Top Restaurants and Pubs in Cork, Ireland

Cook Street, at the heart of the city, is where you'll find some excellent dining stops
Cook Street, at the heart of the city, is where you'll find some excellent dining stops | © Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of A. J. Samuels
13 October 2020

Sitting on the banks of the River Lee, at the top of a large natural harbour, Ireland’s southerly city of Cork is known for its vibrant restaurant scene, as well as such cultural delicacies as drisheen and tripe. Here’s our guide on where to eat and drink in the Rebel City.

Perrotts Garden Bistro

Bistro, Restaurant, European, Mediterranean
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Perrotts Garden Bistro, in the Hayfield Manor Hotel, is a little upmarket, but definitely worth the expense. This bistro, in the conservatory, has an airy interior brightened by luxe decor and exotic plants, creating a relaxed atmosphere to go with the impeccable service. The bistro, which became a part of the hotel in 2005, serves a critically acclaimed menu of Mediterranean and international dishes. Starters include arugula salad with balsamic and aged parmesan, with main courses such as braised Irish beef cheek with champ mash, truffle celeriac purée, king oyster mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. There is also a twilight menu available, with highlights from the à la carte. There’s a good wine list, and liqueur coffee will finish off a memorable evening.

Pompeii Pizza at the Franciscan Well Brewery

Pub, Pub Grub, $$$
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Founded in 1998 on the North Mall, within earshot of the Shandon Bells, the Franciscan Well Brewery is one of Cork’s most celebrated pubs. Built on the site of an old monastery and well from 1219. Mixing modern tech with age-old tradition, it now boasts three serving vessels that brew craft beers and ales: Rebel Red, Frier Weisse and Shandon Stout. you can enjoy natural, tasty beers in the garden, while chowing down on a wood-fired pizza. The pub offers a vast menu, from Contadina Bianca with black pudding and pear to a vegan offering with barbecue-grilled jackfruit, roast peppers, black olives, vegan mozzarella and rocket. With live music, beer festivals and other cultural events, this brewpub is a must-visit for a real taste of Cork.

Paradiso

Cafe, Restaurant, Diner, Restaurant with Rooms, Vegetarian, Sushi, $$$
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Paradiso, near the historic University College Cork opened in 1993, offering what was then groundbreaking meat-free cooking and healthy eating. Owned and run by Denis Cotter, who has published four cookbooks, this award-winning restaurant has an innovative menu of fresh and local ingredients that go into such dishes as aubergine, knockalara and spinach parcels, feta and pistachio couscous cake among others. You can also stay the night in luxury accommodation, with fabulous views of the Lee.

The Farmgate Cafe

Cafe, Restaurant, Irish, Gluten-free, $$$
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On the mezzanine of the English Market, the Farmgate Cafe is the perfect venue for morning coffee, afternoon tea and everything else in between, with a menu featuring local dishes such as tripe and onions with drisheen. You can sit overlooking the lively market below, or choose a quieter spot in the dining room. The walls are a gallery of original artworks by Billy Foley, Tom Climent, sculptor Michael Quane and photographer John Minihan, among others, and the dining room features a poetry wall with poems by Irish and international poets commissioned by the cafe. There is also a sister restaurant in Midleton on the outskirts of Cork, and both venues have received numerous awards.

Electric

Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, Seafood, Portuguese, Spanish, Tapas, $$$
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A firm favourite of Corkonians, Electric, in a rejuvenated art deco-style former bank, and boasts outstanding views of the River Lee, the boardwalk, the spire of St Fin Barre Cathedral and the historic rooftops of Cork’s main street. The menu comprises traditional dishes with a contemporary twist – and the chargrilled steaks are worth the wait. When the sun does shine in Cork, diners eat al fresco on the banks of the river, and when evening sets in, enjoy a drink at the bar and listen to some cool tunes mixed by local DJs.

Market Lane

Restaurant, Bistro, European, Irish, $$$
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With ingredients sourced from the English Market and local artisan producers, it is no wonder Market Lane has earned a reputation for creativity and ingenuity. Dishes such as buffalo cauliflower Szechuan sweet potatoes, roasted onions and chickpeas have diners returning. For dessert, try the orange and vanilla bread-and-butter pudding, passionfruit cooler or chocolate tart.

Nash 19

Cafe, Restaurant, European, $$$
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Just off Oliver Plunkett Street, Nash 19 has been serving its famous potato cakes at breakfast, Arbutus bread sandwiches at lunch and cakes and scones any time for nearly 20 years. Using local ingredients and global spices, it has established a strong fanbase among the city’s workers. A recent addition is a contemporary art space at the back, featuring works from local artists. Over the past two decades, Nash 19 has truly become a venue for cultural dining.

