On a recent weekend trip to my hometown of Cork, we found ourselves looking for somewhere different to dine. There seemed to be one main contender, the Market Lane restaurant which had received several good recent print mentions along with Twitter recommendations. I attempted to make a booking for a Saturday night, but once I navigated the irritating automated answering service, I learned that they do not take bookings for smaller groups.
In order to ensure that we got a table without any hassle, we arrived around 6.00pm, entering through thick red velvet curtains. Even at this early stage, the restaurant was very busy, but we were led upstairs and seated in one of the few remaining free tables. Placemats double up as menus and there were plenty of options from which to choose. In fact, I'd go so far as to say there was too much choice. I'd have preferred to see a smaller list of well-chosen options.
|Country pork pate with chutney, toast & crackers|
Staff were emerging at machine gun pace from the kitchen bearing plates of food and our starters arrived quite quickly. My generous portion of country pork liver and date pate with crackers, toast and chutney (€7.70) was reasonable, although somewhat grainy. The plate featured an unnecesary pile of sad looking wilted lettuce leaves which I left uneaten. I'd love to know how much money restaurants waste on plate garnishes that are returned to the kitchen.
|Sweet potato with Crozier blue cheese, spinach & dates|
Himself received sweet potato with Crozier blue cheese, spinach, dates and roasted pine nut oil (€7.20). When ordering this dish, we had to ask what it actually was, as the menu only lists the ingredients. Was it perhaps a tart or maybe a salad? It turned out to be a melt of blue cheese, spinach and dates, topped with crispy sweet potato strings and the unusual combination of salty and sweet ingredients worked really well.
|Spinach and ricotta ravioli with wild mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes|
When ordering, I had felt a craving for pasta. For your information, I generally don't order pasta in mixed-menu restaurants as it's usually overcooked, stodgy and coated in bad sauce. I should have followed my instinct in Market Lane. My main of spinach and ricotta ravioli with wild mushrooms, semi-sundried tomatoes, cream and parmesan (€13.95) was served compressed into brick-like solidity. The presence of meaty mushrooms and tangy tomatoes meant that the sauce was pretty good, but the stodgy ravioli just didn't do it for me.
|Pork Wellington with Jack McCarthy black pudding|
We had both been tempted by the Pork Wellington in flaky pastry with Jack McCarthy black pudding, fondant potato and carrot puree (€17.95) and it didn't disappoint. Lovely light flaky pastry with just-cooked pork and a lovely layer of spicy black pudding. This surely is a signature dish for Market Lane and I love the incorporation of McCarthy's excellent local pudding.
A glass of Southern Light Sauvignon Blanc and a bottle of Paulaner beer bought the total bill to a very reasonable €58.80. Market Lane is clearly a popular venue with a high table turnover on the night we visited. The pork Wellington was a particularly good dish, but I feel that Market Lane suffers from its popularity. There are too many choices on the menu, which gives a feeling that the restaurant is trying to be all things to all people. I'd much rather see a pared down menu, keeping the best dishes and losing the noise.Market Lane, 5-6 Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork
Tel: +353 (0)21 427 4710