In 1992 Michael and Catherine Ryan, together with partner/head chef Canice Sharkey, opened this large, atmospheric modern restaurant in an 18th-century warehouse and it immediately struck a chord with people tired of having to choose between fine dining and fast food, and became a trend-setter in the modern Irish food movement.
The combination of international influences and reassuring Irish traditions was ahead of its time, and it quickly gained a following of people who enjoyed both the informal atmosphere, and the freshness of approach in Canice Sharkey's kitchen.
In a quiet, low-key way, this Cork restaurants played a leading role in the culinary revolution that has overtaken Ireland over the last decade or two. Their original blend of Irish and international themes, together with a policy of providing quality food and good value in an informal, relaxed ambience has attracted endless imitations.
Ingredients are carefully sourced, the cooking is consistently accomplished and menus are freshened by occasional inspired introductions (a plate of tapas, for example, which can be a starter or a lovely light lunch). A list of about seven specials changes twice daily, and most dishes are available with little oil and no dairy produce, on request.
Offering great food at a fair price has always been the philosophy here and everything is sourced from the market or their own farm in East Cork. All menus offer good value, but the set dinner menu (offered as early bird later in the week) merits special mention at just €25 for three courses.
The re is a full bar licence and the wine list follows a similar philosophy, offering a good combination of classics and more unusual bottles, at accessible prices - and Isaacs coffee is organic and Fair Trade.
The service is terrific too, and a visit here is always great fun.