Monday, December 31, 2007



If ever confirmation were needed that a restaurant rather than a hotel is the place to go for group dining at Christmas, then I got it at Gambieni’s last Saturday night.

I had arranged for a group of 14 to dine at the Carey’s Lane venue and neither I nor my 13 companions (they all turned up) were disappointed. Both the service and the food were top class. The plates were polished off and everyone left with a smile.

Gambieni’s has been and is one of my favourite restaurants in the city. They do a good range of food from pastas to pizzas to steaks but the chicken dishes are a delight.

And pride of place here goes to the Pollo alla Picatta. I plumped for that again the other night (after a goat’s cheese starter) and it was top class. I wasn’t exactly watching everyone else at the table but the Adviser had a Pollo alla Romano (a tomato based sauce) and that too was superb. The chicken dishes by the way are all about the €18.00 mark.

We did have a bottle of white wine, a Pinot Bianco that I hadn’t come across before. It was a refreshing light drink and great value at €18.50.

Just one charming waitress looked after our table and she did it superbly, the service not too slow and not too rushed and it all added to the family occasion.

I’ll certainly be back and I’m quite sure that the restaurant picked up a few new admirers on the night. Well done, again, Gambieni’s. Not that I ever had any doubts.

Monday, December 24, 2007




Just to underline my point in the previous post, that is better to visit a restaurant this time of year rather than a hotel, I was part of a group, close to fifty strong, that visited Mick Sheahan's Killumney Inn (a bar cum restaurant in the Ovens area) for a Christmas lunch.

No problem. The food was good and so too was the friendly service from Tess and her staff. There were quite a few for lunch in the bar as well, so the place was very very busy. But we got our starters, mains, desserts, teas and coffees at an enjoyable pace, not too fast, not too slow and no hint at all that the place was under pressure.

I enjoyed my soup and my Chicken Supreme (accompanied by a spot on mushroom sauce and nicely done vegetable, not too soft, not too hard and by an almost fluffy mashed potato). There was quite a choice for all courses and I ended with a decent sherry trifle. I didn’t hear a complaint from anyone in the immediate vicinity.

Well done to the Killumney Inn. We’ll call again.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007



Group dining continues to stretch the local hotels as the pace of the Christmas season increases. Last weekend, we put the spotlight on the Ambassador Hotel where a group (about 25) stretched it beyond its limits.

Signs were bad in the bar where just two people (including one linguistically challenged foreign national, who would have done well enough in a less demanding situation) couldn't really cope. Pints were poorly pulled and wrong mixers were being delivered as the rush got too much for them. Both lads behind the bar were doing their best but they could have done with one more.

And it was much the same story when the group eventually sat down to eat, the delay here caused more by the group than the hotel. But the Ambassador knew in advance how many they’d have to cater for in the room; they had two on duty and again could have done with one more. Indeed, had they had one more in the bar (where the rush was now off), he or she could have been transferred to the tables. Then maybe the duty manager had scheduled someone and had been left down.

The food? Not too bad. Adequate would be the word.

Why do some restaurants use fancy titles for their dishes when they can’t live up to them. For instance, the Ambassador Pate had a long winded title and the starter was supposed to include Brioche. The Pate was quite good as was the red onion accompaniment but the miserly piece of toast certainly wasn't Brioche and the dish (the amount of Pate was generous) could have done with two slices rather than the small one provided.

The main courses and desserts were average enough and most went down well. The company was good and occasion was quite enjoyable but the CorkFood verdict on the hotel was “could have done better”.

Overall, the message here is if you are going out on your own in Cork at this time of year, you’d be much better off going to a stand alone restaurant, which is used to coping with a full house on a regular basis.

Monday, December 10, 2007




Just when it seemed as if the local hotels were letting us down for Christmas, we find a winner at the Rochestown Park.

Group dining has been something of a problem in recent weeks but there was no problem at all in the Park this weekend when a group of 30 or so of us visited.

We were accommodated in “an old room” that wasn't in regular use but it was comfortable and quite suitable. The food was top class and certainly everyone at our table (there were two tables) cleared the plate.

If they offer you the Chicken Consommé there, take it, as it is excellent. They do a very good steak and all the vegetables and sauces were top class.

And then they came up with a pleasant surprise in the desserts. At long last, we got real "marshmallowy" Pavlova. That really topped it all.

Why can't other venues function as well when the Christmas rush comes on?
The Rochestown Park was extremely busy that evening and this was typified by the crowded bar where the centre of attraction was the Munster rugby game on the screens.

