Any culinary tour of Cork must begin at Ballymaloe House, a 30-minute drive from the city. Opened in 1964, the restaurant at Ballymaloe in the East Cork countryside has flourished since then under the watchful eye of its pioneering original head chef, Myrtle Allen. With their own fruitful walled garden, a working farm and close relationships with neighbouring producers, the simple yet sumptuous dishes prepared here are some of the freshest and best in the country. As well as the distinguished restaurant and guesthouse, Ballymaloe run a world-renowned cookery school and hold an annual festival every summer, bringing international culinary stars to Cork for a weekend of incredible food, discussion and fun.
Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry, Midleton, County Cork, Ireland, +353 21 465 2531
This Midleton restaurant was recommended in the Michelin Guide for 2016 and was again on the McKennas’ list of the 100 Best Restaurants for 2016. Their sustainable ’12 mile ethos’ means that the vast majority of the ingredients they use comes from within a 12-mile radius of the restaurant. Dinner options include the likes of carrot and marrow soup as a starter, and monkfish, king oyster mushroom, cavolo nero and bacon lardons as a main.
Sage, The Courtyard, Main St, Midleton, County Cork, Ireland, +353 21 463 9682
Specialising in gourmet sandwiches made with local organic produce and their own freshly baked cakes, Monty’s Café is a family-owned breakfast, lunch and coffee spot you’ll be glad you visited. A cosy refuge to stop into near the famous Jameson Distillery, Monty’s also fuels those on the go, offering a range of healthy open sandwiches and salad plates to take away. Their delicious coffee comes from Irish artisan roasters Badger & Dodo.
Monty’s Café, Roxboro Close, Youghal Road, Midleton, County Cork, Ireland, +353 21 463 4293
The Farm Gate
Maróg O’Brien first opened her landmark restaurant and country store The Farm Gate in Midleton in 1983 as a means of championing locally sourced, seasonal food. It has since grown into a store, restaurant and bakery, still run by Maróg and members of her family. With a menu centred around Irish cheeses, free-range poultry, quality meat and fresh fish from the nearby Ballycotton Pier, their excellent food has earned them a ranking among the best in the country.
The English Market
The English Market, Cork City’s historic covered 18th-century market, is one of the world’s oldest. This place is a veritable paradise for foodies, with a broad variety of traders selling freshly caught fish, meat, herbs and spices, abundant fruit and vegetables, oils, sauces, sweets and much more. If visitors ever tire of browsing the endless stands of delicious produce, they can take themselves upstairs to The Farm Gate Café – a sister restaurant to the one in Midleton – and sample their menu full of ‘traditional, seasonal, regional, and even ‘forgotten’ foods’.
The English Market, Grand Parade, Cork City Centre, Ireland, +353 21 492 4258
O’Connail’s Chocolate Shop
Tucked away on French Church Street – just off the main shopping street in the centre of Cork City – you will find O’Connail’s, purveyors of what is possibly Ireland’s best hot chocolate. This sweet cafe sells all different kinds of milk, dark and white hot chocolates with taste variations that include everything from chilli to mint to praline. You can also buy bags of their chocolate drops to try and recreate the amazing flavours at home, but sitting upstairs in the cafe, cradling your cup and taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the city centre is all part of the experience.
O’Connail’s, 16B French Church St, Cork City Centre, Ireland, +353 21 437 3407
Takashi Miyazaki’s eponymous Japanese restaurant and takeaway on Cork’s Evergreen Street is a popular, relatively recent addition to the Cork dining scene and a new entry to last year’s McKennas’ Guide. Applauded for his beautiful, wholesome dishes using high-quality ingredients, innovative chef Takashi Miyazaki has created an elevated ‘fast food’ experience here. In July, he took his skills on tour, hosting the world’s first-ever pop-up restaurant to take place in a cave at the Mitchelstown Caves, helping just 28 select people to celebrate the Japanese festival of Tanabata.
Miyazaki, 1A Evergreen St, Ballyphehane, Cork City Centre, Ireland, +353 21 431 2716
Commonly referred to as the ‘gourmet centre of Ireland’, the seaside village of Kinsale has some of the county’s finest restaurants. Located less than a half hour’s drive from Cork Airport, Kinsale is home to eateries like the award-winning Fishy Fishy. A regular feature in Top 100 Restaurants in Ireland list and winner of a Michelin Bib Gourmand award, Fishy Fishy has been called ‘arguably the best seafood restaurant in the country’ by Lonely Planet. Other notable places to eat in Kinsale include The Black Pig Winebar and the Mediterranean-influenced Bastion.