Saturday, August 25, 2007




Founded in 1992, Brendan Murphy’s Four Liars Bistro, in the shadow of Shandon, is still going strong, still offering good food at decent prices.

Take the current early bird (5.30 to 7.15) as an example. You can pick from about six starters. Mine was simply described as: Pork and Veal Terrine on a Burnt Orange Glaze. But it was much more than that. It was accompanied by a generous crunchy salad and a few tasty strawberries combined well with the terrine. All for a fiver.

Then on to the main course. Again there is quite a choice, prices ranging from about €12 to €15.00. I picked the Baked Fresh Salmon in Dill and Cream Sauce, served with a Croquette and Puree of vegetables. He doesn’t write it all down though. The fish is served on a beautifully flavoured mash potato and, be warned, meat or fish portions are generous.

Being generous is not much good if the food is poor. Have no fears here though. Brendan has cooked around the world and this salmon dish was excellent.

Too full to chance the desserts (this man puts sherry into his sherry trifle), we took our time and finished off the wine, which was the house white, a Domaine Virginie Terret/Sauvignon sur lie. Refreshing was my first comment on sipping the tasting sample. It is a rare combination in these parts but is appealingly dry, fruity and with good lasting favour. Price €20.00. The four Liars is a BYO restaurant which means you can bring in your own wine and the corkage charge is €5.00.

Brendan has cooked for George Bush, Liz Taylor, Willie Brandt, Jackie Kennedy, Elton John, Richard Burton and Queen Elizabeth II to name but a few. He is also a keen artist and drawer, and many of his works can be found on display on the walls of the Four Liars Bistro and at

Thursday, August 23, 2007



Once upon a time, in the last century, you’d hear of the rare couple skipping off to Rome to get married but now out of town weddings have become increasingly popular. And to increasingly exotic destinations at that. The Canaries are quite popular and next month at least one Cork couple will be getting hitched on the shores of Lake Garda.

At least in the case of European venues, the couple have a decent chance of getting a crowd but pity the lonesome twosomes who take off to some island in the Pacific or Indian Ocean to end up on their own with the hotel chef and receptionist as the best man and bridesmaid.

I was at an out of town wedding recently. In the middle of nowhere. Well, while Springfort Hall is just 500 metres from the junction of NewTwoPotHouse on the Mallow-Buttevant Road, thankfully the old Georgian pile isn't that far away. One can get a taxi home to the city rather than pay the rather excessive room price.

For all that, it is a popular venue. I have been at a few functions there over the years and the facilities and ambience for such are excellent and the food is regularly good.

This menu, in common with many current weddings, had choices. I picked melon for my starter. It was well presented and went down a treat, to be followed by a big bowl of soup. The main course choice was either salmon and cod or beef. I took the fish and, like the beef, it was excellent, both served with a selection of spot-on veg (cooked but not overdone).

Dessert was a slight disappointment. My choice was the Bailey’s Chocolate Roulade but it was very much on the extra dry side. The other choice was a Pavlova with fruit and I heard one or two arguments as to whether it was meringue or real Pavlova. But overall the meal was excellent, the coffee was good and the service was friendly and excellent.

Friday, August 10, 2007



Are you suspicious of early bird offers in local restaurants? I am. Sometimes, you can get caught, as the offering is nothing more than a mean cut-down version of the regular serving.

There should be something for both parties in a genuine early bird offer. The punter should get some reward for coming out early while the establishment has its peak hour rush somewhat reduced.

After a few less than rewarding experiences, it was with some trepidation that I headed for the Silversprings Moran Hotel recently. But all anxiety vanished as we opened the menu. The early bird charge was €25.00 for a four course meal and that very same offering costs ten euro extra after 7.00pm.

It was great value and, all in all, a fine meal. We began with a duck starter; four or five slices of nicely cooked meat on a tasty salad. A good beginning.

Then on to the main course. I plumped for the Darne of Salmon, filled with a prawn mousse and served with a leek cream sauce. It was an excellent dish, served with some mashed potato and a tasty and not overdone dish of veg. The Advisor picked a Chicken and Mushroom dish, served with Suace Chasseur. It too came with potato and veg and both dishes went down very well indeed.

There were about four choices for each plate and the dessert choice also came from four. Each of us picked the Bailey’s Cheesecake, served with a dash of butterscotch sauce and that also was up to the standard of the rest of the meal.