Just like Munster, the Hotel staff and management rose to the occasion and one has to say well done!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Like the curate's egg...

Christmas at The Commons
Wish you weren't here!

A party of eight at The Commons on the Mallow Road were made to feel surplus to requirements at a recent night out in the hotel restaurant.

One of the party dared to ask for proper wines glasses and was told that it could mean a long wait as the busy man who brought the wine, and he wasn’t a general operative, said he had over a hundred to look after for on the night. The room apparently can take 180 but our man obviously would prefer less than half that.

He was so busy that he didn't confirm that the table had received the correct wines and didn't offer the usual tasting. The white wine, a Pinot Grigio, was fine. The red, a Merlot, was fine too except that the party had ordered Shiraz.

By the way, the next waitress at the table had no problem in quickly locating and bringing the proper wines glasses.

The food from a limited menu wasn't great. Vegetables consisted of a florette of cauliflower (one for each person) and a big mound of overly sweet red cabbage (I thought we’d seen the end of that locally).

One or two got the Roast Rack of Lamb and it was so disappointing. It was so full of fat that you had to work hard to find the meat. They must be using the same supplier as the Kingsley.

All in all, the feeling was mutual. He was sorry they came and so were they. Maybe he’ll get his wish next Christmas.

Friday, November 30, 2007

That Time Of Year

The Christmas season has started and group dining is in vogue for the next few weeks.

Reports have come from two small reunion parties, one at The Captain’s Table, the other at The Briar Rose.

The Captain’s table was commended for its decor, service and quality (particularly the rack of lamb, priced in the mid €20s). This (lower) Barrack Street venue is a bit on the pricey side but the main problem is trying to find parking in the immediate area.

The Briar Rose doesn’t have a great deal of onsite parking. A few acquaintances tried this out the other night and went for the early bird menu (€25.00).

The starters, desserts and coffee were described as quite good but the mains didn’t impress. In the first place, the choice is very limited on the early bird and one dish in particular, the so called traditional fish and chips, came in for heavy criticism, mainly because one had to go fishing in the batter to find the miserable bit of fish inside.

So now you know. If you are in the Briar Rose, it might be better to choose from the main evening menu rather than the cut price cut down early bird.

Saturday, November 24, 2007



Once upon a time, in the last century, I read a novel in the garden of a gíte near the Breton town of Priziac. I was on holidays, relaxed. It was a terrific read.

Some months later, in the dreary deep of an Irish winter, I re-read the novel. And when I came to a particular scene, I must say I was disappointed. It wasn't quite what I had remembered. I reckon, that in my super relaxed holiday state, a glass or two sipped, I rewrote that particular scene myself.

But, of course, the book remained the same. By the way, I still have it. It is called Voss, written by the Australian Patrick White. And I can say that it is still a good read, even without my embellishments!

Books of course are not the only things changed by the holiday experience. Does the Tomme de Savoie you bought in the south of France taste the same as a similar cheese from the English market? How many times have you brought home a bottle of spirit or liquor, say Pineau de Charente or Pastis for example, and how many times have you been disappointed on opening it up and trying to enjoy it here, the two thirds full bottle often thrown out a year or two later. The experience is never quite the same.

And so it was with some trepidation that we decided some time back to try and repeat a simple but delightful dish that we had one evening in the sunny courtyard of a gite near the town of Bayeux in Normandy. This area is famous for its black pudding and we had been warned not to leave without trying the boudin noir.

The Marché in Bayeux was in full swing on a hot sunny day and we had no bother getting the pudding and we also got some free-range eggs. Amazingly you can get a massive range of fresh local produce at these markets but try the supermarkets for fresh milk and you’ll be lucky to find a few cartons, as the French seem to go for the vile tasting UHT.

We tried the dish it here, using the (supposedly) best of local black pudding but it wasn’t quite the same. The local product is usually quite salty, harder also than the imported variety.

The next best thing is to go into the Pig’s Back stall in the English Market and pick up some French Boudin Noir there (€3.00 for about a third of a ring). But you may have to try a few times as they don’t always have it. They had it recently and we tried it, again with the free range eggs, and it was splendid, though I must say we missed that sunny courtyard in Normandy.

If you are in the Market and want to make a full meal of it, you could do worse than pick up the Feta Cheese, Olive and Pepper salad they make up at the Olive stall. For dessert, I dare you to pass Heavens Cake, another nearby stall, without buying!

