Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

[Travel] A Sunny Weekend in Cork

An old joke starts with "What's the only good thing to come out of Cork?" The punchline of course, is the road to Dublin, but trust me when I say that there are many good reasons to flip this joke on its head and take a trip to this small city which has buckets of attitude. Dowtcha Boy!

We were staying at the Clarion Hotel Cork, which has taken excellent care of me in the past and is a great base for a visit to the city. As usual, it was raining in Cork and despite the short distance, we grabbed a taxi to our destination, the Cornstore Restaurant. On the drive down, we had already decided to order the Chateaubriand for 2 people but it was not available on that particular night, having been replaced by ribeye on the bone for two people. The ribeye arrived thickly sliced, perfectly cooked and served with our requested BĂ©arnaise sauce and chunky Jenga-style chips. Add in a well-mixed Negroni cocktail, and it was as good a Friday night as you could ask for.
A welcoming treat at the Clarion Hotel
Next morning was beautifully bright and clear, albeit chilly, and we walked from the Clarion to Fenns Quay Restaurant. We used to live just around the corner, and my old dentist Dr. Fenn has his surgery across the street from Fenns Quay. I never knew if Dr. Fenn was connected to Fenns Quay, although I often thought to ask. (Perhaps a reader might know something).
Cork Courthouse looking magnificent in the morning sunshine
Fenns Quay does Brunch only on Saturday only and it is very much worth making the effort to visit. A veritable mountain of freshly-baked scones and pastries tempted me with their wheat-laden evilness as we read the short menu. Home made baked beans with chorizo (€6.00) were hearty and warming while his pancakes with bacon were fluffy and light (€6.00). Two mimosas with freshly squeezed orange juice helped get the day off to the right kind of start. Chef Kate Lawlor even poked her head out from the kitchen to say hello.
Brunch at Fenn's Quay: homemade baked bean with chorizo and pancakes with bacon
Suitably fortified, we headed off into the English Market for a stroll. This had the dual effect of both delighting us, and making us miserable that there is no such equivalent in Dublin. The visit of Queen Elizabeth II to the English Market is noted in photographs throughout, surely making her the most famous visitor ever to this historic market. It was good to see that several new cafes had opened since we moved to Dublin, and some of the food stalls have had a facelift.

Everywhere we looked, there was something tasty and delicious on view. Macarons from Cafe Anraith, garlic olives from the Real Olive Company, tripe from one of the many traditional butchers, fragrant coffee from Coffee Central, ripe cheeses and fresh pasta at Iago or trays of take-away pizza slices at On The Pigs Back.

I have so many memories linked to the English Market. I first bought Chinese ingredients and spices at Mr. Bells. Himself cooked his very first meal for me using ingredients purchased from Iago and other shops in the market.  As a student on a budget, I cooked curries and stews using cheap cuts of beef from whichever butcher had the best price on the day. 

As always, Kay O'Connell's fish stall made me smile. A large whole monkfish was on display, causing squeals from younger kids. A Japanese tourist (complete with camera) was snapping pictures of the fishmongers at work as they cleaned, descaled and filleted fish under the ever-running taps.  Just down from O'Connell's, tasty samples of smoked fish were on offer from the excellent Hederman's Smoke House, based in nearby Cobh.
The English Market: Hederman's smoked fish, O'Connell's fishmongers, the Roughty foodstall, Healy's bakery and Cafe Anraith
Meet Mr. Monkfish at O'Connells Fishmongers
An alternative view of Mr. Tayto at the Market Lane entrance
After some more strolling around Cork, we broke for lunch and headed to the very slick new Fish Bar at Electric Cork. An excellent seafood lunch here put us in a very good mood indeed. Then it was time for me to cross back through the city over to North Main Street, where Bradley's Off-Licence and Foodstore is located. This Cork institute is currently run by Michael Creedon, a 4th generation family member. A firm wine-lover, Michael has developed a significant craft beer selection from Ireland and all over the world. At last count, 300 varieties were in stock, but I'm sure that number is already outdated.  I picked up several bottles of stout for himself, as well as some Irish hopped beers for a friend before heading back to the hotel.
 A portion of the extensive craft beer collection at Bradley's, North Main Street
By now, the sun was steadily shining in Cork and I stopped in at Idaho Cafe, which is owned and ran by husband and wife team Richard and Mairead Jacob. A former greasy spoon, the Idaho has been lovingly transformed by this dynamic pair into a cosy cafe, always packed with delicious baked treats. This impromptu pitstop came on the foot of a Twitter invitation from Richard, and was a welcome chance to put down my bags and enjoy a glass of light Beaujolais, accompanied by some wonderful macarons from Treat Petite (strawberry & balsamic, greedily followed by peanut butter).
Idaho Cafe in the sunshine; a perfect strawberry and balsamic vinegar macaron
The rest of my weekend was spent with family, but that's not a bad thing as Cork is significantly quieter on a Sunday. If you do find yourself in Cork and you require brunch on a Sunday, then Evin from 40 Shades of Life has a good listing on her blog, although I don't see the Castle Cafe at Blackrock Observatory on the list. I really would have liked to fit in a trip to Fota Wildlife Park, which is full of both childhood and adult memories, but that will have to wait for another day.


Magali said...

Hoping to go to Cork this July, loved the post! Do you know if it's possible to have brunch at the English Market, and would you recommend it?

dudara said...

Hi Magali - The English Market is closed on Sunday, so Saturday is your only option to dine there. The Farmgate Cafe upstairs does do breakfast ( You could also have coffee and cake/snacks at some of the other cafes throughout the market.

Magali said...

Thanks! B&B booked, looking forward to it!

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