A couple of miles east of Cork city centre (and very close to Mahon Point SC), this scenically located café is a sister restaurant to the popular Market Lane Restaurant in Cork (see entry).
It’s in bright modern premises within the courtyard area of Blackrock Castle, a 19th century building with 16th century origins guarding the harbour entrance to the city. Now owned by Cork City Council, the castle houses an Observatory operated by Cork Institute of Technology; open to the public all year, it makes a great family day out.
The setting for the café is very attractive and it has earned a reputation for tasty Mediterranean-influenced family-friendly food and good value. The main café is in a new glass-walled building, which sits surprisingly easily alongside the old castle walls.
It’s set up smartly with bare-topped tables and a mixture of contemporary chairs and banquettes; the minimalist settings have place mat menus, with drinks listed on the back – and there are also plenty of outdoor tables, all numbered and bearing the friendly message “Sometimes it rains, and we will do our best to seat you inside…”
Brunch, lunch and diner menus are offered, quality ingredients (locally sourced where possible) are a point of pride, everything is homemade - even the baked beans - and vegetarian and coeliac-friendly dishes are available.
There’s something for all age groups, including a pizza menu that will appeal to older children and a very nice little Kids Menu offering real food for little ones: homemade chicken goujons or pasta with homemade tomato sauce, for example, also a homemade baby bowl.
But there are plenty of appealing grown-up dishes too, on both lunch and dinner menus including main courses such as ham hock with roast sweet potato salad, watercress, sundried tomatoes & grapefruit dressing; marinated baked cod with Greek potatoes, roast green beans & lemon cream sauce; roast marinated chicken breast with Moroccan spiced potatoes, roast vegetables & red wine jus; and a choice of steaks with traditional and some not-so-traditional accompaniments.
Desserts include refreshing choices such as a raspberry sorbet with fruit salad alongside the familiar chocolate temptations, and there’s even an ice cream snowman.
There’s a full bar and, although not long, the wine list is well chosen to match the food and there’s plenty of choice by the glass. Half a dozen Irish craft beers are also offered and, unusually, a cider too - Stonewell Irish Cider, which has been made near Kinsale since 2011.
The Castle Café may be of special interest to Castle visitors, but it is worth remembering if you’re shopping at Mahon Point too, or enjoying any of the many attractive walks in the area. And you can even get married at the Castle.