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Eden may have been lost with a single bite of forbidden fruit but the garden can always be regained, at least in the Cork region, with a visit to Cafe Paradiso. No fruit, no vegetable forbidden here! Every meal in the city centre restaurant reinforces what one of my friends, who travels widely in the hospitality industry, told me a few years back: "It is not alone the best vegetarian restaurant in Ireland, it is probably the best restaurant in Ireland".
And what is perhaps not generally known, except to the regulars of course, is that Paradiso has a superb wine list. The lower end and the slow-moving higher end have been chopped from the list and what remains is packed with quality, great choices, between approximately thirty and forty five euro a bottle.
We were part of a seven person group the other night so the wines were shared, along with many a good laugh. Good advice on the wine list is also available and so we started with the Höpler Grüner Veltliner 2014, 12.5% Burgenland, Austria and finished with the Friedrich Becker Spatburgunder Pinot Noir 2011, 13.5%, Pfalz, Germany.
Others we could have had included the Susana Balbo ’Crios’ Malbec 2013, 14%, Mendoza, Argentina and the Alvaro Palacios La Montesa Rioja 2012 in the reds while among the whites that caught my eye were Wittmann Riesling Trocken 2012, 12% Rheinhessen, Germany and the Dos Victorias ‘Jose Pariente’ Verdejo 2013, 13%, Rueda. But it is easy to get a good one here as the list is really superb. If you’re not sure, just ask your server! By the way, all the wines are available by the glass, by 250ml and 500ml carafe and by the bottle.
Back to the food then and I'm not going to bore you with all the details. We picked the three course option here and you have lots of choice for forty euro. Two courses will set you back thirty three euro.
I had been toying with going for the truffled sunchoke soup with hazelnut gougere and buttered shiitake from a list of six starters (all tempting) but settled instead on the Macroom Buffalo Mozzarella with roasted carrots, pickled fennel, chermoula, preserved lemon and pistachio dukka. Amazing flavours and textures on this plate and the roast carrots came in for compliments all around the table.
CL meanwhile was delighted with her choice: roast beetroot, braised scorzonera and Knockalara sheep’s cheese with watercress, orange pickle and ras-el-hanout crumb. Colour, flavour, texture all combined, the dish showing that beetroot goes as well with sheep’s as goat’s. Great stuff indeed.
There were also six choices of mains but, amazingly, the majority of our group went for the roast aubergine parcels of cavolo nero and coolea cheese with miso gravy, beluga lentils,
pumpkin gnocchi and a green pepper and caramelised walnut salsa. Aubergine is one of my favourite vegetables in any restaurant but this was vegetable heaven, every little bit, the gravy, the lentils. Even CL polished off the gnocchi, usually left on the side! “These were good ones”, I was told.
And you must try the sides as they are superb as well. They do include sprouts but not like you've known them. Here they are served with tomato, chilli and ginger and well worth the fiver as are the Paradiso chips with truffled aioli.
Time then, and desire too, for dessert. Lots of temptation but I made up my mind early on the Orange and Date Bread and Butter Pudding and its Rum Custard. Oh la la! And other desserts enjoyed at the table included a Dark chocolate mousse with gingered pear and salted caramel popcorn and also Vanilla pod ice cream with brutti ma buoni, espresso and a shot of frangelico. A sweet end to a terrific meal and service was flawless throughout. Very Highly Recommended.
More desserts, including popular Orange and Date pudding
The menu here is based largely on local and seasonal produce. Gortnanain Farm is the primary source of veg (and honey). All cheeses (which include Coolea and Macroom) are Irish except for Feta and Halloumi. Mushrooms are Ballyhoura or foraged. More details on the restaurant, founded 23 years ago, here.
Just finished one of Dee’s Real Meals and I feel real good. The Thai Butternut Squash, Potato and Lentil meal was excellent, really well balanced, creamy (coconut milk) and a little crunchy (the lentils). Very tasty indeed and also very healthy.
Each of these award winning (Great Taste Gold) 400g carton meals contains 3 of your daily 5. The ingredients are 100 per cent wholefood; there are no artificial additives.
One carton makes a meal for one person but you may use it as a side for two people, maybe add it to rice or pasta or whatever you fancy. There has to be many combinations for these tasty treats.
The meal came as part of a goodie bag handed out to those attending last Saturday’s VegFest in Electric. The bag also included one of her burgers (add a bun and you have a massive meal) but the burgers are so famous now I decided to go for the other one first!
The weather wasn't the best on Saturday but Dee was pleased: “Thanks to everyone that made it to the first VegFest Cork, hope you all enjoyed the food and your goodie bags. John Conway from The Hollies gave a fascinating talk and for those of you that might have missed it, they are having an open day on the 16th October.”
“ We are also really looking forward to The Evening Echo coverage in their Social Diary this week for those of you that got snapped, keep an eye on this week’s paper!”
“We were so happy with the feedback we got from our new range of meals - they are available to purchase in Tesco stores below from Monday - (note-the packaging on the outer sleeves will be a little stronger in two weeks time if any of them got bashed about a bit!)”
“We are trialling the use of QR codes on the base of the sleeves, if you have a Smartphone - you can download a QR code scanner with an application called ScanLife. Using the application, a photo of the code is taken and it should link you to a special V.I.P Club sign up page. For those of you that can do this we will send you some €1.00 off coupons in the post to say thanks. For those of you that do not have a Smartphone - maybe a son/daughter/friend could scan the code for you.”
“Thanks for the support, we finished a little earlier than expected but next year we will have it bigger and better with music and lots of stalls.”
John Conway of The Hollies
As Dee said, John Conway’s talk was fascinating, all about an alternative way of gardening. The attractive things about it are firstly that you treat the earth as it would treat itself, everything possible is recycled, and secondly that it is a non dig method of cultivation (except when you’re lifting your spuds, of course!). Check out the website or try and make it to the open day.
Electric were busy upstairs and downstairs on Saturday but they still took time to treat us to some of their veggie taster plates and very nice they were too. As the event drew to a close we lingered with a cup of coffee and some of the gorgeous cupcakes supplied by D’s Delights .
You will find Dee’s Real Meals at selected Tesco Stores, Dunnes Stores, Supervalu and independent stores nationwide. Recently added Tesco outlets: Greystones, Baggot St Upper, Rathfarnham, Sandymount, Bloomfields, Ballybrack, Galway, Stillorgan, Merrion, Rathmines, Clarehall Extra, Dundrum Town, Ardkeen, Maynooth Extra, Douglas Extra and Naas Extra.