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The sky cleared as we arrived at Cork’s Blackrock Castle this week for lunch in the Castle Café. and, from the bright front room - there is also an inner room - we had a close-up view of the 16th century castle under a beautiful blue sky.
It is a very popular spot for lunch. We had arrived rather early, about 12.30pm, last Wednesday, but had to wait in line for a table. After a short spell, during which we studied the menu, we were led to our table. The menus are already there as they use them as table mats, just as they do in Market Lane, a busy city centre restaurant run by the same firm (ORSO is also under the same umbrella).
The Elbow Lane Brewery, soon to come onstream if reports are correct, is also part of the group. For the moment, at least in the Castle, you can sample the craft brews of Dungarvan Brewing and Eight Degrees Brewing in bottle. On draught, they have a White Gypsy red ale and I sampled, and very much enjoyed, a glass of that (€2.30) with the meal.
Service was pretty good here, even if all tables were full. Presentation and delivery of the food was fine and what was supposed to be warm was warm and water was refilled without having to make a request.
We had two good salads as our mains. One was the Slow cooked ham with honey glaze, roast sweet potato, watercress, sundried tomatoes and grapefruit dressing (€10.95) and the other a Caesar Salad with Romaine Lettuce, classic Caesar dressing, parmesan shavings and croutons (€8.50) enhanced by the addition chicken and Bacon (€2.50).
But it was the starters that had us talking, as both were superb. Mine was the Seared Escalope of venison with leek and thyme risotto (€8.50). The strongly flavoured meat was well matched with the soft and gorgeous risotto.
Homemade crab fish fingers with lemon cucumber pickle and quince jelly (€7.95) was another gem, a well cooked main ingredient enhanced by the pickle and jelly. Big marks for each of these. Curried prawn dauphine with a seafood sauce and watercress salad was another starter I'd have liked to have tried. Next time! ++++++++++++++++++++++ Castle Café, Blackock Castle, Cork.
It’s bright and chatty, maybe
even witty. That’s the service style at ORSO, now into its eighth month on
Pembroke Street. No reservations here but turnover at lunchtime is relatively speedy,
not that they’ll put you under any pressure (on the contrary) and, if full, don’t
run off, they’ll help you get a seat soon enough.
As you pass the counter on
the way in, you may study the various salads, usually four of them. Pick one or
a bowl with all four. The salads are also used to accompany the main dishes on quite
a large menu that is influenced by the Southern Mediterranean and beyond.
Called in for lunch in
midweek and the first thing we ordered was one of their famous juices (changes daily). This, a mix of orange and carrot, was fantastic, giving
the waiter a chance to crack a joke about glowing in the dark. It is an informal
space, so sit back and relax between bites or swallows.
After studying the menu, CL
choose the Stuffed roast aubergine (with spiced roast vegetables, yoghurt and hazel
nuts) and her salad was the Roast squash and beetroot with smoked bacon, butter
beans, lentils and orange zest.
For me it was the Slow cooked
lamb and spice potato pie in flaky pastry and my salad was the Cous Cous with
coriander, apricots, almonds, roast saffron vegetables and hummus. Each of the
mains, including the salad, cost €8.90 and both were excellent.
Something sweet to finish with.
Some of the pastries had vanished, they are open from 8.30am, but the Mixed
Berry Crumble was still available and we each had one, along with a cup of their
special 5 bean blend coffee, roasted for ORSO by Greenbean. A very impressive
crumble – loved the oatmeal topping – and a smashing coffee.