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.