Friday, November 16, 2007




You got to get to the Rising Tide in Glounthaune early to find a berth for lunch. At least that was the case on a recent Friday afternoon. The place was very busy and latecomers had to wait for a table. Book before you go would seem to be the lesson.

Another lesson. The main courses, most between €10.50 and €12.50, are quite substantial. So, unless you know you have the room and good luck to you, don't take a starter. The Soup of the Day was mushroom and both it and a well made chowder were filling.

Lamb was the roast of the day but I went for Kenmare fish cakes, served with a salad, chips and a tomato sauce . Quite substantial as already indicated but also very tasty.

Nothing out of the ordinary. Mind you, the Advisor wasn't over impressed by the menu as she had seen better choices there previously. There was a little difference about the tomato sauce dip: I thought it was quite a decent one but it didn’t have enough kick for her.

Overall though the food was good, as was the service.

Prices: Soup €4.50, Chowder €6.95, Mains as above, Desserts €6.50.

Friday, November 9, 2007




If you ever find yourself on the North Eastern outskirts of Cork city and wondering whether to brave the traffic and venture to the centre for lunch, consider this instead: a visit to the Award winning Boothouse in Whitescross.

After a long absence, I called recently and found the menu hadn't changed much at all at the thatched pub, opposite the national school in Upper Glanmire. It never really did. But then why fix it if it ain’t broke, especially their specialty, the roast breast of stuffed farmyard chicken with gravy (€11.00). It is served with vegetables (carrots and cauliflower), Grattan potato and some boiled potatoes also.

Despite the low quality of the boiled spuds, the meal was as good as previously and every piece, except for a few bones (and most of the boiled spuds on the side dish), was eaten with relish and a mouthful of a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc (€4.70 for a 1/4 bottle). Well worth the detour.

Don't take me literally when I say a mouthful with every piece. I got educated on a trip to Austria (the southern part) a few years back. The waiters there would come around to the table with a carafe of water and ask: "Vater with the vine"? So now I alternate the liquids!

We had started with a vegetable soup, another staple of the limited blackboard menu. It cost €4.00 and on a cold day it was tasty and warming. There is a choice of four starters, a few mains course (including plaice and herbs), some open sandwiches and some toasted.

The desert menu (this was a long lunch) doesn’t change much either. It must be like cooking by the number at this stage but they do get their sums right. The Rice and Jam pudding (€4.50), with a dash of cream, was delightful and the Advisor demolished (delicately, I hastily add) the Pavlova with fresh Fruit even though she reckoned that this wasn’t the true Pavlova, though it was a decent try.

Does anyone in Cork do the real thing when it comes to Pavlova? The search goes on!
Another thing about the Boothouse is the service. It is always friendly and efficient and that was even more the case on this occasion. It is a “nice” place to go and a pleasant change from the hustle and bustle of the busy city centre lunch venues.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Chicken, Apple and Cider...



When the Irish pubs started to push up their prices on a regular basis, more and more people started to drink in the house. Could the same thing happen with eating out? Of course, it could. The alternatives are many. I tried one recently.

Could have been one of those evenings where a booking wasn’t available or where I just didn’t feel like driving into town, parking and so on. Instead, I popped over to the local Aldi. And Aldi is becoming local everywhere.

Starter was Breaded Camembert with Cranberry sauce (€1.99). Add in some leaves from a mixed pack (€0.70) and a little dressing and the cost of a very tasty starter works out at a max of €3.00 for two.

Main course was Chicken with Apple and Cider, taken from the Readers Digest 30 Minute Cookbook. Can't reproduce it here for copyright reasons but maybe it is available on their website ( )

The main ingredients, all from Aldi (except the Creme fraiche) are: Chicken (2.00), Apples (0.32), Crème fraîche (2.00), Cider (a can costs 1.36, with some left over for the chef!). Allow 0.30 for bits and pieces and that brings the total for one of our favourite dishes to an incredible €6.00 for the two.

You could have a bottle of white wine. Aldi has a range from 4.99 upwards. But a pint bottle of Old Moor’s Cider from Devon (at 1.99 each) is recommended.

Dessert is no problem. Aldi has an ice-cream yoghurt with a raspberry ripple. Four pots cost €2.00. I used two along with some raspberries. Estimated cost for the two is €2.00 max.

