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Friday, October 5, 2012

[Review] ORSO Kitchen & Bar, Pembroke Street, Cork

It's official - I have survived my second Oracle R12 go-live. For those of you unfamiliar with this subject, don't worry. Suffice to say that it's my real life job which funds my restaurant and cocktail habit. I've been involved with this particular project for a year, spent 14 weeks in the US and I've slept about 4 hrs on average each night over the last week. However, it's been a great success and I am very proud of the effort put in by both my company and the client personnel. Eating out and blogging activities definitely took a backseat during this hectic period. I may be a super woman but I'm not Superwoman. 

Conrad and Judy Howard, with their business partner Tracy Corbett, are some super business people. Firmly established in Cork's dining scene, they are the team behind the ever-busy Market Lane restaurant, the lovely Castle Cafe in Blackrock Castle, plus the new brewing venture Elbow Lane. Now the long-vacant Peppercorns premise on Pembroke Street has been smartened up something fierce to play home to ORSO Kitchen & Bar.
The food-laden counter at ORSO Kitchen
I have very fond memories of a tapas venture that used to run at night in Peppercorns. Apparently, a Spanish man had an arrangement to use the kitchen at night, where he would cook some fabulous tapas. I can still remember the crispy thin potato fries and chorizo cooked in wine - yes, they were that good. Unfortunately though, the relationship didn't last terribly long and that was the end of tapas in Cork. But now flavour will return to this venue, courtesy of the North African & Mediterranean stylings at ORSO.
Homemade free-range sausage roll with tomato relish
Stuffed roast aubergine with spiced roast veg
Slow cooked lamb pie
It's small inside ORSO and table space is at a premium. But it works somehow, probably due to the clean interior and the welcoming food counter. On a recent lunch, Himself ordered both the enormous homemade free-range sausage roll with tomato relish (€3.00) as well as the slow cooked lamb pie with coriander, apricots and potatoes (€5.00 or €8.50 with choice of salad). The sausage roll was smooth with a sweet flavour from the tomato relish, while the lamb pie was richly filled with fragant tender lamb.

My stuffed roast aubergine with spiced roast vegetables, yogurt and pine nuts (€5.00 or €8.50) came with a salad of roast squash, lentils, orange and little pickled pearl onions. This was like a comforting hug from a warm autumn kitchen, perfect for these shortening days. All was good until I managed to knock down a painting hanging behind me. Apologies ORSO!
Boneless lamb rib in sesame crust
Speck with chargrilled peaches and water grass
ORSO opens mainly during the day time, but extends to nighttime Thursday - Saturday. In the interests of providing a detailed report, I returned on my own for an evening meal. Alternatively, you could simply say I was hungry. The evening menu is full of small plates with matching prices. I initially ordered a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but switched to a richer Vina Sios Celestia Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc blend at the suggestion of my waiter (€6.40 per glass). Two thumbs up for the good suggestion.

My choices of boneless lamb rib in a sesame crust (€7.50) and a speck salad with chargrilled peaches and watercress (€6.50) were excellent choices for a lone diner. They would work equally well as part of a larger selection for two or more. Others dishes such as honey glazed chicken quarter with chili and sesame or a spatchcocked guinea fowl will tempt me back for more.

I've despaired a lot lately of the dining scene in Cork, which seems somewhat stagnant in comparison to the vibrancy of Dublin. But ORSO stands out from the crowd with bright colours and rich soulful flavours. Pricing is spot on making it an attractive option for lunch or dinner.

ORSO Kitchen & Bar, 8 Pembroke Street, Cork
Tel: +353 (0)21 243 8000
URL: www.orso.ie
Twitter: @ORSOKitchen

Orso on Urbanspoon

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