The Hotel, as you might expect, has quite a long wine list, including some decent house wines. We went outside the house selection and picked a Pallavicini La Valletta Frascati, a zingy tarty yet full tasting wine that was well worth the €22.50 price tag.

Coffee was also included and this was not the mini cupful that so many restaurants serve. Instead we got a pot from which we poured four full cups. It might not have had quite the same class of some of the better restaurants but was very satisfactory at the end of a very satisfactory early bird. Well done to manager Eoin Daly and company.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007



No shortage of places for lunch in the Ballincollig area but we stumbled on a real contender the other day: the relatively new Oriel Court Hotel ( ).

We had given the place a wide berth since a disastrous Christmas lunch there (the service was dire, though the food was good) but the recent lunch was a revelation in terms of service, quality and value for money.

I started off with a huge bowl of chunky chowder, served with a gorgeous dark brown bread. No complaints here.

Then onto the main course. One of us had an open toasted chicken sandwich which, with salad and chips, turned out to be a quite a substantial dish. Two of us went for the Cajun salmon salad and we were each delighted.

The salad was varied and well mixed in a Marie Rose dressing. Pieces of cold fish, salmon and mussel mainly, were scattered throughout and all topped with a warm salmon piece, mildly spiced with a Cajun crust.

And that wasn't all. We each got two pieces of garlic bread and each of us agreed that this was the tastiest garlic bread we had ever eaten.

Well fed at this stage, we skipped the desserts and finished off with coffee. All this is served in the spacious and luxurious Powder Keg Bar and believe, it or not, most (if not all) the main courses cost a tenner or less and that too applies to the carvery dishes, which also looked of very generous proportions.

We picked from a very large choice on the lunch menu, which the Oriel serves from 12 noon until 5.00pm, so that gives you ample opportunity to go to the hotel and sample.

If you are coming from the west and can’t quite make Ballincollig, then why not call to Mike and Tess Sheehan at the Killumney Inn in Ovens. They have been serving traditional pub lunches for years and have satisfied many hundreds of customers. Satisfied diners return again and again and it is hard to get a place for the very popular Sunday lunch.

Glad to hear too at the weekend, from one of my spies, that La Boqueria, the tapas bar in Bridge Street, continues to serve top class food and wine. Must call again soon!

End of story

Saturday, August 4, 2007


His ancestors painted the town green


Amazing how some of us don't want to leave home behind us - even when we head off on holiday.

How often have you heard of a Corkman (and woman) packing rashers and sausages in the case as they fly out to one of the costas.

And when that supply runs out, the couple then seek out the nearest Irish pub or café selling the full Irish!

The Irish abroad have always hankered for the 'comforts' of home - it didn't start with package holidays.

Many Cork people will remember the Innishfallen, the passenger ship that sailed from Penrose Quay to England.

Back in the fifties, tripe and drisheen, a traditional Cork offal dish, now more or less the preserve of the older generation, was eagerly sought after by the many Cork exiles in England.

If you were visiting, you were requested to bring some with you. The white tripe and the brown drisheen were bought in the English Market in Cork and placed in water in the cabin sink to keep it nice and cool during the crossing.

It wasn't the only animal matter on board the ship as live cattle were also transported. They would have been driven through the city early in the morning, having 'painted' the nearby streets a slimey green. Their job done, the drovers could be found in the early houses (pubs, with a licence to open early).


You’ll love Casanova

Ristorante Casanova is a little gem, situated at 87 North Main Street (021 4851111). It serves traditional Italian cuisine and you can see its website at

The place is friendly, smallish and, as someone said, “cosy”. The first sign of this friendly approach came with a little something “from the house”: a tasty piece of Italian bread which had been pasted with olive oil and garlic and on which were loaded some small tomato pieces and a little salad. Very tasty and a promising beginning to the visit.

The Mussel starter, according to the menu, was to be served with a garlic, tomato and white wine accompaniment. This was far from the usual liquid that you get with mussels and indeed it was a beautiful fishy soup. Another surprise for €7.80.

We had come for the pizzas though and I picked a Capricciosa: Tomato, Ham, Mushroom, Salami, Artichoke and Mozzarella. The Advisor had a Paesana: Ham, Mushroom, Mozzarella and Tomato. The first cost €13.70, the second a Euro less.

Both were excellent 12” pizzas. Fillings were in quantities and quality that I have not previously seen in Cork and came quite close to matching those of June in Switzerland (see ). And then another surprise: a 50cl carafe of the house white (Soave) cost just €10.50.

We love you Casanova and we’ll be back.