Good Things, on the outskirts of Durrus village, is much more than a café. Carmel Somers, chef, teacher and food writer (her first book, “Eat Good Things Every Day”, is well worth seeking out), does more than any other chef in the region to promote local produce and her menus reflect this in a variety of ways.
The summer herbs and salads, growing in beds at the entrance, are 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.
The modern, functional, café-restaurant, seating sixty at slate-topped tables, features dishes with a strong local provenance such as West Cork Fish Soup and old-fashioned Porter Cake alongside the Grecian influences of a Mezze Plate and fragrantly spiced Andalusian Monkfish with saffron, honey and vinegar.
Local Prawns may be served with Gremolata, redolent of lemon, garlic and parsley, Lamb and Mint Pilaf with Turkish Cherry Hosaf. Seasonality is a byword here: roasted summer vegetables, sea beet, lightly boiled, Kilcrohane new potatoes, the tartness of gooseberries with mackerel and the same fruit in a dessert compôte with elderflowers, yoghurt and honey ice.
In the kitchen, partly visible to diners, Carmel and her able team conjure (experiment is constant) and come up with menus that are, at once, startling and reassuring. It’s the kind of place where even the most demanding know they are in safe hands.
There is no specific starter section; some main courses double as starters and are priced accordingly, for example the Mezze Plate as starter is about €9, 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 and Roasted Banana and Ginger nut Cheesecake with lime and clove cream.
A short, well chosen wine list includes a couple of half bottles, and wines by the glass. Irish beers are offered and the bottled mineral water is Fior Uisce from County Mayo; Sparkling Elderflower Cordial is also offered, strong, medium or weak, and there are several teas including Barry’s - and an intriguing “Organic Splendid Woman’s”! Good Colombian Coffee comes in various guises, priced variably. Service is enthusiastic but unobtrusive.
Foodies will be fascinated by the display of cookbooks; these are for sale, along with a motley selection of kitchen implements and homemade foods. Notwithstanding the limited capacity of the Café, Carmel is happy to cater for parties and weddings on or off the premises.
In the off-season, Good Things Café & Cookery School conducts courses: a series of demonstration and hands-on courses, one day, two day and five day, “action oriented”, provocatively titled events (imagine “A Dozen Quickies in a Day” or “Fish Orgy Weekend”!) across a spectrum of culinary interests and capacities, for young and old, vegetarians and carnivores.
A wonderful place.