The largest county in the south of Ireland, Cork’s vast coastline and harbors inspire a number of seafood restaurants and bistros, while the county’s abundance of farms mean ingredients are often local. Here are the best restaurants in the county for you to enjoy, along with your pint of Murphy’s or Beamish.
Ballyseedy Home & Garden
Botanical Garden, Park, Shop
Located near Fota Island, famous for its wildlife park and gold resort hotel and on the outskirts of Carrigtwohill, is the Café at Ballyseedy Garden Centre. Using only the finest local and international produce, the Café at Ballyseedy serves up healthy, fresh and delicious salads, sandwiches, quiches and cakes. Everything is made daily and is bursting with flavor. This garden center truly promotes the garden-to-table approach, with home-grown vegetables and fruit used in their regular dishes and daily specials. If the great-tasting food wasn’t enough, there is often ambient live jazz or classical music. A quirky and eclectic dining setting, any visit here is bound to be memorable.
Overlooking the vast and impressive Cork Harbor, in the seaside village of Myrtleville is Bunnyconnellan Bar and Restaurant. A long-established and family-run restaurant, legend goes that the house’s name of Bunnyconnellan or Bunny’s is made up from the names of four children; Bunny, Conn, Nell and Ann. However, it is more than likely derived from a town in Co. Mayo. Charming anecdotes aside, visitors can feast on their famous seafood chowder, ribeye steak with sautéed mushrooms and onion, roast loin of bacon with creamy cabbage, and meringue roulade with berry compote, while gazing out at the unparalleled panorama of Cork Harbor.
Located in the cultural setting of the Crawford Art Gallery in the heart of Cork city center is the renowned Crawford Gallery Café. Situated on the ground floor of the gallery building, the café is an eclectic but inviting space. There is rarely an empty seat and there is often a short queue in the mornings as visitors eagerly arrive to enjoy a delicious breakfast. Sumptuous granola, crispy bacon and pancakes, and delicious eggs Florentine on toasted sourdough are some of the highlights from their breakfast menu. This is topped off by tea made from real tea leaves served in vintage bone china cups, and the opportunity to browse local artwork dotted around the room. Their lunch menu is also packed with tantalizing dishes of salads, soups and sandwiches, all made from house grown vegetables and locally sourced ingredients. With friendly and approachable staff, the Crawford Gallery Café is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city’s streets.
When traveling east from Cork city, to the town of Midleton, a must visit is the Farmgate Restaurant. Serving freshly home-baked scones, cakes and tarts in the morning to early risers, and succulent and flavorful dinners to night owls, the Farmgate caters for every occasion. They also have daily changing specials which are displayed on their blackboard, with sides of seasonal potatoes and vegetables. Sample dinner dishes include deep-fried squid with tomato and chili sauce, local Clonakilty black pudding tart with a hollandaise sauce, and pan-seared fillet of beef with Jameson whiskey mushroom sauce (the Jameson distillery is located in the town). There is also a bakery located at the front of the premises, with cabinets and tables filled with delectable cakes and sweet treats. Some of their produce, such as their chicken liver pâté, Cumberland sauce, pickles, and chutneys, are available to take away too. A collection of limestone sculptures by local artist Michael Quane, and paintings by Tom Climent add to the cultural quality of the restaurant.
Found in the West Cork town of Clonakilty, Richy’s Bar and Bistro offers visitors a warm setting and special dining experience. As well as regular dishes, there are also tempting weekly changing specials. All the food is perfectly paired with wines from their wine list of 30 labels. Split into two sections, the venue also includes a small bar section. Must-try dishes include their panko-breaded calamari with fennel and chili salad and saffron aioli, and their Shannonvale chicken Caesar salad. The taste of Richy’s can also be sampled at home, thanks to Richy’s cookbook which features some of the most popular dishes from the bistro. There are also cooking classes held during the autumn and winter, for those who wish to learn the tricks of the trade.
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Nestled in the picturesque town of Kinsale on Cork’s harbor is the Lemon Leaf Café. A haven for food-lovers, the Lemon Leaf Café is the brainchild of Tracy Keoghan, who was inspired to open her own restaurant following the birth of her daughter. Intended as a destination for mothers meeting for morning coffee, families out for lunch, or business men meeting over brunch, the Lemon Leaf has a wide variety of artisanal dishes to suit every appetite. Decorated in soft creams, greens and beiges, the Lemon Leaf is an oasis of calm. Popular dishes include their seafood chowder, their soup and sandwich combo, their chicken Caesar salad, and their homemade beef burger. Accompanied by a good cup of coffee served by approachable staff, the Lemon Leaf Café should be on every foodie’s list.
A firm favorite also located in Kinsale is the famous Fishy Fishy. Using the very best fish straight from the harbor, Fishy Fishy is not just a restaurant, but a remarkable seafood experience. Owner Martin Shanahan works with local fisherman to guarantee the very best and freshest seafood beautifully cooked and presented. The restaurant is divided over two floors, with the option of dining al fresco during the summertime. The restaurant is housed in a former art gallery, and retains much of its old character, with local artwork still adorning the walls. It is no surprise therefore, that Fishy Fishy is the recipient of many awards, and has been represented in Sally & John McKennas Bridgestone Top 100 Restaurants for the past eight years. Fishy Fishy has also received a Michelin Bib gourmand award.
Bandon is located in West Cork and is home to Poachers. Serving the fruits of the sea in an unpreserved way, the Poachers Inn sources their seafood locally and daily, buying their prawns whole and live, as well as cooking and cracking their own crab. Freshness and quality are at the core of the Poachers Inn’s philosophy. The same goes for their game and poultry dishes, their home-grown salads and house-made breads and desserts. Try their slow-cooked pork belly with a creamy mash, spicy lentils, pickled apple and Gubbeen chorizo, or their seafood tapas with open prawn, crab crumble, and calamari. With food this good, Poachers will have you coming back for more.