Housed in a 250-year old listed building, this is a bright, busy restaurant with a welcoming atmosphere and simple decor enlivened by striking modern paintings - and a comfortable outdoor seating area that makes a pleasant extension to the restaurant in fine weather. It is owned by the head chef, Kate Lawlor, whose passion for careful sourcing of ingredients permeates the cooking and who sets out her stall unambiguously: “Our philosophy is simple, we use only the best produce from the best local suppliers and treat them with care and attention to detail.”
Although often influenced by the Mediterranean countries, everything possible in her pleasing bistro style cooking is local and seasonal (suppliers are listed on the menu), providing the freshest possible foundation for food that is carefully cooked and presented, and always has an emphasis on flavour.
Evocative choices on this Cork restaurants menus are a lively expression of the owner's philosophy: Who could resist starters that are full of personality like Beetroot & Cork Dry Gin cured salmon with Goatsbridge Trout Caviar & mixed leaves, or Poached egg colcannon with Rosscarbery Black Pudding & hollandaise. Or mains such as Fish of the Evening from O’Connell’s of the English Market (a regular on the specials board) or O’Mahony’s Collar of bacon with cabbage, spiced walnuts & parsnip purée, that draw you into the English market ethos and even the history of Irish food. Vegetarian options, (v), are equally appealing - a starter of Crozier Blue Cheese mousse, roast butternut squash & red onion with melba toast, for example, is far from a token gesture - this is a restaurant where customers come first and and any special dietary requirements are taken seriously.
While the fish of the day is always highlighted, meats - especially beef - take pride of place on the dinner menu and Char-grilled fillet steak "Wellie Style" is an enduringly popular version of the classic, which comes with house cut potato chips and a selection of accompaniments that may include roast flat cup mushrooms, red onion confit, and a choice of sauces (béarnaise and peppercorn).
Tempting desserts may be accompanied by the gorgeous Baldwin's farmhouse ice cream (see entry); made by dairy farmer Thomas Baldwin in Co Waterford, it pairs moreishly with hot desserts like chocolate pudding. An Irish Cheese Plate is also offered, of course, and comes with No. 5 Fenn’s Quay apple chutney & oat cookies.
A 3 course early dinner menu offers four appealing choices on each course at a very customer friendly price - and, if you don't want a dessert you can have a glass of house wine or a bottle of local craft beer instead (small supplement on some brands). An informative wine list offers variety at reasonable prices, with several by the glass - good value and provenace is a feature of drinks offered here, as well as the food.
Lunch menus are quite wide-ranging too, offering a choice of full meals (or at least a hot main course) or lighter options such as soup, salads, oven baked sandwiches (alone or with house chips and salad).
This is a great restaurant, run with a passion for food and customer service, and its success is well deserved.