The opening of Cask, a cocktail-heavy bar billing itself as a drinks, food and entertainment venue, was something of a coup for sister establishments, Isaac’s Hotel and Greene’s Restaurant – especially with accomplished mixologist Andy Ferreira leading the talented bar team, and designing a honed, seasonally-inspired cocktail list to complement an imaginative bar menu created by Greene’s head chef Bryan McCarthy.
MacCurtain Street has recently seen a surge of casual dining venues and the addition of Cask now adds a welcome ‘destination bar’ offer into the growing mix.
Housed in a former antique shop facing onto the street on the one side and one of the city’s most attractive courtyard spaces on the other, the bar’s interior cleverly combines heritage details such as an original wooden ceiling and colourful floor tiles with contemporary twists such as eclectic industrial-chic lighting fixtures.
The moodily backlit bar places what is a vast selection of premium booze bottles at the centre of the drama. The cocktail list changes every two months to keep things interesting for regulars and appropriate to the seasons.
Ferreira shares chef McCarthy's love of foraging with ingredients like wild gorse flowers, young nettle tips and fresh dillisk playing a starring role, and he brings a real sense of place to his seasonal selection: one cocktail features a house vodka infused with young spruce shoots foraged by the team in the nearby Farran Woods. Others are named after legendary Cork characters such as Katty Barry and Roy Keane (honoured in a complicated number called ‘Cork First, Ireland Second’). Clever use is made of seasonal ingredients – using them fresh where possible but also preserving them in the form of house-made syrups, cordials and infusions. Several state-of-the-art Japanese ice machines produce specialist block ice, ball ice and flavoured ice, and allow further scope for stretching the gift of the seasons.
McCarthy’s food menu changes every six weeks and is bursting with originality too. Although largely dedicated to light and casual bar bites that serve to complement the drinks offer, it is full of extravagant cheffy details: the hummus comes with medjoule dates and fennel pollen as well as crispy toasts, for example, and the salt cod brandade with pickled dillisk and scurvy grass.
He has had some fun with global influences (Cajun Buttermilk Chicken Lollipops; South American Ceviche; Tonkatsu Chicken Wings with Kombu Salt) but a dedication to excellent local sourcing sees Greene’s ethos carry through to the bar menu too: where else will you get Gubbeen hot dog sliders from with Cotton Ball beer mustard, seaweed salad and balsamic onions.
This exciting new addition should help the rebranded Victorian Quarter of the city continue to draw more nighttime footfall – as will the continued private and public investment in the area. Watch this space.