Cork, Ireland’s third largest city, spans both banks of the River Lee and is referred to as ‘the real capital of Ireland’ by residents. Situated in on the magnificent Atlantic coastline, this is a dynamic, exciting and unpretentious city, reflected in the restored buildings, lively culture and wonderful art scene. The city is undoubtedly the foodie capital of Ireland, and here are ten of the best restaurants in Cork.
Cafe, Restaurant, Diner, Restaurant with Rooms, Vegetarian, Sushi, $$$
One of the oldest establishments in Cork, Café Paradiso is a vegetarian venue but has become an icon in the city’s dining scene. Having received many awards and accolades through the years, the café combines ingredients and mixes flavours in unexpected ways, rendering each course a delicious work of art. The venue’s success has been so great that the owner Dennis Cotter has published four cookbooks. With a menu that is constantly reinvented using fresh, seasonal ingredients, the 20-year-old restaurant is still hard to beat, offering a vegetarian selection that includes sushi, risotto with blood orange salad, beets and blue cheese, couscous with feta and butternut squash pine nuts.
Cafe, Restaurant, Deli, Healthy, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, French
Quay Co-op Vegetarian Restaurant and Wholefood Store, Cork | Courtesy of The Quay Co-op, Cork
With bright dining rooms, wooden floors, fireplaces and big French windows overlooking the river Lee, the Quay Co-op is another longstanding establishment in Cork city, housed in a city centre venue along with an in-house bakery and three shops selling organic foods. Vegetarian and gluten-free ingredients of the highest quality, a hard-to-find way of cooking, a buzzy, energetic atmosphere and attentive, good-humoured staff never fail to satisfy newcomers and loyal customers of the 30-year-old restaurant.
For a great morning coffee, a delicious working lunch or an afternoon tea, Farmgate Café is an ideal choice if you happen to be passing by Cork’s busiest and best-loved spot, the English Market. For the best goats cheese sandwich in town or the delicious lemon tart, the choice is between sitting at the dining room or in the balcony, enjoying the bustle of the rush-hour or the atmosphere of the indoor market. Lunch choices are written on the chalkboard and desserts are deliciously displayed at the café window every day. Freshly baked scones served with jam or marmalade, granola and seasonal fruits, soups, chowders, specialty dishes and wonderful cakes can be savoured in the great atmosphere of the busy marketplace.
Fresh Mediterranean cuisine and friendly service attract hordes of customers to Star Anise restaurant. The owner Virginie Sarraziny is a French chef who grew up surrounded by good food and wine thanks to her chef father and wine expert mother. Head chef Carolyn Buckley perfected her craft in Parisian restaurants and her ravioli, gnocchi and other tasty dishes offer customers an excellent dining experience. With great value food, an eclectic wine list and relaxed and cozy atmosphere, this is one of the most reliable spots for dinner in Cork.
Electric was created around the concept of socialising through food and drink. Located in a renovated art-deco building, previously a bank, the Electric towers above the banks of the river Lee, with panoramic views of St Finbarr Cathedral. Starting from downstairs, a hopping bar offers exquisite cocktails; and upstairs, hanging right over the water, is a fish bar, inspired by Portuguese and Spanish tavernas. If the weather is good the wide veranda offers gorgeous views of the river, accompanied by wonderful tapas and wine.
Purchased in 1989 by Michael and Eileen Fleming, the impressive historic Georgian house, set on five acres of garden and patio areas, is today home to Flemings, one of the most exquisite dining venues in Cork. Built by prominent merchants on a hill overlooking the eastern side of the city of Cork, the beautiful house with all original features is an ideal venue for any occasion, from romantic meals to wedding celebrations. In the French Empire-style dining room with plush chairs and crystal chandeliers, the menu served is appropriately French, using local, fresh ingredients: monkfish served in red wine fish sauce, lamb with couscous, cheeses from local farms and various delicious desserts offer high quality dining at a reasonable price.
A lively corner bistro with casual and cosy atmosphere, friendly staff and excellent food, Market Lane is considered by many one of the best restaurants in Cork. Sweet potato and goats cheese tart, cod croquettes, tempura of monkfish with herb and lemon potato cake with tomato, olive and saffron ragout are some of the dishes featured on an oft-changing menu. Most ingredients are sourced from nearby English Market or local artisan producers and, along with a comprehensive wine list, make Market Lane the perfect combination of high quality and excellent value dining.
A traditional Irish pub atmosphere, homely food, craft beers, live music sessions and picturesque surroundings tick all the boxes for a perfect cultural experience at Blair’s Inn. Just outside Blarney in County Cork, owned and run by the Blair family, the pub specialises in seafood and steaks. Shellfish and fish come from nearby Kenmare, the Angus steaks and sausages from nearby butchers, and artisan cheeses are made in local County Clare creameries. Sit by the fire and enjoy a beer from local microbreweries, enjoy a hearty dinner or sing along with traditional musicians in a wonderful two-hour session and the Irish cultural experience will be complete.
With five different menus a week, including the renowned ‘12-mile menu’, where every ingredient is sourced within a 12-mile radius of the restaurant, Sage Restaurant is the project of young chef Kevin Aherne. Housed in a gorgeous stone building in the main street of the town of Midleton in County Cork, the restaurant has modern surroundings decorated in light sage and cream, with wooden floors and high-backed leather chairs. Every dish is an imaginative combination of flavours: mouth-watering beef, roast shoulder of pork with applesauce and sweet red cabbage are just some of the specialities.
The Coach House Bar and Bistro at the Old Imperial Hotel in the town of Yougal, in County Cork, is a real find for excellent food, friendly atmosphere, efficient serving and great value for money. Impressing on every level, the Coach House is a place where friendly local residents of the little seaside town mingle with visitors and tourists, enjoying local Irish produce in comfortable furnished surroundings. Contemporary and innovative dishes are served in big portions and the food satisfies all palettes. This is a busy bistro where booking in advance is highly recommended.