Probably Cork’s most unusual licensed premises, this 120 year old former pharmacy is owned by well known publican Benny McCabe who has achieved the change of use with a remarkably light hand.
Despite a display of products like Brylcream and senna pods in the window hinting at this venerable building’s past, first time visitors are amazed to find that most of the original fittings (and their contents) are still in place - and some are actually for sale.
It’s a popular place to drop into for a coffee or tea and a bacon butty or a scone, or just to enjoy a glass of wine in intriguing surroundings - and, with sister pub Crane Lane across the courtyard, you are sure of a pint if you prefer. Softened by hanging greenery, the narrow courtyard is a pleasant cool spot to sip a drink refreshing as you take a break on a hot day in the city.
The biggest obvious change to the premises is not one that customers are likely to complain about, as it’s the introduction of a state-of-the-art enomatic system which allows you to sample 24 different varieties of wines without having to stump up for an entire glass or bottle.
One of only two in Ireland (the other is in Killarney), they’ve even managed to give this a unique twist by issuing a ‘prescription’ for your sample wines. There’s also quite a choice of wines available behind the counter and they change regularly. Virtually every wine region and grape variety is covered, there is a wine of the month and many of the regulars are available by the glass.
Menus change throughout the day, with some overlap between lunch and the evening menu - which is then available until the small hours. Lunch offerings include a well-made soup of the day, usually served with some excellent brown soda bread, quiches, perhaps a stew, and hearty sandwiches - some, such as Coronation chicken, with retro themes.
Fresh ingredients are “sourced from the English Market” and there’s a sense of place - spiced beef is a Cork speciality, for example, and it is served in a sandwich stack, with caramelised onions, cucumber pickle, mixed leaves, seasoned tomatoes, and is served with a seasoned mustard aioli.
Later on, a range of small dishes and charcuterie and cheese boards takes centre stage. Crab claws with lime, chilli and garlic butter are popular, and there are pates and terrines (look out for the venison one), various meat and cheese boards, including one to share, and you may create your own cheese board with three cheeses, quince jelly and a rustic baguette.
Even the toilets are worth a special mention as, although the fittings are new, they have old time character - and the Ladies features a display of vintage cosmetics and toiletries.
All round a fascinating place to visit - and you will eat and drink well too.