Monday, December 31, 2007



If ever confirmation were needed that a restaurant rather than a hotel is the place to go for group dining at Christmas, then I got it at Gambieni’s last Saturday night.

I had arranged for a group of 14 to dine at the Carey’s Lane venue and neither I nor my 13 companions (they all turned up) were disappointed. Both the service and the food were top class. The plates were polished off and everyone left with a smile.

Gambieni’s has been and is one of my favourite restaurants in the city. They do a good range of food from pastas to pizzas to steaks but the chicken dishes are a delight.

And pride of place here goes to the Pollo alla Picatta. I plumped for that again the other night (after a goat’s cheese starter) and it was top class. I wasn’t exactly watching everyone else at the table but the Adviser had a Pollo alla Romano (a tomato based sauce) and that too was superb. The chicken dishes by the way are all about the €18.00 mark.

We did have a bottle of white wine, a Pinot Bianco that I hadn’t come across before. It was a refreshing light drink and great value at €18.50.

Just one charming waitress looked after our table and she did it superbly, the service not too slow and not too rushed and it all added to the family occasion.

I’ll certainly be back and I’m quite sure that the restaurant picked up a few new admirers on the night. Well done, again, Gambieni’s. Not that I ever had any doubts.

Monday, December 24, 2007




Just to underline my point in the previous post, that is better to visit a restaurant this time of year rather than a hotel, I was part of a group, close to fifty strong, that visited Mick Sheahan's Killumney Inn (a bar cum restaurant in the Ovens area) for a Christmas lunch.

No problem. The food was good and so too was the friendly service from Tess and her staff. There were quite a few for lunch in the bar as well, so the place was very very busy. But we got our starters, mains, desserts, teas and coffees at an enjoyable pace, not too fast, not too slow and no hint at all that the place was under pressure.

I enjoyed my soup and my Chicken Supreme (accompanied by a spot on mushroom sauce and nicely done vegetable, not too soft, not too hard and by an almost fluffy mashed potato). There was quite a choice for all courses and I ended with a decent sherry trifle. I didn’t hear a complaint from anyone in the immediate vicinity.

Well done to the Killumney Inn. We’ll call again.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007



Group dining continues to stretch the local hotels as the pace of the Christmas season increases. Last weekend, we put the spotlight on the Ambassador Hotel where a group (about 25) stretched it beyond its limits.

Signs were bad in the bar where just two people (including one linguistically challenged foreign national, who would have done well enough in a less demanding situation) couldn't really cope. Pints were poorly pulled and wrong mixers were being delivered as the rush got too much for them. Both lads behind the bar were doing their best but they could have done with one more.

And it was much the same story when the group eventually sat down to eat, the delay here caused more by the group than the hotel. But the Ambassador knew in advance how many they’d have to cater for in the room; they had two on duty and again could have done with one more. Indeed, had they had one more in the bar (where the rush was now off), he or she could have been transferred to the tables. Then maybe the duty manager had scheduled someone and had been left down.

The food? Not too bad. Adequate would be the word.

Why do some restaurants use fancy titles for their dishes when they can’t live up to them. For instance, the Ambassador Pate had a long winded title and the starter was supposed to include Brioche. The Pate was quite good as was the red onion accompaniment but the miserly piece of toast certainly wasn't Brioche and the dish (the amount of Pate was generous) could have done with two slices rather than the small one provided.

The main courses and desserts were average enough and most went down well. The company was good and occasion was quite enjoyable but the CorkFood verdict on the hotel was “could have done better”.

Overall, the message here is if you are going out on your own in Cork at this time of year, you’d be much better off going to a stand alone restaurant, which is used to coping with a full house on a regular basis.

Monday, December 10, 2007




Just when it seemed as if the local hotels were letting us down for Christmas, we find a winner at the Rochestown Park.

Group dining has been something of a problem in recent weeks but there was no problem at all in the Park this weekend when a group of 30 or so of us visited.

We were accommodated in “an old room” that wasn't in regular use but it was comfortable and quite suitable. The food was top class and certainly everyone at our table (there were two tables) cleared the plate.

If they offer you the Chicken Consommé there, take it, as it is excellent. They do a very good steak and all the vegetables and sauces were top class.

And then they came up with a pleasant surprise in the desserts. At long last, we got real "marshmallowy" Pavlova. That really topped it all.

Why can't other venues function as well when the Christmas rush comes on?
The Rochestown Park was extremely busy that evening and this was typified by the crowded bar where the centre of attraction was the Munster rugby game on the screens.

Just like Munster, the Hotel staff and management rose to the occasion and one has to say well done!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Like the curate's egg...

Christmas at The Commons
Wish you weren't here!

