Cork is known as the food capital of Ireland, and it’s not just good for carnivores. The city has plenty of quality meat-free options – some have even seen off nationwide competition to be named among the finest restaurants in the country. Read on to find the best vegetarian and vegan food in the so-called ‘rebel city’.
The Quay Co-op
Cafe, Restaurant, Deli, Healthy, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, French
Quay Co-op Vegetarian Restaurant and Wholefood Store, Cork | Courtesy of The Quay Co-op, Cork
The Quay Co-op sits on the banks of the River Lee, just south of the island that holds the Cork city centre. As well as being the city’s largest health food store, the Sullivan’s Quay shop is home to a much-loved restaurant that serves an extensive vegetarian and vegan menu all week long, from soups and spelt bread through to vegetarian shepherd’s pie, nutburgers and gluten-free vegan desserts. The dishes here are generous and reasonably priced, ensuring they’ll keep you full all day. The Quay Co-op also has its own Coffee Dock café, consisting of a well-stocked deli counter and an organic coffee stand (naturally, vegan milks are available).
The menu at Café Paradiso is entirely vegetarian, but that hasn’t limited its mass appeal. In 2015, this acclaimed restaurant on Cork’s Lancaster Quay – just a short walk from the famous English Market – was voted the best fine-dining establishment in the whole country in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards, becoming the first vegetarian restaurant ever to win a country-wide award on the site. Chef and founder Denis Cotter has won several other awards for his flavourful and inventive dishes, which can be given the attention they deserve at Café Paradiso’s intimate, stylish dining room. If you really want to make a night of it, there are even two sleek guest rooms above the restaurant, which can be booked as part of a dinner/stay package.
A relatively recent addition to Cork’s celebrated foodie scene, Iyer’s has a well-earned reputation for being one of the best places to eat a vegetarian meal in the city. This pure veggie café run by Gautham & Caroline Iyer specialises in freshly made, authentic South Indian food and snacks that have locals enraptured and foodies from across the country travelling to Cork just to try it. As part of its recommendation in the go-to food bible for Ireland, John and Sally McKenna’s 100 Best Restaurants in Ireland guide, the food here – specifically the samosas – is said to be ‘not only bliss, it’s benchmark’.
Having already won the hearts of Dubliners with their outlets on Dame Street and in Rathmines, Umi Falafel opened their first branch outside the capital earlier this year, on Academy Street in Cork. Their handmade falafel, cooked in low-fat rapeseed oil, is the centrepiece of the menu – you can get it in a sandwich of Palestinian pocket bread or a wrap, or you can try some falafel ‘bites’, either plain or stuffed with mozzarella cheese. These are best accompanied by something from their tempting mezze menu, or one of an array of healthy, freshly prepared salads.
Having launched in May 2017, 143 ⓥ is one of the city’s newest cafés, and the only completely vegan one in town. Situated close to Cork’s Kent train station, this new venture has begun serving an ambitious brunch, lunch and dinner menu to local and visiting vegans, with dishes that include sweet and savoury pancakes, a delicious-sounding beet burger with smokey cheese, and a breakfast bagel with tofu scramble, seitan sausage and baked beans. They also offer tasty juices and coffee.