Leaving out the wine and/or bottles of cider, the cost of dinner came to just €11.00. Of course that doesn’t include the costs of preparation and the time but overall it was very enjoyable and could well become a trend!

Saturday, October 27, 2007



Once upon a time, in the streams and rivers in the general area of Riverstown, I was one of a group of boys who would while away the hours trying to catch darting brown trout.

Nowadays, I just visit the Bucknuti restaurant and pick from the selection there. Most recently, I enjoyed a Roasted Fillet of Sea Bream, on a bed of sautéed potato, with vegetable, dill and a Pinot Grigio Beurre Blanc. The veg was a bit on the shy side but the fish was well done and pretty reasonable value for €19.50.

Two of those with me went for the Pan Seared Salmon (€16.95), accompanied by a (very) few sautéed potato slices. Both agreed that the salmon was delicious but that the onion dominated sauce didn’t enhance the fish at all.

Chenin Blanc from South Africa is one of my regular choices and the Riverstown establishment has reasonably good one on their list: Virgin Earth (€19.95).

Dessert for me was quite a good Sticky Toffee Pudding. The Pavlova with fresh Fruit was also served at the table but again, as so often happens locally, it was really plain crispy meringue rather than your true Pavlova. It was overly crispy and didn't have the required soft marshmallow centre.

We did have very good service. Our waiter was top class, pleasant and quite knowledgeable about the menu.

See previous review on this restaurant below.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Pas Mal!

One is struck by the spaciousness of the place on entering Jacobs on the Mall. Glass, paintings and greenery are used to break up the huge walls and high arched ceiling – this was once the local Turkish baths. The floor space is well used. There is a generous amount of room between the various sets of tables and comfortable seating. First impressions are good. More importantly, they last!

We include some sample courses below but my main plate was pork with bacon, black-pudding, spinach, caramelised onions, and a potato parsnip galette. Absolutely gorgeous, the combination of flavours and smells a treat.

The Advisor went for the duck leg and breast with a beetroot compote and spinach. Again this went down a treat.

There were a couple of slight reservations. The baby spinach tasted as if it hadn’t even seen the steam not to mind the pot. We both love spinach in meals and have it regularly but this was needlessly stringy and chewy.

As a matter of taste, the beetroot was on the sweet side, perhaps too much brown sugar with the balsamic vinegar, something like the red cabbage that was once a frequent component of meals in the area. Thought I’d let you know. By the way, does any local restaurant serve sauerkraut?

We had skipped the starters but did have a few slices from their brilliant bread basket. Starters by the way are all around €9.50, mains in the high 20’s, desserts about €7.50. And then there is ten per cent service charge. It is quite expensive, but you do get what you pay for.

The desserts, as we say hereabouts, are to die for. Rarely have I had anything as exceptional as the date and butterscotch (with ice-cream) pudding. But I would have been just as happy with the Sicilian orange cake that the Advisor choose.

The wine list is huge. You can buy by the glass, the half bottle and full bottle. Penfolds 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz was our pick (about €26, I think) and it too was a delight

Crispy salmon with couscous, marinated grilled vegetables & harissa
Sirloin steak with sauté potatoes, grilled flat mushrooms, herb & garlic butter, spinach, caramelised onions, red wine jus
Fried polenta with grilled flat mushrooms, walnut & parsley pesto (V)
Breast of free range duck with roast butternut squash, buttered leeks, basil-pea puree, ginger jus

Chocolate and hazelnut tart with baileys ice-cream
Date & butterscotch pudding with vanilla ice-cream
Ginger & white chocolate parfait with caramelised banana, fudge sauce
Farmhouse cheese with fruit and home made biscuits
Tel: 021 4251530 Fax: 021 4251531

Our picture by the way is of the Turkish Baths on the Titanic. See

Saturday, October 20, 2007




Rossini’s is one of the longest established Italian restaurants in Cork City. Proprietors Patricia and Salvatore Toscano have got to be doing something right to survive the intense centre city competition.

One thing the restaurant does right is its Chicken Cacciatore (hunter style). I’m not a regular there but picked that particular dish (€21.90) on a recent visit. It was magnificent. The chicken was served in a “massive” tomato sauce, olives and mushrooms also included. The big plate was quite packed – just as well I didn’t have a starter (most of which are close to €10.00). Vegetables galore, including onion, asparagus, celery and broccoli and a helping of sautéed potato.

