Restaurant Reviews. Food. Markets. Wine. Beer. Cider. Whiskey. Gin. Producers. . Always on the look-out for tasty food and drink from quality producers! Buy local, fresh and fair. The more we pull together, the further we will go. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter: @corkbilly
Facebook: Billy Lyons
Fancied some good fish last Friday so we headed off to Ballycotton’s marvellously situated Bayview Hotel, a hotel where head chef Ciaran Scully has an unrivalled reputation when its comes to fish. But, as we turned right at Shanagarry, we could see the fog straight ahead and it stayed with us, not quite blocking out the view of the pier as we parked but certainly most of the bay was out of sight.
But the mood and the weather improved as we tucked into our excellent lunch and, before the dessert, we were able to see right across the large bay to the Garryvoe Hotel, a “sister” of the Bayview. It turned out to be a lovely afternoon. Would have been a good one to take the cliff walk but, well, we were pretty full at that point so a stroll down to the shore was a much as we managed.
There’s an amazing menu here, packed with a huge choice of good things, not all from the sea. We were thinking of trying Roscoff Onion & Rebel Red Broth topped with Sourdough Croutes & Melted Hegarty’s Cheddar, just one of the soups on offer.A Salad of Macroom Mozzarella, Leamlara Farm Leaves, Heritage Tomatoes, Basil Pesto, Balsamic, Sourdough also caught the eye.
Grilled Inch House Black pudding with Beetroot Ketchup, Young Buck Blue Cheese, Onion Mousse featured prominently in our short-list of starters. But our pick - we shared it - was the Pig’s Head Brawn Terrine, Plum and Pedro Jiménez Puree, Bayview Piccalilli. This was perfect, the tasty meat flavours improved no end by that purée and even more so by the selection of pickled vegetables. These guys know how to pimp your terrine!
There were Steak, Duck leg, Lambs Liver on the mains. But fish of course is the specialty here and the Fish Board of Smoked Mackerel Pate, Dublin Bay Prawns, Little Darling Pickled Herrings, Ballycotton Smoked Salmon Salad & Sourdough Baguette beckoned but will have to wait for another visit!
They always have a selection of simply pan-fried fish here, served with side salad and chunky chips (really chunky!), usually priced around the €22.00 euro mark. We know the plaice around here is always top class so that was CL’s pick while I went for the Red Mullet.
The plaice was perfection itself, no batter to take from its delicious flavour. And I can honestly say the same about the more “meaty” mullet, a fish you don’t see that often on local menus. Hopefully that will change as it really is a beauty.
The choices continue at the end. There’s an Irish Farmhouse Cheese selection, Ice-cream variations, plus Sorbets. The Bayview uses lots of Irish produce and Tipperary Farm Boulaban is their ice-cream supplier. And we finished off with the Bayview Affogato: Boulaban Vanilla Ice Cream drowned In Freshly Made Double Espresso Black Barrel Syrup. Nice!
The four-star Bayview has a cliff-top nest in Ballycotton, overlooking both the pier and bay, a great place to dine and stay.
When the Farmgate Café advertise for staff, they stress “it's a busy fast paced environment”. And it is. I saw for myself last Wednesday week (Aug 7th). No shortage of spaces when we arrived at 12.30pm but it was such a different story thirty minutes later. By then, the Dining Room was full and there was a queue for the Balcony, even a little queue to exit! Twenty five years after its founding, the English Market restaurant's food is as much in demand as ever.
We got a table in the glassed off Dining Room and were soon studying the menu and the specials on the board (which included plaice and corn beef). Service is friendly and efficient here and water was quickly delivered to the table along with some of their complimentary breads (delicious, as always) and Glenilen Butter.
Something on the lighter side was our target, so we passed on the mains of fish, the beef, the free-range chicken and the Irish Lamb Stew, all tempting and most sourced from the English Market below.
We could have nibbled on olives and on the addictive House Spiced Nuts (we had those during the Walk the Long Table stop here). In the end, I picked the Seared Chicken Livers with Marsala on sourdough toast (8.50). There was a well-dressed salad on the plate as well and it was a superb combination of flavour, texture, even colour.