A party of eight at The Commons on the Mallow Road were made to feel surplus to requirements at a recent night out in the hotel restaurant.

One of the party dared to ask for proper wines glasses and was told that it could mean a long wait as the busy man who brought the wine, and he wasn’t a general operative, said he had over a hundred to look after for on the night. The room apparently can take 180 but our man obviously would prefer less than half that.

He was so busy that he didn't confirm that the table had received the correct wines and didn't offer the usual tasting. The white wine, a Pinot Grigio, was fine. The red, a Merlot, was fine too except that the party had ordered Shiraz.

By the way, the next waitress at the table had no problem in quickly locating and bringing the proper wines glasses.

The food from a limited menu wasn't great. Vegetables consisted of a florette of cauliflower (one for each person) and a big mound of overly sweet red cabbage (I thought we’d seen the end of that locally).

One or two got the Roast Rack of Lamb and it was so disappointing. It was so full of fat that you had to work hard to find the meat. They must be using the same supplier as the Kingsley.

All in all, the feeling was mutual. He was sorry they came and so were they. Maybe he’ll get his wish next Christmas.

Friday, November 30, 2007

That Time Of Year

The Christmas season has started and group dining is in vogue for the next few weeks.

Reports have come from two small reunion parties, one at The Captain’s Table, the other at The Briar Rose.

The Captain’s table was commended for its decor, service and quality (particularly the rack of lamb, priced in the mid €20s). This (lower) Barrack Street venue is a bit on the pricey side but the main problem is trying to find parking in the immediate area.

The Briar Rose doesn’t have a great deal of onsite parking. A few acquaintances tried this out the other night and went for the early bird menu (€25.00).

The starters, desserts and coffee were described as quite good but the mains didn’t impress. In the first place, the choice is very limited on the early bird and one dish in particular, the so called traditional fish and chips, came in for heavy criticism, mainly because one had to go fishing in the batter to find the miserable bit of fish inside.

So now you know. If you are in the Briar Rose, it might be better to choose from the main evening menu rather than the cut price cut down early bird.

Saturday, November 24, 2007



Once upon a time, in the last century, I read a novel in the garden of a gíte near the Breton town of Priziac. I was on holidays, relaxed. It was a terrific read.

Some months later, in the dreary deep of an Irish winter, I re-read the novel. And when I came to a particular scene, I must say I was disappointed. It wasn't quite what I had remembered. I reckon, that in my super relaxed holiday state, a glass or two sipped, I rewrote that particular scene myself.

But, of course, the book remained the same. By the way, I still have it. It is called Voss, written by the Australian Patrick White. And I can say that it is still a good read, even without my embellishments!

Books of course are not the only things changed by the holiday experience. Does the Tomme de Savoie you bought in the south of France taste the same as a similar cheese from the English market? How many times have you brought home a bottle of spirit or liquor, say Pineau de Charente or Pastis for example, and how many times have you been disappointed on opening it up and trying to enjoy it here, the two thirds full bottle often thrown out a year or two later. The experience is never quite the same.

And so it was with some trepidation that we decided some time back to try and repeat a simple but delightful dish that we had one evening in the sunny courtyard of a gite near the town of Bayeux in Normandy. This area is famous for its black pudding and we had been warned not to leave without trying the boudin noir.

The Marché in Bayeux was in full swing on a hot sunny day and we had no bother getting the pudding and we also got some free-range eggs. Amazingly you can get a massive range of fresh local produce at these markets but try the supermarkets for fresh milk and you’ll be lucky to find a few cartons, as the French seem to go for the vile tasting UHT.

We tried the dish it here, using the (supposedly) best of local black pudding but it wasn’t quite the same. The local product is usually quite salty, harder also than the imported variety.

The next best thing is to go into the Pig’s Back stall in the English Market and pick up some French Boudin Noir there (€3.00 for about a third of a ring). But you may have to try a few times as they don’t always have it. They had it recently and we tried it, again with the free range eggs, and it was splendid, though I must say we missed that sunny courtyard in Normandy.

If you are in the Market and want to make a full meal of it, you could do worse than pick up the Feta Cheese, Olive and Pepper salad they make up at the Olive stall. For dessert, I dare you to pass Heavens Cake, another nearby stall, without buying!

Friday, November 16, 2007




You got to get to the Rising Tide in Glounthaune early to find a berth for lunch. At least that was the case on a recent Friday afternoon. The place was very busy and latecomers had to wait for a table. Book before you go would seem to be the lesson.

Another lesson. The main courses, most between €10.50 and €12.50, are quite substantial. So, unless you know you have the room and good luck to you, don't take a starter. The Soup of the Day was mushroom and both it and a well made chowder were filling.

