ceiling, retained from its days as Turkish Baths, leaves a huge space which has been filled with large scale hanging shrubbery and lighting. The big expanse of wall is hung with art works. Chairs are quite plush and comfortable. The welcome is warm and service excellent.

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Perrotts Garden Bistro
Hayfield Manor Hotel, Perrott Avenue, College Road, Cork City, Cork

PERROTT’S AT HAYFIELD MANOR PERROTT’S AT HAYFIELD MANOR Enjoyed my glass of Tokaji at Perrott’s Garden Bistro, in Hayfield Manor last Friday night, coming as it did at the end of an excellent meal. The main wine was another bonus: a 2007 Rondan Rioja Crianza (€32.00). It is 90% Tempranillo and spends 18 months in oak. Ripe fruit and a modest spice combine with just enough tannin to give a beautiful velvety mouth feel. Good body plus good balance means this is one smooth operator and leaves you with a fine finish. A tempting basket of breads on the table, I started off with Wild Boar Sausage with creamed lentils (€8.50) while the other starter was a salad with Roasted Beetroot and Carrot, Feta cheese, cucumber and caramelized walnuts (€7.50). Both of us were happy as we awaited the main course. Each of us had chosen the Lamb Chump (€25.00). The tender pink lamb had been marinated in tandoori overnight and the main supports were roasted aubergine, cucumber and tomato on wilted rocket, and masala pureed potatoes. The combination had been well thought out and executed and provided us with a superb main course. Really impressive. The 1999 Tokaji Furmint cost ten euro for a glass and I had it instead of dessert. Also enjoyed a spoonful or two of my wife’s irresistible Passionfruit mousse, with raspberry sauce and passionfruit sorbet. First impressions on walking into Perrott’s, one of two restaurant spaces in the five star Hayfield Manor, was that this was going to be good. It is a lovely room, well decorated and nicely lit; chairs are comfortable and waitstaff are courteous, discreet and helpful. The food presented is innovative but above all excellent. I’d have no qualms in recommending it. The verdict? After all I’ve said above, I couldn’t, wouldn't want to, give it less than five out of five.

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Fitzgerald's Vienna Woods Hotel - Old
Glanmire, Glanmire, Cork

MABEL CRAWFORD'S (at Vienna Woods) For years, Mabel Crawford’s pantry was lost in the depths of Glanmire hotel Vienna Woods. Then, an industrial sized fridge had to be shifted and the room, in the original house, was re-found and eventually turned into a new and lovely bistro. The food is top class and the service is friendly and efficient. The menu is huge and varied. My starter at the weekend was the Baked Goats Cheese resting on Toasted Red Pepper Tostadas, with an Olive Tapenade filled Tomato nest, finished with a sweet honey and balsamic dressing. A very well balanced starter indeed and also quite substantial. Good value at €7.95. The other starter I sampled was the Chilled Duo of Galia and Cantaloupe Melon served with a melody of seasonal fruits and a shot of Vodka jelly. Certainly a cut above your usual Melon starter and nicely priced at €6.75. Main course for me was a beautifully done Pancetta wrapped chicken resting on a classic Ratatouille, dressed with a light Pesto Sauce (16.95). Delighted with the tasty plateful. The winter vegetable selection was served on a side plate. The other main plate at the table was the Slow Poached fillet of Cod served with a smashing chunky Provencal sauce (€17.95). The fish, of which there was quite an amount, was very well cooked and the new Bistro had two happy customers at this point. Kept to a lighter main dish as I was determined to got the full three courses and take in the Warm Poire Belle Helene - Pear Halves Slow Poached in Vanilla Syrup, served with Creamed Rice, and a Wild Berry Compote. And I wasn't at all disappointed with it. Lovely dessert for €5.95. The second dessert, about a euro dearer, a Sherry Trifle, was one of the specials but nothing to write home about, too much cream, too little sherry. Having said though, we saw a few polished off with relish at nearby tables.

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Cornstore
40 Cornmarket Street, Cork City, Cork

The Cornstore, one of Cork’s culinary hotspots, has turned the delightful American tradition of Thanksgiving into an annual event. Starters included Quail terrine with a marinated boiled quail egg and spiced plum and grape chutney, Roast orange sweet potato soup with nutmeg froth or Flaked organic hand cured salmon (my choice), cherry tomato, avocado salad with lime and coriander dressing. This was followed by free range East Ferry roast turkey roulade wrapped in Kanturk pancetta, chestnut, prune, apricot and parsley with confit of the leg rissole and port jus. I thoroughly enjoyed that plateful. And all around me, diners were tucking into the turkey plus the other main dishes: Sea Bass with pumpkin fritters, okra grilled baby corn and carrot, orange and cardamom emulsion or Forest mushroom, toasted nuts and brown bread dumpling with roast crisp parsnips wilted spinach and clove cream sauce. All mains were served with creamed potato, red cabbage, braised carrots and Brussels sprouts. There were a number of mouth-watering desserts on the menu, including baked spiced pumpkin cheesecake with caramel ice cream, or Pecan nut, pear and Crozier blue cheese tart with local double cream. My choice here was Brandied cherry and apple wrapped with puff pastry and served with whipped cream and it was absolutely gorgeous and I hope it becomes a regular on the Cornstore menu.

