Fenn's Quay terrace pictured Oct 1986; the book shop on extreme right is now the restaurant.

A truly great dining experience. That's how Matt of Curious Wines, our guest blogger, described a recent visit to the city centre restaurant....

With the surprise arrival of my girlfriend into Curious Wines  on Saturday afternoon after a 4 hour drive from Armagh (she must love me), I decided a night out in Cork City was required. I called Fenns Quay restaurant to book a table for two. We needed a food and wine fix fast, and boy we got it. 

I had confidence in this choice of restaurant because of the recommendations from previous clientèle and I knew Kevin at Fenns Quay is a passionate man for his wine. Too many restaurateurs can't see anything past profit margins on a wine list, so it's great to see someone making a name for themselves through their wine offering as well as their food.

I ordered a Clonakilty black pudding starters and Bronagh opted for mushroom-pastry-type dish. We were in a mood for a red meat main course, so I got Slaney Valley lamb chump and Bronagh went for the char-grilled 10oz sirloin steak. Both were cooked to perfection. Rare, not blue, but rare. I find when you ask for medium-rare in Ireland, you more than often get medium. Ask for rare on the continent, and you'll get blue.

Everything was excellently presented, the seasoning and flavours were balanced, and the atmosphere was relaxed. The wine list certainly didn't disappoint either, a good selection offering the usual suspects (Italian Pinot Grigio, Aussie Shiraz) as well as a number of wines that you won't see everywhere, including an Austrian Grüner Veltliner and an Italian Grillo.

I needed something edging on big and bold for the main course, so my mind was made up (with the help of Kevin) by the Doña Paula Argentian Malbec. I understand we received one of the very last bottles. The back label would lead you to expect red fruit on the nose, and this might have been the case when young, but this '07 was showing darker fruits on the nose (dark cherry, blackberry) and even a little licorice. The palate was beautifully rounded, medium-full bodied with melt-in-your month tannins and another good whack of blackberry. It just added that extra 20-30% to the whole experience.

Obviously the standard of the food is the most important thing when eating out, but the experience as a whole can be diminished by a poor value wine list. I recently went to a very popular Cork restaurant and the food was excellent but the wine disappointing. I believe Kevin and his team delivered excellent value on both fronts, as well as very attentive and friendly service. Cork has a brilliant culinary scene, but if you're around the city any time soon, don't miss out on a truly great dining experience at Fenns Quay.

Check out Paul Kiernan's take on Fenns Quay. See also earlier reviews of Fenn's Quay here
Don't forget to visit Matt and Mike and Julian at http://www.curiouswines.ie/