Cork's Farmgate Café. Where time doesn't stand still and tradition thrives
As we queued for lunch behind a small group of French speakers and others on the stairs up to the Farmgate Café in Cork's English Market, we began to get a little worried. You have to reach the top to see how many are in and if there are vacant tables.
We could have had booked and would have had if it had been a Friday or a Saturday. But this was a Wednesday (after the Jazz Weekend) and we thought we’d be okay. As it turned out we did find a table, just for an hour we were told. There was no rush in the end but I’ll be more persistent on the phone the next time!
The delay was slight, to be honest, and we didn't really have time to study the menu (that had been handed to us as reached the top of the stairs) until we were seated and enjoying two of their breads, including the marvellous white soda that we occasionally buy at their stall downstairs - it is one of our favourite breads in the city.
The menu doesn't change all that much but we were here for the traditional plates - I had already pencilled in the Irish Lamb Stew. CL went for their Chicken Supreme and our dessert was Bread and Butter Pudding. All three are not so much traditional as timeless. As long as local producers maintain their high standards and as long as the Café, now with Rebecca Harte at the helm (having taken over from her mother Kate (the café’s founder), then these treasures of the ages will await you.
But don't worry, there is plenty of variety in the short menu. They are open to outside influences. How could they not be with so much of the market below also enhanced by flavours and spices from many countries and cultures and so you will see Atlas Green Olives, Pork Rillettes, Moroccan spices, and Scarmorza, sitting on the menu along with longstanding staples such as Loin of Bacon, Ladysbridge Potatoes, Tripe and Onions and Barry’s Tea.
While you are waiting for your food to arrive and or between courses, take a look over your shoulder and see which poet is looking down on you - Seán Ó Tuama's work was at my shoulder.
In the area, where you can book a table, there is, since 2005, the Poetry Wall.
An initiative of poet Gerry Murphy and Kay Harte, it is a unique collection of poems, by Cork, Irish and international poets, commissioned by the Farmgate Café to celebrate Cork’s year as European Capital of Culture. In 2018 President Michael D Higgins visited and added his own handwritten composition Stardust. Where else would you get that with your spuds?
And speaking of spuds, those Ladybridge potatoes are superb, the traditional balls of flour. Quite a few years back, Kay Harte and I were entertaining a couple of high-ranking US bloggers here and they too were bowled over by the potatoes and the phrase. Back in those days, the spuds from the same supplier were stored on the stairs. I don't think that’s the case now but they are as good as ever.
They came, large and floury, to be shared between us. The stew, with a selection of seasonal root vegetables, was superb, just what I expected. CL was more than happy with a beautifully cooked (large) piece of chicken, that too enhanced by the same veg and potatoes.
Both dishes are very highly recommended by the way. Other choices on the day included regulars such as Tripe and Onions with Drisheen (and those potatoes!);
Ardsallagh Goats Cheese Ciabatta, Balsamic Roasted Onions, Rocket & Walnut Pesto; Sourdough Sandwich with Moroccan spiced Chicken and Coriander Mayonaise; and a Toasted Sandwich (Loin of Bacon, Scarmorza Cheese, Onion Marmalade).
A favourite bread!
There were a couple of tempting specials as well: a Chicken, Bacon and Mushroom Pie; and Pan-roasted Hake. Oh, I almost forgot that Bread and Butter pudding was very enjoyable. As simple as could be, just the basic bread and butter and sultanas in a generous pool of "creamy" custard. Another thumbs up from us for tradition!
Lunch is served from 12.30pm to 15.30pm (Tuesday to Friday) and the phone number is 00 353 21 427 8134. On Saturday, hours are as above but breakfast from 08:30 and lunch until 16:00. Be sure and check their socials for updates.