We did order a carafe of house wine and got a surprise here. I have been ordering carafes regularly enough in local restaurants, less regularly in establishments in France and Switzerland and was under the impression that a carafe was 50cl. But the serving in Rossini’s was a surprise litre size! Still, it was quite good value for €24.00 and we managed to put it away without too much difficulty.

Another surprise came at the end when we got the bill. It was about double the expected amount – it was for a different table! We got that sorted no problem. I suppose it could happen anywhere –although it was a first for me.

A colleague who had been to the popular Princes Street venue recently didn’t enjoy the experience saying the service was pretty poor (it seemed as if the place was understaffed on the night) and the pizza arrived late, so late that the cheese has lost its “elasticity” and had dried up. But I have to say that our service was perfect and friendly. The place was packed and the atmosphere good, enhanced by some live music.

The live music is on the menu from Tuesday to Saturday. The restaurant itself, which is probably in the mid-price range in the city, is open 7 nights a week, with dinner served from 6.00pm. Telephone is 021-4275818.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


SECOND BITE...............
...........................COSTS MORE

How can the Oriel Court Hotel justify the massive price increase it has imposed on its lunchtime diners? Especially when it is accompanied by a drop in standards?

Just last August, I was loud in praise of the food there and the prices. Everything on the lunchtime menu was under a tenner.

Not anymore. The Cajun salmon salad that I enjoyed for less than €10.00 last August (August 2007, I must stress), now costs €11.50 and everything else has gone up has well, including prices at the carvery (where the beef plate now costs a whopping €14.00).

The food wasn't quite as good either. The hot salmon was slightly overdone and the garlic bread (one piece now as against two in August) that accompanied the salad wasn't up to the standard of the previous visit (see August review below).

At least, the multi-national service was efficient and friendly. But the totally unjustified price increase left a sour taste, leading perhaps to a detour next time I'm in the area.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007



Food and music can be a good mix. Not always. I was a guest at a recent club dinner where the former You’re A Star contender George Murphy was the main attraction of the post meal entertainment.

The meal over, we were looking forward to George. He made his entrance and started off with a string of ballads. All were delivered with a shouting style. The words flew at you, just loud words, no emotion, no feeling. Where’s the soul man? James Brown might have had asked. Where’s the duende, might have come from the Spanish poet Garcia Lorca.

But George kept on roaring it out, even Blowing in the Wind came in for the sand-blasting treatment, in between refreshing gargles of course. Then he took a bar break and left the two guitarists on stage and they changed the atmosphere and entertained with some rock numbers such as Roll it on the River.

George was soon back again and we got more of his almost deafening delivery, no attempt at a rapport with the audience. The crowd were willing and tried a few choruses but I have never seen such relief, even from us greybirds, when the trembling tones of the Bee Gees announced the start of the disco.

Pity really, as the five course meal was top class at the Convention Centre in Silversprings. Manager Eoin Daly was on hand to supervise the clockwork operation as the food was distributed with precision and no little attention to the 250 diners. The main course was beef and it was spot on and everyone was absolutely satisfied on this count. So well done once again to the Moran Silversprings.

If you’d still like to try food and cabaret, there is one venue that you should seriously consider. It has been highly recommended. At the Quality Hotel in Shandon, there is a cabaret featuring Neasa de Baroid every Thursday night. It was regularly sold out last year and the trend continues this year. But, if you book the dinner, you are guaranteed a seat at the entertainment. Sounds like a good deal!

Saturday, September 29, 2007



I have never been let down in Curran’s in Adelaide Street. I have been in there with parties big and small and never a complaint.

The latest visit produced the same result. Good friendly service and top class food, well prepared and at a decent price.

Guidebooks regularly recommend that you check out the Plat du Jour when you are on holiday. I wasn't on holiday but I did take the Chef's Special on my most recent visit to Curran’s. I’m glad I did.

It was pan-fired monkfish, accompanied by vegetables (spinach, carrot, onion – cooked to a perfect point, not too hard and, the spinach excepted, not at all soft), and laid on a bed of potatoes with mozzarella and served with a rich lemon sauce. It was a tasty and substantial treat for €24.95, a bit more that I would like to pay for a main course but well worth it on this occasion.

The wine, which cost €17.95 for the bottle, was a Pinot Grigio Chardonnay from Italy (Pasqua). It was dry and crisp, a hint of green apples in the taste, and went extremely well with the monkfish and the rich sauce.

Dessert was a Pavlova with fresh fruit. They do a good Pavlova here, the real thing, but the fruit, while nice, could have been a bit more exotic. There was just too much apple in it.

