Dublin might be the first pick when it comes to Ireland’s culinary capital but Cork is creeping up steadily behind.
A recent visit to the west took me by surprise with the sheer excellence of places to eat and drink in Cork city – local flavours, Middle-Eastern colourful plates, fresh seafood and more than a couple amazing spots for veggies.
It’s worth the visit for the food alone. Here’s 12 restaurants in the city that we’re absolutely lovin’:
1. Ichigo Ichie
Weekends were booked out for months as soon as this unique restaurant opened up. You eat from a 12-course menu consisting of the best Japanese food in Ireland – no joke.
Dry-aged fish is spread in slivers on the plate, there’s chargrilled ox tongue, asparagus tofu and delicate sashimi of tuna and mackerel. Pull up a seat at the chef’s counter to watch the master Takashi Miyazaki make everything in front of you.
2. E L E C T R I C
This art deco restaurant over looks the cathedral and the river, and serves up amazing seafood caught fresh each day so expect amazing oysters, crab claws and hearty fish stews. Once the eating’s done, this place transforms into a buzzing nightclub, so definitely stick around.
3. Market Lane
A buzzing restaurant spread over two floors, Market Lane uses ingredients from The English Market and local artisan producers to make up their menu, which has a wide range of fish, salads, meat, game and sandwiches.
Top picks include the arancini of Toonsbridge smoked scamorza cheese, spiced beetroot and tomato purée and their seafood pie in a prawn bisque topped with a cheddar and potato bake, tarragon and lemon crumb and spring greens.
4. Orso Kitchen & Bar
Think North African meets Cork via the Mediterranean. Vibrant flavours and SO MUCH colour await at Orso and the only issue is you’ll want to order one of everything from the menu.
There’s Lebanese mini pies filled with spiced lamb, golden baked halloumi, seared sea scallops and a Bombay monkfish. Oh, and don’t leave without getting dessert. Our top pick is the coconut & mango cheesecake.
5. Ristorante Rossini
Rossini’s is an Italian gem in the city that’s been in business for almost 25 years. They take fresh ingredients from The English Market and spin them into wonderful dishes from both North and South Italy.
A wood fired pizza oven is in action every night and their gnocchi with creamy gorgonzola and walnuts is a must-eat. The seafood linguine even comes wrapped up in a swan-shaped foil parcel for a surprise on the table.
6. Greene’s Restaurant
For a swanky occasion, Greene’s is the place to be. Grab a drink in their slick cocktail bar, Cask, and sit by the fountain in the courtyard.
The menu is devoted to local, seasonal, foraged and organic ingredients and dishes include Macroom lamb and Goatsbridge trout. A great value pre theatre menu is just €35 for three courses – ideal if you want the special night out without a special price.
7. The Oyster Tavern
A beautifully restored bar from the 1700s, The Oyster Tavern has a relaxed bar area downstairs and a lovely upstairs bar for late night drinks and dancing after dinner.
There’s oysters on the menu of course, as well as local Oysterhaven mussels with an Archway lager sauce, a rack of lamb with pearl barley and even a cauliflower steak for the non meat eaters.
A takeaway-style shack that also has seats at the counter, this is the place to go for thick noodles to slurp up in minutes.
Queues form quickly, and for good reason. Miyazaki serves up outstanding Japanese food at low prices. Rice balls wrapped in seaweed and stuffed with salmon are just a few euro, and keep an eye on the specials board for the sushi of the day.
9. Café Paradiso
This vegetarian restaurant on Lancaster Quay is a haven for any foodie, they’re super inventive in their cooking and incorporate styles from all across the globe for their dishes.
You’d be mental trying to get in here without a booking though, so always ring ahead.
10. Jacques Restaurant
These guys have been in business for 30 years, and they serve simple fresh Cork food, bursting with flavour, in a friendly relaxed atmosphere.
There’s crab on a blue corn tostada, confit of duck with garlic champ, hake, mussels and scallops and a lovely vegetarian board of great things to eat.
Southern Indian street food (all vegetarian!) is the suss at this tiny gem. Hot little samosa parcels are stuffed with flavours you’ve never tried before and the menu changes pretty much every day, scrawled up on a chalkboard.
The owner and chef cooks according to Ayurvedic principles, designed for purity and health and the ingredients are sourced from the Cork countryside.
Located smack bang in the heart of the city on Cornmarket Street, these guys specialise in seafood and steak so it’s the perfect place to bring someone you’re trying to impress.
Make sure you try some of their awesome cocktails while you’re there too.
In a nutshell, we’re very jealous of anyone living in Cork with all these amazing places to eat on their doorstep.
For such a small city, it sure is bursting with great food.
Header image: Market Lane