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Liberty Grill
32 Washington Street, Cork City, Cork

LIBERTY FOR ALL Had an early evening reservation for Washington Street’s Liberty Grill yesterday and walked in to find the place full. As I left, about 8.00pm, the second “shift” of customers was arriving. Not bad for a Wednesday evening. They keep coming to the Liberty because here you get good food, good value and good friendly service, not to mention a decent degree of comfort and the all important “buzz”. Dishes are not necessarily high end but that doesn't prevent them from being top class. Take my starter for instance: a spiced beef salad with chestnuts. Excellent, innovative. It cost me €8.95 and is also available as a main course. The Spiced Beef is part of the seasonal specials for December. Liberty, a member of Good Food Ireland, has an extensive menu and it uses these seasonal specials to increase the variety. They are usually worth checking out! As long as I’ve been coming here, I’ve never had one of their burgers and it is for burgers, and the sheer variety of them, that Liberty is so well known and loved. I tried the Lamb Burger, served with lettuce, cucumber, tomato and a bowl of fries plus a dip. It was a splendid piece of locally sourced meat, (from Carrigaline, I think). Happy food but good food and all for €13.50. You have to wait 25 minutes for the lamb burger, 20 for the others. But if you’re having a starter, as I did, you won’t notice the wait and in any case, it is worth it.

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Nash 19
19 Princes st Cork, Cork City, Cork

NASH 19 Always a pleasure to visit Nash 19 and yesterday’s lunch time date with two colleagues was no exception as a warm welcome was followed by some top notch food and service, including a drop or two of mulled wine. Quite a few of you will have seen Tipperary’s Crowe's Farm featured in RTE’s Ear to the Ground earlier in the week. And their bacon was the main feature of my lunch. It was served with, among other things, an apricot chutney, and the combination was first class. Will be watching out for that bacon in the future. Amazing how much the pig has been on my table in the last week and a half. And every single time it was a pleasure, thanks to the skilled efforts of artisan producers such as Gubbeen, Woodside Farm and Crowe’s. Just couldn’t pass the Nash 19 shop on the way out without taking a look. One of my companion raves about their scones and picked up a few while I helped myself to a couple of fish pies which will reduce the workload for this evening’s dinner.

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Isaacs Restaurant
48 MacCurtain Street, Cork City, Cork City, Cork

ISAAC’S The value from November’s Dine in Cork Week is still to be found in Isaac's in McCurtain Street. From Monday to Wednesday, they offer three top notch courses for €25.00. Isaac’s is perhaps the city restaurant nearest to me and one I regularly pass by. Not last night though. Called in on spec about 6.30 and had no bother getting a table in what I thought is a very old restaurant only to find that Isaac’s reputation as one of Cork’s best has been built up in about twenty years, not quite the long running tradition I’d believed in. But undeniably, Isaac’s is a core part of the city’s food and drink scene and long may it continue. Speaking of drink, last night’s wine was a gem from the Marlborough area of New Zealand: Lawson’s Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc (€27.00 per bottle, €18.00 for 50cl, and €6.00 per glass). Quite a complex SB and very enjoyable indeed. Very enjoyable too was the starter: Chargrilled Marinated Chicken Salad with smoked bacon. Quite a substantial bowlful and really well made with no shortage of top class ingredients. I’ve had a quite few salads in the last 12 months, including a string of them in France during the summer, but this was probably the best of the lot. Other choices included: Tomato and Basil Soup, Seafood Chowder and a French Country Terrine. There were three choices for main course and I went for the grilled fillet of salmon with buttered spinach and chive champ. This was served with some root vegetables and, while maybe not as inventive as the salad, was another top drawer dish, well constructed and well cooked. Other choices here were Roast Breast of Stuffed Chicken and Penne with flat and wild mushroom sauce. There were two desserts on offer: Apple and Blackberry Crumble with Cream and Caramel Ice-cream with butterscotch sauce and bananas. Picked the crumble here and was delighted with my little dish full. Neat thin layer of crumble on top and delightful mix of fruit underneath, again cooked to perfection. Isaac’s operates in a restored 18th century warehouse

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