Buy local, fresh and fair. The more we pull together, the further we will go. Ní neart go cur le chéile. Always on the look-out for tasty food and drink from quality producers! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter: @corkbilly
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“Bet you never thought you’d be sitting down to a three course meal on the street outside Penny’s and Guiney's,” said one diner as we gathered for Our Table in Oliver Plunkett Street (Cork) last evening. The four hundred of us, dressed in white (mostly!), were dined, wined and entertained for the two hours. The verdict: bring on 2016. Indeed, even before the night, indications were that double the number would be catered for next year.
Starter by House
So lots of craic, good fun and good food too. The long table was divided into four and we were at the B section. Each section had three restaurants looking after its needs and our trio were House, Isaacs and ORSO.
As we arrived we were treated to a refreshing flower-topped juice and guided to our table (and, yes, it was outside Penny’s and Guiney's). Soon we were meeting new and old friends and a glass of wine, sponsored by O'Donovan’s, went down well.
The event was sponsored by BAM Ireland and JCD and there were special thanks to Cork City Council, Cork City Forum, Elbow Lane Brewery, Stonewell Cider, One water, Down to Earth Materials, The Oliver Plunkett, O’Donovan’s Off Licence, The Pavilion Garden Centre, Cork Midsummer Festival. And a big round of applause too for the restaurants (management and staff) involved.
Mains by Isaac's. More on the side!
After the introductory drink and a nibble on the gorgeous Arbutus Bread (with butter), it didn't take long at all and the 400 were settling into the House starter: Carpaccio of baby radish, gold and red beets with tahini grapefruit and pistachio. Loved that mix of flavours, textures, not forgetting colours. A very promising start indeed.
Lamb was the main course at all the tables and Isaac’s came up with Slow roast shoulder of lamb with summer greens, spiced aubergines, and Ballycotton new potatoes. The best of ingredients plus the top class cooking forever associated with the MacCurtain Street venue made for a lot of happy diners at Table B!
The first two courses were excellent and the high standard was maintained right to the sweet end with the appearance of the ORSO dessert: Pecan and local honey baklava with gooseberry and elderflower compote, and Toonsbridge ricotta cream. A delightful dessert indeed, made even more so by the tang of the compote.
All that had to be done then was finish off the wine and head up the street to see how the others were doing. Met diners and restaurateurs alike and it was a case of thumbs up in all cases. Happy out!
The event was part of the Cork Midsummer Festival which continues for another week. See the programme for the coming week here.
Best of goods in small parcels. An old Irish saying beloved of mothers.
And like many old sayings, there is some truth in it. Take the Elbow Lane Brew and Smoke Housein Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork. The brewery here is so small, they call it nano rather than micro and the restaurant area, which can accommodate 25, is one of the smallest if not the smallest in the city. But you certainly get good stuff here.
Got the tour from Gerry O’Sullivan (you'll know him from the Castle Cafe) yesterday morning and you can see he enjoys his work here (he is also a home-brewer!). But then you realise that all the crew you meet here are on the same level of enthusiasm. Take a look at the top right of the menu and you’ll read: We’re really round of the beers that we make here. This is not marketing speak. It is true!
Perhaps, that enthusiasm has rubbed off from their beer guru Cuilan of White Gypsy. Elbow Lane folk are loud in their praise of the help and advice give by the pioneering Templemore brewery, especially Cuilán and Jamie.
The new Cork brewery is divided into two floors. The brewing and fermentation takes place downstairs while the conditioning takes place above. To save space, Gerry explained that they have an initial multi-purpose tank replacing the mash tun and lauter tun that you see in bigger breweries. Everything starts here and then the spent grain is neatly removed in its perforated container by a small hoist and no need for anyone to pop into the vessel with a shovel!
Gerry explained that hops can be added at different stages to the wort but with different effects. In general, hops added early in the boil will contribute more bitterness, but at the expense of flavor and aroma. Hops added at the end will have a more pronounced flavor and aroma, but will not contribute significantly to the bitterness of the beer.
Gerry, Conrad and brewer Russell
Hygiene is all important and is given the highest priority here. And Elbow Lane have also invested in temperature control, a key element in helping the brewer. Patience is also required, especially with lager. A German style lager can take up to six weeks while an Ale or Stout will be ready in 12 to 14 days.
There is a set of conditioning tanks upstairs - again you’ll see much bigger ones in other craft breweries. They are also known as Bright Beer Tanks. But the beer goes in cloudy. “All our beers here are unfiltered,” Gerry tells me. “They are naturally cloudy.”
The Cascade hop is one of the most popular and indeed, Gerry tells me there could well be a shortage of this particular type in the near future. They use it sparingly here, in pellet form. All the Elbow Lane beers are relatively lightly hopped, mainly because of food matching considerations. You don't want an over-hopped beer destroying the food flavours.