Quay Co-op

Cafe, Restaurant, Deli, Healthy, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, French
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Situated near the famous St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, the Quay Co-op comprises an organic health-food shop on the ground floor, with a restaurant upstairs. A proactive and radical workers co-operative since 1982, the Quay Co-op was one of the first venues in Cork to promote gluten- and meat-free cuisine with flair and creativity. It has grown over the years and now boasts an in-house bakery as well as two sister shops in Ballincollig and Carrigaline. Here in Cork you can enjoy a fresh organic salad while gazing out through large sash windows over the Lee and bustling Grand Parade. The atmosphere is always welcoming and lively, and adorning the walls are local artworks that you can buy.

The Old Town Whiskey Bar at Bodega

Cafe, European, Vegan, Spanish, $$$
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Street and indoor markets form a significant part of Cork’s social and economic history, and the Coal Quay on Cornmarket Street is one of the oldest. Originally called St Peter’s, then the Irish Market, which ran from 1843 to 1955, the Bodega is a calm spot by day and a buzzing nightclub after dark. The menu features soups and small bites, vegan and superfoods, and Cork-inspired main dishes. Despite its new purpose, the Bodega retains its roots with the original Spanish-style arches and features still on show. The cathedral-like space provides a unique dining and nightlife experience. Whether it’s a quiet coffee and catch-up with friends, an intimate meal with family or a wild night out on the town, the Bodega will cater for it.

Miyazaki

Restaurant, Japanese, $$$
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The history of Miyazaki is as textured and interesting as any of its teppanyaki dishes. Having married an Irishwoman, Japanese chef Takashi Miyazaki spent months travelling the country in search of a suitable location to set up his maiden restaurant. He consulted local fishmongers as much as estate agents, eventually choosing Cork for its laid-back charm and the freshness of its seafood. Initially a humble takeaway, the restaurant quickly generated a buzz, with critics and punters falling over themselves to secure a seat in the tiny six-stool space. Miyazaki champions teppanyaki, which translates as grilling on an iron plate. The method, which grew in popularity after the Second World War, involves chefs sizzling the food right in front of the customer to produce tender, umami and slightly smoky wagyu steak, or red miso soup with a tart accompaniment of sour plum.

Ichigo Ichie

Restaurant, Japanese, $$$
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Lauded by critics for Miyazaki, a pint-sized Japanese takeaway with only six seats, it’s unsurprising to see Japanese chef Takashi Miyazaki elevate his cooking with this new take on kaiseki – served in a simple eatery with a (thankfully) larger capacity of 25 seats. It’s no surprise, either, to discover he has garnered a Michelin star in the process. Ichigo Ichie offers a taster menu of 12 dishes, each intricately textured and artfully served. The creativity on show is bewildering, and at €120 (minimum), you’ll experience some truly cutting-edge Japanese cuisine, made with seafood as fresh as the Cork salt-breeze.

Goldie

Restaurant, Seafood
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One of the newest kids on the block in Cork’s sea-to-table “seacuterie” scene, this restaurant, the brainchild of executive chef Stephen Kehoe, offers mackerel that’s smoked, sardines that are pickled and halibut that’s steamed, resulting in small plates packed with flavour combinations you might not think would work. The mains are no less impressive, making use of traditionally overlooked produce such as red mul­let, which arrives pan-seared with Church­field vegetable escabeche. Staff are quick to offer up suggestions for wine or craft pairings; the beer is made at the sister restaurant/brewery across the street.

My Goodness

Restaurant, Vegan
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What started as a zero-waste food van, doing pop-ups at festivals and farmer’s markets, has evolved into one of Cork’s standout vegan offerings. Texas-born Virginia O’Gara focuses on sustainability, creating a small range of dishes that rely on local ingredients – so no air miles here. This requires a certain creativity, but that’s no bad thing, and she’s clearly a fan of fermentation, as tangy kombuchas reuse rainwater from the filtration systems; kefir is produced with local milk, while sauerkraut is made from Irish cabbages. The raw cakes are excellent, too.

Elbow Lane

Restaurant, Bar, Irish, $$$
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One of the few restaurants in Cork that elevates modern Irish cuisine beyond upmarket pub grub, Elbow Lane is more than just an afterthought to accompany the micro-brewery downstairs. Executive chef Stephen Kehoe has masterminded a creative menu that plays to local strengths – in a tiny space, with an open-plan kitchen, the wood-fired grill seducing guests with smoky aromas. Standout mains include low-smoked beef brisket croquetas with rojak sauce and the house favourite – wood-grilled sirloin with smoked cas­cade but­ter. Booking essential.

Sin é

Pub, Irish, $$$
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A Gaelic pub through and through, Sin é has attracted a loyal following of folk-loving locals since it opened 150 years ago. A homely tavern stuffed with nautical knick-knacks and Guinness memorabilia, Sin é is one of Cork’s welcoming old-school establishments. The long-time home of folk music, make a beeline here for live trad sessions – craic is guaranteed. The downstairs area tends to get rather packed, so arrive early to bag a seat. If there’s no music on, you’ll still have a chance to carouse with the locals – and a stellar cast of craft beer, whiskeys and liquors will keep you replenished.

These recommendations were updated on October 13, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.