Lamb was the roast of the day but I went for Kenmare fish cakes, served with a salad, chips and a tomato sauce . Quite substantial as already indicated but also very tasty.

Nothing out of the ordinary. Mind you, the Advisor wasn't over impressed by the menu as she had seen better choices there previously. There was a little difference about the tomato sauce dip: I thought it was quite a decent one but it didn’t have enough kick for her.

Overall though the food was good, as was the service.

Prices: Soup €4.50, Chowder €6.95, Mains as above, Desserts €6.50.

Friday, November 9, 2007




If you ever find yourself on the North Eastern outskirts of Cork city and wondering whether to brave the traffic and venture to the centre for lunch, consider this instead: a visit to the Award winning Boothouse in Whitescross.

After a long absence, I called recently and found the menu hadn't changed much at all at the thatched pub, opposite the national school in Upper Glanmire. It never really did. But then why fix it if it ain’t broke, especially their specialty, the roast breast of stuffed farmyard chicken with gravy (€11.00). It is served with vegetables (carrots and cauliflower), Grattan potato and some boiled potatoes also.

Despite the low quality of the boiled spuds, the meal was as good as previously and every piece, except for a few bones (and most of the boiled spuds on the side dish), was eaten with relish and a mouthful of a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc (€4.70 for a 1/4 bottle). Well worth the detour.

Don't take me literally when I say a mouthful with every piece. I got educated on a trip to Austria (the southern part) a few years back. The waiters there would come around to the table with a carafe of water and ask: "Vater with the vine"? So now I alternate the liquids!

We had started with a vegetable soup, another staple of the limited blackboard menu. It cost €4.00 and on a cold day it was tasty and warming. There is a choice of four starters, a few mains course (including plaice and herbs), some open sandwiches and some toasted.

The desert menu (this was a long lunch) doesn’t change much either. It must be like cooking by the number at this stage but they do get their sums right. The Rice and Jam pudding (€4.50), with a dash of cream, was delightful and the Advisor demolished (delicately, I hastily add) the Pavlova with fresh Fruit even though she reckoned that this wasn’t the true Pavlova, though it was a decent try.

Does anyone in Cork do the real thing when it comes to Pavlova? The search goes on!
Another thing about the Boothouse is the service. It is always friendly and efficient and that was even more the case on this occasion. It is a “nice” place to go and a pleasant change from the hustle and bustle of the busy city centre lunch venues.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Chicken, Apple and Cider...



When the Irish pubs started to push up their prices on a regular basis, more and more people started to drink in the house. Could the same thing happen with eating out? Of course, it could. The alternatives are many. I tried one recently.

Could have been one of those evenings where a booking wasn’t available or where I just didn’t feel like driving into town, parking and so on. Instead, I popped over to the local Aldi. And Aldi is becoming local everywhere.

Starter was Breaded Camembert with Cranberry sauce (€1.99). Add in some leaves from a mixed pack (€0.70) and a little dressing and the cost of a very tasty starter works out at a max of €3.00 for two.

Main course was Chicken with Apple and Cider, taken from the Readers Digest 30 Minute Cookbook. Can't reproduce it here for copyright reasons but maybe it is available on their website ( )

The main ingredients, all from Aldi (except the Creme fraiche) are: Chicken (2.00), Apples (0.32), Crème fraîche (2.00), Cider (a can costs 1.36, with some left over for the chef!). Allow 0.30 for bits and pieces and that brings the total for one of our favourite dishes to an incredible €6.00 for the two.

You could have a bottle of white wine. Aldi has a range from 4.99 upwards. But a pint bottle of Old Moor’s Cider from Devon (at 1.99 each) is recommended.

Dessert is no problem. Aldi has an ice-cream yoghurt with a raspberry ripple. Four pots cost €2.00. I used two along with some raspberries. Estimated cost for the two is €2.00 max.

Leaving out the wine and/or bottles of cider, the cost of dinner came to just €11.00. Of course that doesn’t include the costs of preparation and the time but overall it was very enjoyable and could well become a trend!

Saturday, October 27, 2007



Once upon a time, in the streams and rivers in the general area of Riverstown, I was one of a group of boys who would while away the hours trying to catch darting brown trout.

Nowadays, I just visit the Bucknuti restaurant and pick from the selection there. Most recently, I enjoyed a Roasted Fillet of Sea Bream, on a bed of sautéed potato, with vegetable, dill and a Pinot Grigio Beurre Blanc. The veg was a bit on the shy side but the fish was well done and pretty reasonable value for €19.50.

