Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Farmgate Cafe: A Cork Institution Where Market-Fresh Reigns Supreme

Farmgate Café. Pure Cork. Market-Fresh Guaranteed!

A Cork Institution Where Market-Fresh Reigns Supreme

We Irish may hold a special place in our hearts for lamb stew and potatoes, but sometimes, you crave something a little different. Thankfully, the Farmgate Cafe, nestled above the bustling English Market, offers a haven for those seeking alternative delicious and innovative dishes made with the freshest local ingredients. Still, when I saw the stew and potatoes arrive on a nearby table, I was beginning to have regrets.  

A Legacy of Quality

For decades, the Farmgate has been a cornerstone of the Cork culinary scene. I vividly remember a visit with American bloggers nearly 13 years ago, where founder Kay Harte showcased the magic of Irish cuisine. Her enthusiasm for "balls of flour" – those glorious Golden Wonder potatoes delivered from her longstanding East Cork supplier – was infectious, and the dish that arrived at a nearby table during my recent visit confirmed their enduring appeal.

While the menu was slightly reduced due to the post-holiday Tuesday lull, the quality remained exceptional. My companion opted for the Garryhinch Mushroom Vol au Vent with Walnut and Lemon Pangrattato, a delightful twist on a classic, and the verdict was a resounding "top notch."

I succumbed to the Toasted Sandwich with Loin of Bacon, Scarmorza Cheese, and Onion Marmalade. It was a medley of flavours, the smoky cheese and succulent bacon beautifully complemented by the sweetness of the marmalade. This winning combination, amplified by the equally impressive soup on the side, earned a well-deserved five stars.

Sweet Endings and Market Charm

After much deliberation, the classic Bakewell tart emerged victorious from the dessert debate. Its generous central layer of smooth and delicious plus its topping of perfectly sliced almonds, the ensemble in warm custard, provided a sweet and satisfying conclusion to the meal.

The Farmgate's post-Covid customer queueing system flowed seamlessly. Despite being close to capacity, the atmosphere was calm and convivial. The well-trained servers navigated the space with practised ease, projecting a sense of relaxed efficiency amidst the lively hum of conversation and the inherent buzz of the market itself.

More Than Just a Cafe

The Farmgate Cafe transcends the typical lunchtime haunt. It's a testament to the enduring power of fresh, seasonal ingredients and the importance of supporting local producers. It's a place where generations of Corkonians have gathered to enjoy good food and company, all within the vibrant tapestry of the English Market.

Cork may boast about its good things, and rightfully so, and the Farmgate Cafe stands out as a true gem, a market treasure offering an experience that goes far beyond "balls of flour" (though those are pretty darn good too)!

Cool station in La Boqueria St Josep, Barcelona.

We are not alone though. Quite a few well-loved cafés are located within large markets around Europe, similar to the Farmgate (but maybe without those balls of flour)! Here are a few.

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain: This world-famous market has several cafes lining its sides, offering everything from fresh tapas and pintxos to seafood paella and refreshing sangria.

Campo de' Fiori Market, Rome, Italy: This bustling market has several cafes and restaurants where you can grab a table and enjoy fresh pasta dishes, cured meats, and local cheeses all sourced from the market stalls.

Lisbon Mercado da Ribeira, Lisbon, Portugal: This recently renovated market offers a variety of trendy cafes and restaurants, many focussed on fresh seafood and Portuguese specialities like Pastel de Nata custard tarts.

Borough Market, London, England: This historic market is home to a few cafes serving delicious meals made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Visitors can enjoy everything from a classic full English breakfast to lighter options like salads and sandwiches

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey: The Grand Bazaar has numerous small eateries serving  Turkish staples like gözleme (stuffed flatbreads), kebab wraps, and refreshing glasses of Turkish tea.

These are just a few examples, and many other cafes are located within markets all over Europe. They offer a unique way to experience the sights, sounds, and flavours of a local market while enjoying a delicious meal; in that regard, Cork is as good as any.


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