An integral part of Cork life since 1982, sisters Eithne and Jacqueline Barry's delightful restaurant has changed with the years, evolving from quite a traditional place to a smart contemporary space.
Big changes took place recently, with an extension added in 2013 that has allowed the restaurant to run right right through from Phoenix Street onto Oliver Plunkett Street, with a nice new entrance opposite The Old Oak Bar
Now open all day, beginning at 10am for coffees, scones and cakes, and with a healthy footfall passing by their new entrance, it's become popular with tourists as well as their many local fans - who are delighted that they're doing lunch again. While more casual in style than it used to be, their lunchtime menu of gorgeous pies (anyone for shepherds pie made with pulled shoulder of lamb topped with creamy mash, or Jack McCarthy Bramley apple sausages with onion gravy and champ...?) , salads, stews, fresh fish and a great selection of Arbutus bread sandwiches is hitting the spot and they're more popular than ever. In the new area, which they call the bar, it's casual, relaxed and funky - the perfect setting for serving tapas and small plates in the evening.
But, while the surroundings may go through periodic re-makes, the fundamentals of warm hospitality and great food never waiver and that is the reason why many would cite Jacques as their favourite Cork restaurants. And no wonder since, as Eithne says, "We still love what we do and are still hungry to come up with new recipes and exciting food."
There is always a personal welcome and, together with Eileen Carey, who has been in the kitchen with Jacque Barry since 1986, this team has always a put high value on the provenance and quality of the food that provides the building blocks for their delicious meals - and, appropriately, Jacque is leader of the Cork Slow Food Convivium.
Menus are based on carefully sourced ingredients from a network of suppliers built up over many years (including the famous butcher, Jack MacCarthy of Kanturk, who is a big supplier) and, together with skill and judgement in the kitchen, this shows particularly as they have the confidence to keep things simple and allow the food to speak for itself.
While lunch and the early evening small plates in the bar are very casual, the early dinner menu introduces the sort of dishes that returning fans will recall from the 'old' Jacques lunches - think starters like Moroccan beetroot with Knocklara cheese, hazelnuts and spring onion, or a beautiful and aromatic main course of Middle Eastern spiced chicken breast with rice kosheri and pomegranate.
The à la carte gears up again, offering the mixture of tradition and innovation that Jacques is famous for - starters like lambs kidneys Dijon,with mustard, gherkins and apple & cream sauce, or crab & apple salad with lemon, coconut & chilli... Mains that are strong on fish and seafood - fresh scallops with a green risotto of peas, beans and pancetta, perhaps - and beef (a choice of three dishes is likely), also trumpet the seasons with game such as venison and pheasant when available - and the offering for vegetarians is always imaginative too.
Irresistible desserts might include a delicious variation on an old favourite such as roast plums with a walnut or hazelnut crumble and ice cream, or you can finish with Irish artisan cheeses - offered with handmade biscuits and drunken figs.
An interesting, informative wine list matches the food, and includes some organic wines, a wine of the month and a good choice of half bottles.
Consistently good cooking in stylish, relaxed surroundings, genuinely hospitable service, and excellent value are among the many things that make Jacques special.
A must-visit when you are in Cork.
*Jacques was the winner of our Natural Food Award, 2008.