All in all, another enjoyable visit to Curran’s. The restaurant has an upstairs room for large parties. I had one there last year and I was glad to see it fully engaged the other night with sounds of joy and laughter coming down the stairs.

Verdict? 9.75 out of 10. Now if there had been more variety in the fruit that accompanied the Pavlova….

Saturday, September 22, 2007


But avoid the draught!

The lively Amicus restaurant, in its relatively new location in Paul Street, is about as central as you can get in the city. It has an extensive reasonably priced menu and produces good food. It doesn’t do reservations and sometimes you have to wait for a table.

Our latest visit started for me with a bowl of Moules Mariniere (dear enough at €10.00), with the traditional white wine, garlic and onion sauce. The cooking time was obviously spot-on and they were very tasty, though I could have done with a piece of bread. The Advisor began with a small bowl of Olives (€3.00). These too can be recommended.

On to the main course, where I took a chance and went for the Roasted Vegetable Salad. It consisted of Courgettes, Aubergines, Peppers and Onions, laid on a bed of couscous and baby spinach and served with a few splashes of organic yogurt and pesto. There was quite a plateful. The spinach and couscous bed worked very well and I enjoyed the peppers and the onions but I must admit I found the Aubergine and Courgette fairly soggy and therefore heavy going.

The Advisor went for the Sicilian curry, the chicken version. That was served in its own bowl and accompanied, on the main plate, by rice, relish, etc. All nicely presented and a treat to eat.

We felt we had room for dessert but none of the seven on the list was very tempting so we gave it a skip and finished off the wine. The total bill came to €59.00, plus tip.

That wine was probably the highlight of the night. For €19.00, we got an organic Montgras Soleus Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. This is a top class wine that belies its price tag. It is refreshing with a strong herby flavour that lingers. It also comes with a 14% kick.

Maybe our Irish waitress was new to the job. She certainly didn't have any great knowledge of the menu. For instance, she was asked what vegetables accompanied a certain dish and her reply: “Peppers and things”. Could do better!

While Amicus is certainly a place to go to, there is one section within the place that you should try and avoid. That is around the entrance area. We have been there once or twice and felt the draughts. The entrance is screened off by big glass panels and there are tables right alongside. The trouble is that there is a small gap, running the full height of the panels, and the draughts get through there and make life uncomfortable (the big glass window onto Paul Street doesn’t help either). So if your waitress is taking you to a seat in that area, ask for a different table.

Ironically, having said all that, right outside is the smoking area and there, in a chilly September evening, the dedicated puffers, some in lightweight sleeveless tops, are enjoying themselves with no worries about draughts. It takes all kinds!
Amicus now have a Tapas bar in full operation upstairs and I look forward to paying a visit there and see how it compares with Boqueria in Bridge Street.

Saturday, September 8, 2007



Just east of the city, in Riverstown, you will find the Bucknuti Restaurant, adjoining the BK2 Bar in the Hazelwood Shopping Centre. The name is Thai and many of the dishes, but by no means all, are Thai influenced.

From the extensive menu, I choose the pan roasted Cod fillet with Provencal vegetables, mushy green peas and home cut chips (€17.95). It was a smashing combination, the roasted veg (mainly pepper and aubergine) and peas mixing well with the fish to provide a light delight and the chips too were a cut above the normal.

Most of the desserts are €7.00 and I was very happy with mine: Peach and Orange crumble, with sauce anglaise and ice cream. It wasn't quite the crumble I was expecting but rather a tart with a crumble topping. The filling was mainly peach with possibly rind of orange. The custard was used sparingly and all together the result was a tasty light sweet that satisfied without leaving you with that filled up feeling.

The house wine was a Grenache Sauvignon blend. It was light and refreshing but maybe not great value for the €19.00.

Other family members were out eating as well on this particular night and good reports came back from The Barn (reliable, if expensive, set menu) and Amicus (cheerful and cheaper). Chicken dishes were recommended at each location: chicken breast (stuffed with a cream cheese and wrapped in bacon at The Barn) and a chargrilled chicken breast (her “usual” at Amicus).

Monday, September 3, 2007



(but sting in the tail...)

Greene’s, the restaurant by the waterfall in McCurtain Street, is a little bit pricier. But it is also a little bit better. I sampled their early bird (€28.00) recently and felt I had struck a culinary jackpot.

