Denis Cotter's ground-breaking vegetarian restaurant produces such exciting mainstream cooking that even the most committed of carnivores admit to relishing every mouthful and it attracts devotees from all over Ireland - and beyond.
Seasonal specialities that people are happy to cross the country for include a beautiful beetroot mousse with orange scented yoghurt, served with fennel crispbreads and a rocket, pear & crisped beetroot salad, which is a brilliant and enduring example of the cooking style at this punchy little restaurant.
This Cork Restaurants strongly seasonal menus are based on the best organic produce available and are updated very regularly. A statement explains that Café Paradiso supports local cheesemakers (all of those listed are in the southern half of the country) and works closely with producers Ultan Walsh and Lucy Steward, of Gort na Nain Farm near Kinsale, who grow both basics and more specialised crops for the restaurant organically, and also supply honey.
The menu is always innovative and first courses might include fried potato and kale gnocchi with peperonata, walnuts, spring onions and Gabriel cheese, or tartlet of caramelised beetroot and Bluebell Falls goat’s cheese with salsa verde and olive-crushed potato. Among the main courses, expect the likes of roast aubergine parcels of Coolea cheese, walnuts and black kale, with braised fennel, crushed potato cake and a warm sungold tomato and caper salsa. This degree of detail is very typical of the Café Paradiso menu.
Wines are well chosen and drawn from a wide range of countries; prices are reasonable. For those who love dessert, strawberry baked Alaska with passionfruit syrup might fit the bill nicely.
The cooking is never less than stunning - and significantly, in this era of "cheffy" food and big egos, the creator of this wonderful food describes himself simply as "owner cook" - and many of Denis Cotter's creations are featured in his acclaimed books: Café Paradiso Cookbook, Café Paradiso Seasons, and Wild Garlic Gooseberries...And Me.
Staff who are not only friendly and helpful but obviously enthusiastic about their work make a hugely enjoyable meal into a memorable occasion.
Café Paradiso still packs a mighty punch.
*Paradiso Rooms, two rooms are available over the restaurant for dinner guests, at a room rate of about €200 including dinner for two people.