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Last Sunday, we joined the Campo Viejo Tapas Trail in Cork and soon we saw why this now annual event has enjoyed such remarkable success, the events sold out (and with long waiting lists) in both Cork and Dublin. First you have the wine, the Campo Viejo 2008 Reserva, also specially commissioned art in each venue, then you have the excellent food at the restaurants and invariably good company and a guide, like our Paul, who pulls it all together with good grace and good humour.
Sunday’s “gang” (there is also a Wednesday trail) joined up at the remarkable Arthur Maynes Wine Bar in the city and the ice was broken with a welcome glass of cava by Campo Viejo. Paul introduced himself and soon each of us had a glass of the Reserva in hand.
Then came the tapas, a selection of three: bruschettas and dips, a lovely chorizo stew and a very popular dish of rustic patatas. This set the pattern for our first three visits; the fourth would be for dessert. There are four groups on the trail, each starting and finishing at a different restaurant. Had we finished at Arthur Maynes, we would have been been treated to Lemon Posset and Fresh Strawberries.
Great platter at Oysters
There were a few on- street stops as well, not for food but for a little local history from our guide. Perhaps his most interesting story was that of Cork born Dr James Miranda Barry. She was born Margaret Ann Bulkley, at the end of the 18th century, before going on to have a remarkable career as a male doctor with the British army. An amazing story. Check the Wikipedia version here.
A big welcome awaited us at Oysters and a classy platter of Savoury Tapas. Loved those pickled fennel and carrot but perhaps the highlights were the Sea Trout (with dill mayonnaise), the spicy Crab, and the American Style Meatloaf. Another group would enjoy their dessert menu: Cafe Gourmand and three miniatures of Chocolate Fondant, Champagne Sorbet and "Flambe" Pineapple.
Paul then illustrated the rise and rise of street art, reminding us that the original artists were fined for their efforts and now they are being paid. How times change. Soon we were in Electric and their three tapas were Tre Arancini Formaggi, Panko Crab Cakes and Moroccan Lamb Meatballs.
Arthur Maynes (left) and Electric
Paul had some vocal competition in Cornmarket Street but got his story told and then there was a musical welcome (by Treble Clef) at the Cornstore where Mags O’Connor greeted us and showed us to our seats and our deserts of Chocolate Negusse, Lemon Roulade and Vanilla & White Chocolate Cheesecake. Had we started here, we would have enjoyed Vietnamese Beef Brochette, Wild Mushroom Risotto Beignet, Smoked Mackerel Feuillett.
The wine throughout was the Campo Viejo Reserva, mainly Tempranillo but with some Graciano and Mazuelo in the blend. Smooth and fruity and with a long finish, and also very versatile as we discovered at the various venues on Sunday, it is widely available in all the major supermarkets, O’Brien’s (where it is currently on offer) and off licences nationwide. RRP is €14.31.
The art on this year’s trail is by renowned illustrator Steve Simpson. His stunning piece, evocative of the sun and the colours of Spain, is in four quadrants and each restaurant had one quadrant and the titles were Musica, Hola, Fiesta and Tapas. See the full art story and read more about the Tapas trails here.
Hit the Cork Tapas Trail with
Rioja wine-maker Campo Viejo last Sunday and it was a good one. Four
restaurants were visited over the course of a leisurely two and half hours,
tapas galore were consumed and no shortage of their 2007 Reserva either!
This is the first year that
the trails are being held in Cork. The Cornstore, Arthur Mayne, Oysters and
Electric are the participating restaurants. Wednesday evenings and Sunday
afternoons are the days and it is great value at twenty euro. The Cork trails
run from now until June 5th (with June 2nd excluded)
while the Dublin dates, again Wednesdays and Sundays, are from June 9th
until July 17th. More info here.
There were four groups on last
Sunday's Cork trail. Ours started in the Cornstore with a glass of Campo Viejo Cava
and a selection of gorgeous tapas with the Jack McCarthy Pudding and Queen
Scallop my favourite though I got through them all including that luxurious flourless
chocolate cake at the end. By the way, did you know that the Cornstore are now dry
aging their own beef with Himalayan salt and that means their steaks are extra
special at the moment.
Cornstore: Baby Octopus (nearest)
and Black Pudding & Queen Scallop.
Our guide was Paul and he told
us a few yarns about the city as we strolled between the various restaurants.
Next call was to Arthur Mayne Chemist in Pembroke Street. Not now a chemist, though
many interesting artefacts remain on view, but a wine bar cum cafe.
Got some tasty
stuff here too, including a meat and cheese platter and a lovely treat on the way
out, a sinful mouthful of their Mint Aero Chocolate Mousse. Didn't realise they
had such an extensive menu here. Must call again.
Then we got a big welcome from
Donal and his crew in Oysters and a lovely selection of their food on a board.
Highlight? Hard to pick one. The swordfish was superb but then so too was the
Butternut, Squash and Sage Risotto, the Duck Parfait and the.... Much of this board also features on their €35.00
table de hote menu, available nightly until 7.00pm. And one that I can highly
Then it was up the Mall to
Electric, our final stop on the trail. Here Jason filled us in on their short hectic
history and on their most recent development, the lovely fish bar upstairs. Treats
here included a Crab Mousse and a very special Polenta and Wild Garlic Mini-muffin (below).
No shortage of the Campo Viejo red either as an interesting afternoon came to a
pleasant end by the banks of the Lee.