Starter was the Prawns Scampi (see menu illustration). They and the wedges looked scarce enough on the plate but were quite sufficient as a starter. Not just sufficient. They were excellent.

Main course was the Salmon. Oh, so tasty. And the vegetable accompaniment was also brilliant. The Advisor opted for the Toulouse Sausage. She doesn’t go far wrong. Indeed, she wasn't wrong at all. It was absolutely splendid and the Red Wind jus was one of the best sauces of its kind that we’ve ever come across.

After all that, we said we’d settle for a simple dessert and the Crème Caramel seemed to fit the bill. Again there was surprise. The citron just made this plate. Again so tasty. Demolishable!!! But at a leisurely pace.

Service was the usual league of nations that we’ve come to expect in Ireland. But that is only half the story. The young people smiled. They were friendly and above all they were efficient.

By the way, my wine was yet another Pinot Grigio. Again this one (€22.5) was from the Venice region but was tarty and bright and came quite close to matching the bottle from the Trentino region that I found so appealing in Switzerland (see

Oh Oh! After that so positive review, sad to report that during that night and into the following day, each of us suffered from an upset stomach! Arret

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.

Sunday, July 29, 2007




ECO in Douglas is one of Cork’s busiest restaurants and you have to book well in advance. Every bit of space is used here and the reception area is minuscule and not overly-inviting.

I had booked a Saturday night meal a few days earlier and was lucky to get a table for two, more or less isolated in a corner. Could have been unlucky as some tables for two leave barely enough room to squeeze in. We could have had one of those and ended up next to one noticeably sloppy adult diner who believed in overloading her spoon and or fork and then picking up the spillages off her chest. Distracting to say the least, disgusting to say the worst.

That aside, the meal went well. Warned in advance that portions are large, I skipped the starter and picked Sole al Forno as my main course. It consisted of Paupiettes of Sole with a prawn filling and a white wine sauce, served with vegetables (very nicely done and presented) and your choice of potato (eg wedges, fries or boiled).

The three parcels were delivered to the tables straight from the oven on a very hot pan. The potatoes and veg came in side dishes. Even though the chef had been a bit heavy with the cream in the sauce, this main course was excellent, very enjoyable.

Eco, better known in Cork as Eco’s, had a wine of the month promotion going and I picked a Rolling Chardonnay (Australia). It was one of the better of that variety from Oz and superb accompaniment for the sole. Cost was €19.95, quite a bit dearer than the house wine at four euro cheaper.

Finished off with a Pineapple and summer berry dessert. The pineapple rings (two) were topped with ice-cream. The hard “core” of the fruit had not been removed and that made it harder to cut it down to bite size pieces but, that little difficulty aside, it was a fitting finale to the visit to Douglas.

Indeed, the menu in ECO is so large and so varied that further visits are on the cards. By the way, this one, including the wine, cost just under €66.00 for two of us.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Celebrating with a group? Where to go?

Got a celebration coming up? An anniversary, a birthday, a modest Lotto win? Where do you take forty or fifty people in Cork? Here are three suggestions.

Curran’s in Adelaide Street is one. I was there late last year for a 60th with about 30 people. We were accommodated in an upstairs area, which we had to ourselves. You can have a set menu (with a certain amount of choice) or you can go a la carte. The service and the food are excellent and the restaurant also has a good choice of wine and beer (some of which is on draught).

Most recently I was in the extremely comfortable and spacious Kingsley Hotel on the Carrigrohane Road. The celebration here was in the Arc suite. The bar is just outside the room but there is ample table service for drinks. This was a full three-course meal, plus tea or coffee and it was a great night. The only disappointment was that the rack of lamb was mostly underdone and had a high amount of fat.

The barbecue at the Silversprings Hotel is also worth considering. They have a grass area with garden furniture, overlooked by a patio, all backed up by a spacious room indoors. Just as well the room was available on our visit: the weather broke at just the wrong time and we all had to move in for the food.

It was typical barbecue fare: chops, kebabs, hot dogs and salads. It was top class and, with the very reasonable €15.00 a head tariff, very good value indeed. There was no bar in the room but the main bar is very close and they will carry your drinks to your table.

Morans have re-furbished this hotel in recent years but I remember working with PJ Hegarty Ltd in the foundations in 1962 . I had special permission from the ITGWU (thanks to Gerry Cronin in Connolly Hall on the Lower Glanmire Road) and was paid four shillings and ten pence an hour, two pence more than the general worker. I operated a steel-bending machine and helped the steel fixers. This as regarded as semi-skilled work and that was why I got the extra few pence. It was good money for a teenager on his summer holidays.

