Having earned a national reputation as a leader in the local food revolution at the small café and cookery school that she had run on the outskirts of Durrus village since 2003, Carmel Somers moved her business to Skibbereen late in 2015.
Here this exceptional chef, teacher and food writer (her book, “Eat Good Things Every Day”, is one to seek out), continues her philosophy of creating an experience for diners rather than just serving good food.
Carmel has long been recognised for doing more than any other chef in the region to promote local produce - which continues to be the case and her menus reflect this in a variety of ways. Fresh, seasonal and, where possible, organic is the fundamental ethos at Good Things, where the only exceptions are ingredients that are essential in any kitchen but not produced in our climate such as olive oil, dried fruits and spices.
The local producers who are hailed as heroes on the Good Things menus and website include many famous names - the Steele family (Milleens cheese), the Ferguson family of Gubbeen Farm (Gubbeen cheeses, smoked foods, fresh organic produce), the Kingstons of nearby Glenilen Farm, who make a wonderful range of dairy products including country butter, creme fraiche and clotted cream as well as their famous yoghurts - and some less well known but equally important people such as local butcher, William Walsh, and fisherman Tommy Arundel, who supplies lobsters and other good things from the sea.
This is an indication of things to come, as is the array of cookbooks, by predominantly female writers, the likes of Jane Grigson (source of inspiration for the name of this business) and Elizabeth David. The message is unequivocal: prepare yourself for spanking fresh ingredients cooked with authority and passion.
Many favourites have migrated from Durrus to the smart new premises in Skibbereen and the menu continues to features dishes with a strong local provenance, such as a simple combination of Macroom mozzarella, served with leaves and a soda scone, or Fingal’s Plate comprised of 'creations from his Smokehouse'...
In late spring and early summer you may be lucky enough to find a plate of West Cork asparagus: served with balsamic dressing and Coolea cheese from Macroom it makes a rare seasonal treat. Also featuring Coolea cheese, along with rouille and garlic croutons, is West Cork Fish Soup - a long time favourite with visitors to the original Good Things Café, it is as good as ever.
Sea vegetables feature in many dishes - fragrantly spiced hake, for example, may come on a bed of sushi rice and herbs, accompanied by a sesame dressing with ginger, cucumber and dillsk, while the Fish Plate may include a root and sea vegetable salad along with many other good things. There is no specific starter section; some main courses double as starters and are priced accordingly, for example Fingal's Plate as starter is about €10, as main course it goes up to around €16.
Desserts range from homemade ice cream with cookies and cream to an intense St. Emilion au Chocolat, while simpler day time fare includes the classic scone and homemade jam and breakfast favourites with a twist such as scrambled eggs spiced with ginger, turmeric and coriander (available with or without Gubbeen ham & mustard, and in two sizes)
Simplicity and fresh flavours are the essence of the cooking style - it’s the kind of place where even the most demanding know they are in safe hands.
An excellent drinks list offers a thoughtful range of non-alcoholic drinks along with well chosen wines, and service from well trained staff is enthusiastic but unobtrusive.
Good Things Cookery School offers a series of mainly one-day courses across a spectrum of culinary interests and capacities, for young and old, vegetarians and carnivores. (Full course details are available on the website.) Carmel is also happy to cater for parties and weddings.
A wonderful place.