Indeed, the new brewery owes it existence to the food produced in the restaurants, Elbow Lane itself and big brother Market Lane next door, nearby ORSO and the Castle Cafe in Blackrock Castle. Owner Conrad Howard says they wouldn't have started a standalone “retail brewery”. But this one fits really well with the company's four food outlets, each with its own style. The Brewery has kegging and bottling facilities but that is to distribute the beers to ORSO and Blackrock. Market Lane is piped into the system!
And what kind of food do they do downstairs in the Elbow Lane Smokehouse? Well, very popular stuff by the looks of it. You'll find it difficult to get a seat after 7.00pm. Head chef Stephen Keogh is the man in charge and his pride and joy is the wood grill imported from the US.
Virtually everything you get on your plate here has been through the in-house smoker, the smoke coming from apple wood. Oak is used under the grill and here the T-Bones, the duck and fish (last Thursday night it was Sea Bream), is finished off.
And it really is going down very well. “There is a great feedback from all age groups”, says a delighted Gerry. “What’s your favourite?”, I asked. “Oh give me a T-Bone with that smoked Béarnaise butter and I’ll be a happy puppy!”
Sounds very good indeed. Pity it was early in the morning when we met! Must go back and try the cooking, the ribs are also highly rated. And it is a very different menu. Even the desserts! Where else would you get Passion Curd, eucalyptus and tamarind jelly?
At present, there are some five beers in the Elbow Lane range: Elbow Lager, Wisdom Ale, Liberty Porter, Angel Stout and Jawbone Pale Ale. Check them out here. Oh yes, you may also drink wine here, even tea and coffee!
Elbow Lane 4 Oliver Plunkett Street Cork 021 239 0479. email@example.com
The sky cleared as we arrived at Cork’s Blackrock Castle this week for lunch in the Castle Café. and, from the bright front room - there is also an inner room - we had a close-up view of the 16th century castle under a beautiful blue sky.
It is a very popular spot for lunch. We had arrived rather early, about 12.30pm, last Wednesday, but had to wait in line for a table. After a short spell, during which we studied the menu, we were led to our table. The menus are already there as they use them as table mats, just as they do in Market Lane, a busy city centre restaurant run by the same firm (ORSO is also under the same umbrella).
The Elbow Lane Brewery, soon to come onstream if reports are correct, is also part of the group. For the moment, at least in the Castle, you can sample the craft brews of Dungarvan Brewing and Eight Degrees Brewing in bottle. On draught, they have a White Gypsy red ale and I sampled, and very much enjoyed, a glass of that (€2.30) with the meal.
Service was pretty good here, even if all tables were full. Presentation and delivery of the food was fine and what was supposed to be warm was warm and water was refilled without having to make a request.
We had two good salads as our mains. One was the Slow cooked ham with honey glaze, roast sweet potato, watercress, sundried tomatoes and grapefruit dressing (€10.95) and the other a Caesar Salad with Romaine Lettuce, classic Caesar dressing, parmesan shavings and croutons (€8.50) enhanced by the addition chicken and Bacon (€2.50).
But it was the starters that had us talking, as both were superb. Mine was the Seared Escalope of venison with leek and thyme risotto (€8.50). The strongly flavoured meat was well matched with the soft and gorgeous risotto.
Homemade crab fish fingers with lemon cucumber pickle and quince jelly (€7.95) was another gem, a well cooked main ingredient enhanced by the pickle and jelly. Big marks for each of these. Curried prawn dauphine with a seafood sauce and watercress salad was another starter I'd have liked to have tried. Next time! ++++++++++++++++++++++ Castle Café, Blackock Castle, Cork.
It’s bright and chatty, maybe
even witty. That’s the service style at ORSO, now into its eighth month on
Pembroke Street. No reservations here but turnover at lunchtime is relatively speedy,
not that they’ll put you under any pressure (on the contrary) and, if full, don’t
run off, they’ll help you get a seat soon enough.
As you pass the counter on
the way in, you may study the various salads, usually four of them. Pick one or
a bowl with all four. The salads are also used to accompany the main dishes on quite
a large menu that is influenced by the Southern Mediterranean and beyond.
Called in for lunch in
midweek and the first thing we ordered was one of their famous juices (changes daily). This, a mix of orange and carrot, was fantastic, giving
the waiter a chance to crack a joke about glowing in the dark. It is an informal
space, so sit back and relax between bites or swallows.
After studying the menu, CL
choose the Stuffed roast aubergine (with spiced roast vegetables, yoghurt and hazel
nuts) and her salad was the Roast squash and beetroot with smoked bacon, butter
beans, lentils and orange zest.
For me it was the Slow cooked
lamb and spice potato pie in flaky pastry and my salad was the Cous Cous with
coriander, apricots, almonds, roast saffron vegetables and hummus. Each of the
mains, including the salad, cost €8.90 and both were excellent.
Something sweet to finish with.
Some of the pastries had vanished, they are open from 8.30am, but the Mixed
Berry Crumble was still available and we each had one, along with a cup of their
special 5 bean blend coffee, roasted for ORSO by Greenbean. A very impressive
crumble – loved the oatmeal topping – and a smashing coffee.