Friday, July 27, 2007


Billy's Booze Bananas

Just in case, the shy sun comes out and temperatures rise, here is a smashing way to finish off a barbecue.

On a holiday in the Dordogne some years back, I stocked up with as much of the local produce, especially booze, as I could squeeze into the car.

On unpacking, I found a litre of Sarlat Noix, one of the many nut liquors from the area. Never quite knew what to do with it until, my creative juices fueled by barbecue beer, I got an inspiration as a few bananas blackened on the barby flames.

When the bananas were ready, they were peeled and laid on icecream. Then a tablespoon or two [maybe three] of the liquor were added. The delicious dessert was quickly dispatched - it must eaten quickly - and it became a back-garden favourite.

The Sarlat Noix eventually ran out but red rum is a more than handsome replacement.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


No. You won't be ripped off in Switzerland!


Gambienis in Carey's Lane is one of my favourite Cork restaurants. The others are Curran’s, Amicus and La Boqueria.

Just back from a Continental holiday, I visited Carey's Lane recently and, aside from the desserts, myself and the Advisor weren't disappointed.

We both know and enjoy the Rustica starter and we weren't let down on this occasion. It is described as: Warmed Mixed Roasted Vegetables & Mozzarella Cheese On Ciabata Bread Topped With Chilli Pesto Dressing. The main ingredients are usually the same but the others can vary a bit. Still, it is always a very good starter.

Gamienis do some excellent chicken dishes and I had Pollo Alla Romano: grilled breast of chicken topped with red onion, roasted peppers, mushrooms in tomato & red wine sauce. The Advisor had Barbecued Chicken with tomato, onion mushroom and chili. Both were excellent.

We could have done without the deserts but, able to resist anything except temptation, we dug in. Portions were generous and sweet but they were heavy going and not worth the money. That revolving cabinet could do with a re-shuffle!

Wine was a Pinot Grigio delle Venzie, Vaja. The blurb read: A very pleasant, characteristic bouquet. Soft and dry, relatively full-flavoured with a clean, fresh finish.

It was bought specifically to compare with a Pinot Grigio from a neighbouring Northern Italian district (Trentino) that we bought a week earlier in Connobio on Lago Maggiore. Have to say that the one bought in Italy (it cost €9.80 in a wine shop in the town) was much better.

Of course that bottle in Italy was consumed on a balcony overlooking a sunny Lake Lugano and that may have given it an extra edge. After all, the only view from Gambienis was a windy and cold Carey's Lane.

We didn't bother with the coffee and the whole meal in Carey's Lane came to over €82.00. How does that compare with the holiday prices? Much higher, of course, than the likes of Portugal but how does it compare with Switzerland, which would be regarded as one of the best off countries on the continent. The prices there though are surprisingly good.

By way of a guideline, take the meal we had on the main street in the very busy resort of Interlaken. A six course meal, along with a bottle of mineral water and a 50cl bottle of local wine came to €60.00 euro for the two.

The only complaint one could have had in Switzerland was the fact that they just don't supply tap water to the table. Since coming back, I have been given the following tip: if you ask for 'hahnenwasser' you will get tap water, though some restaurants can be more obliging than others.

For more Swiss prices see

Monday, July 23, 2007

Gourmet Sausages

I want my sausages!!!


The English Market is the bees’ knees!

No doubt about it, boy.

Gave it a little test recently. How about this for a meal? All from the pride of Cork.

This is just a meal suggestion - so don't expect a detailed list of instructions. I am assuming that all you langers out there know the basics. If, for example, you don't know how to do mash potato, then you'll have to look up D Allen or D Smith or some other Diva de Cuisine or ask the ma.

For starters, call to the Pig's Back and get yourself some country pate & French bread; all you need to add is some salad and relish, maybe some red currants from the garden.

Ingredients for the main course are gourmet sausages from O’Flynn’s {try Pork & Herb or Lamb & Rosemary} plus spinach from the organic stall. Just add your mash potato.

Finish off with a couple of tartlets from Heaven's Cakes. The lemon is highly recommended from this end.

Those O’Flynn’s sausages are great value as you get six for a fiver! Two Cajun were left over. Kept them in the freezer for a few days. Then they were hauled out, cooked and made two moderately spicy but very tasty hot dogs! Doubtcha boy!