Two of those with me went for the Pan Seared Salmon (€16.95), accompanied by a (very) few sautéed potato slices. Both agreed that the salmon was delicious but that the onion dominated sauce didn’t enhance the fish at all.

Chenin Blanc from South Africa is one of my regular choices and the Riverstown establishment has reasonably good one on their list: Virgin Earth (€19.95).

Dessert for me was quite a good Sticky Toffee Pudding. The Pavlova with fresh Fruit was also served at the table but again, as so often happens locally, it was really plain crispy meringue rather than your true Pavlova. It was overly crispy and didn't have the required soft marshmallow centre.

We did have very good service. Our waiter was top class, pleasant and quite knowledgeable about the menu.

See previous review on this restaurant below.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Pas Mal!

One is struck by the spaciousness of the place on entering Jacobs on the Mall. Glass, paintings and greenery are used to break up the huge walls and high arched ceiling – this was once the local Turkish baths. The floor space is well used. There is a generous amount of room between the various sets of tables and comfortable seating. First impressions are good. More importantly, they last!

We include some sample courses below but my main plate was pork with bacon, black-pudding, spinach, caramelised onions, and a potato parsnip galette. Absolutely gorgeous, the combination of flavours and smells a treat.

The Advisor went for the duck leg and breast with a beetroot compote and spinach. Again this went down a treat.

There were a couple of slight reservations. The baby spinach tasted as if it hadn’t even seen the steam not to mind the pot. We both love spinach in meals and have it regularly but this was needlessly stringy and chewy.

As a matter of taste, the beetroot was on the sweet side, perhaps too much brown sugar with the balsamic vinegar, something like the red cabbage that was once a frequent component of meals in the area. Thought I’d let you know. By the way, does any local restaurant serve sauerkraut?

We had skipped the starters but did have a few slices from their brilliant bread basket. Starters by the way are all around €9.50, mains in the high 20’s, desserts about €7.50. And then there is ten per cent service charge. It is quite expensive, but you do get what you pay for.

The desserts, as we say hereabouts, are to die for. Rarely have I had anything as exceptional as the date and butterscotch (with ice-cream) pudding. But I would have been just as happy with the Sicilian orange cake that the Advisor choose.

The wine list is huge. You can buy by the glass, the half bottle and full bottle. Penfolds 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz was our pick (about €26, I think) and it too was a delight

Crispy salmon with couscous, marinated grilled vegetables & harissa
Sirloin steak with sauté potatoes, grilled flat mushrooms, herb & garlic butter, spinach, caramelised onions, red wine jus
Fried polenta with grilled flat mushrooms, walnut & parsley pesto (V)
Breast of free range duck with roast butternut squash, buttered leeks, basil-pea puree, ginger jus

Chocolate and hazelnut tart with baileys ice-cream
Date & butterscotch pudding with vanilla ice-cream
Ginger & white chocolate parfait with caramelised banana, fudge sauce
Farmhouse cheese with fruit and home made biscuits
Tel: 021 4251530 Fax: 021 4251531

Our picture by the way is of the Turkish Baths on the Titanic. See

Saturday, October 20, 2007




Rossini’s is one of the longest established Italian restaurants in Cork City. Proprietors Patricia and Salvatore Toscano have got to be doing something right to survive the intense centre city competition.

One thing the restaurant does right is its Chicken Cacciatore (hunter style). I’m not a regular there but picked that particular dish (€21.90) on a recent visit. It was magnificent. The chicken was served in a “massive” tomato sauce, olives and mushrooms also included. The big plate was quite packed – just as well I didn’t have a starter (most of which are close to €10.00). Vegetables galore, including onion, asparagus, celery and broccoli and a helping of sautéed potato.

We did order a carafe of house wine and got a surprise here. I have been ordering carafes regularly enough in local restaurants, less regularly in establishments in France and Switzerland and was under the impression that a carafe was 50cl. But the serving in Rossini’s was a surprise litre size! Still, it was quite good value for €24.00 and we managed to put it away without too much difficulty.

Another surprise came at the end when we got the bill. It was about double the expected amount – it was for a different table! We got that sorted no problem. I suppose it could happen anywhere –although it was a first for me.

A colleague who had been to the popular Princes Street venue recently didn’t enjoy the experience saying the service was pretty poor (it seemed as if the place was understaffed on the night) and the pizza arrived late, so late that the cheese has lost its “elasticity” and had dried up. But I have to say that our service was perfect and friendly. The place was packed and the atmosphere good, enhanced by some live music.

The live music is on the menu from Tuesday to Saturday. The restaurant itself, which is probably in the mid-price range in the city, is open 7 nights a week, with dinner served from 6.00pm. Telephone is 021-4275818.