You can get Irish beers here and European wines but I regularly go for their sparkling elderflower drink and we shared a carafe (4.50). There’s a great loyalty between the Farmgate and their suppliers so it was no surprise to see the Old Millbank Organic Irish Smoked Salmon (12.50) on the menu here and CL gave that a run and confirmed the offering was as good as ever.
One of the advantages of the smaller plates was that dessert could be accommodated!There was a Pannacotta Special with strawberries up on the board but it was the regular Champagne and Elderflower Sorbet with West Cork Strawberries that tempted me. Must say I hit dessert jackpot with that one, so delicious I was half inclined to lift the bowl to my lips and drain the last drop of the melting sorbet!
Actually, there is a quite a long dessert menu here. Our other one was also cool and colourful: Lemon Tart and Raspberry Sorbet.Did a bit of sharing there and that too was excellent but I still gave mine the nod as the best! Each cost€5.90.
You may reserve a table in the Dining Room (table service) but not in the Balcony (counter service). The menu available in the Dining Room is mostly available too across the way and, in addition, you’ll be able to choose from soups, salads, toasted and open sandwiches, and a daily roast or two.
The Cronin sisters at Blarney’s Square Table are pure Cork. When they have something to say, and they often do, it is straight up. Just like the produce they use. Honest to goodness top class stuff, raised and grown locally. They’re not shy about emphasising where their meat, their fish, their veg, comes from. They are rightly proud of it and have a long list at the back of the menu so that you can look for yourself.
So call out to Blarney, to the champions of local. Study that menu and order and then you’ll have all the proof you want on your plate. Because, the twins, Martina and Tricia, are also well capable of handling all that beautiful produce and of serving well cooked and well presented dishes that wouldn’t be out of place in a top restaurant. What am I saying? This is a top restaurant, right on the edge of the village green in Blarney.
And this dinner of champions won’t cost you the earth. Especially if you go for the Early Bird which is available on Wednesday and Thursday 6pm to 9pm, Friday and Saturday 6pm to 7pm. 2-courses €26.75, 3-courses €31.
I took my own advice last Thursday and called to the Square Table which is looking very well following its renovation and small expansion early in the year. We got a great welcome as always and were soon studying the menus plus the specials. The local Old Butter Road Food Trails Festival kicked off in earnest the previous weekend but, because of the reliance on local produce, the area around Blarney is always well represented on the Square Table menu.
Kanturk’s Jack McCarthy is a member of the Old Butter Roads and you’ll see his name on the menu. As it happened we gave the Early Bird a trial spin and CL’s starter was a delicious McCarthy’s Black Pudding and Puff Pastry Roll, with house piccalilli and apple purée. Perfect.
The Crispy Egg with Ballyhoura Mushrooms and Hollandaise is also a regular on the menu and I was very happy to renew acquaintance with it. The Early Bird was off to a flier and the standard stayed high right to the finalé.
My main course was O’Connell’s pan-fried hake, buttered leeks, celeriac purée, pickled Ballyhoura Mushrooms. It was exquisite, perfection on a plate, as we’ve come to expect here, their high standards never seem to drop, amazing consistency meal after meal.
West Cork Chicken
I just kept saying perfection to myself and CL was also humming across the table as she enjoyed her West Cork Chicken, Cauliflower purée, Wild Garlic, Coolea cheese. And another thing I keep saying is to keep an eye on the small things in a restaurant as they can tell you a lot. Take the sides here, for instance: mashed potato, carrot and kale, sweet potato and turnip purée. They too were top notch, you could have had a lovely dish with just those on their own!
Time then for dessert; again we decided to share. The Crumble of the Evening (caramelised apple and rhubarb) with Featherbed Farmhouse Vanilla ice-cream was our pick. The crumble topping was light and lightly applied while everything underneath was full of soft and softer textures and delicious flavours with a touch of sweetness. Another Square Table meal made with skill and delivered with a smile. Why wouldn’t we come again!