This is a funny one I know; I have been leaving in Ireland for over 23 years now and the only time I have made it to Cork City were mere pit stops, waiting for a bus to Dublin somewhere in 1996 where I think I went for a stroll and a pint by the river Lee, another time to catch a shuttle to Ringaskiddy, essentially to board a ferry to Brittany. I remember waiting for a train there once too, probably in 2000, after spending a holiday with my Dad and my sister in Glengariff. I almost made it two years ago during a work trip to West Cork but the time was against us. Cork is a big County, the West part of it alone is as far as it is beautiful, far from its Capital that is, a county and a City synonymous with an avant-garde understanding of food, a little Irish “Marseilles”, with a cacophony of accents, colours… A cosmopolitan city – the way harbour metropolises can often be- with such variety of shades; with ingredients like that, it was only going to turn out into something amazing. When it comes to food, it didn’t disappoint and it is of no surprises if it is considered by many as the “Food Capital of Ireland”, despite some proverbial Towers of Babel having a go at the title ( I call them “Baby-bel”) it can rest tranquille and assured of a bright food culture future…
A few short months ago, Karen from “Kenmare Foodie” and Billy from “Rookie Cook” decided to organise a little get together with other Cork bloggers and foodies, a chance for me to finally discover the City, or at least get a taste of it. As it is a long journey – and since I like to share experiences – I invited my colleague Sharon to tag along and last Saturday, we left the plains of County Meath towards Mullingar, Tullamore, Mountmellick and Portlaoise before finding ourselves on the M8 heading for Cork. 275 kilometres and three hours later, we finally entered the famous City to meet this wonderful group of people…
After a welcoming coffee and scones at Scoozi’s Café, we made our way towards a couple of interesting shops along the way, amuse-bouche before visiting the legendary English Market. Delitaly first, an authentic Italian Deli, and the amazing Iago cheese shop, well over 20 years in business with incredible standards!
The piece de resistance of our short trip was of course the English market. A bit of a legendary landmark of the City, once reserved to the elite of colonialism, it remained open during the famine (not for the starved indigents though) and saw itself declining after the first World War and the War of Independence at the beginning of the 20th century. A meat market then and mostly on one side, Fish and vegetables on another, it has now become an explosion for the senses; the smell, the cacophony, the colours… It definitely carries a “je ne sais quoi” of a covered French market. Meats, charcuterie, cheese, fish, spices, chocolatiers, fruits and vegetables are all there, stamping but not copying, a very defined identity. I was taken by the regular shoppers, their Saturday shopping rituals and body language spoke to me, I could recognize it straight away. This place is a working market, it is real and unpretentious…
After a quick stroll around, we were welcomed by Regina, from Frank Hederman’s smoke house. They have a stall in the market and we had a very interesting tasting of wild and organic salmon, traditionally and hot smoked. The quality is tip-top!
Thankfully lunchtime was approaching, breakfast was now a far away memory. I wanted to see another cheese shop/ charcuterie called “On the Pig’s Back” and pay a visit to the Olive stall, another pioneer called “The Real Olive Company”…
As a cheese guy, I wanted to try their buffalo Halloumi, with their sister company and dairy called Toon’s Bridge. I have a few ideas for that little fella… And it will be easier to bring home than fish.
Last vagabondage through the market, before heading to “Rachel’s” for lunch…
Rachel’s Restaurant on Washington Street was a big surprise for me. The vision and idea behind is to have a modern and cool restaurant, with locally sourced and grown products and the value for lunch was exceptional. I had some smoked fish cakes and we were treated to some wonderful dessert farandole ( or medley, I just like the word).
So there it came to say our goodbyes, there was a few hours to drive home, but I knew the conversation was going to be good. I will have to come back to spend a little more time, an overnight visit is a must. A big thank you to Karen and Billy to put this visit together, it was great to have met Donna from A Cookbook Collection Caroline from Bibliocook Kate from Flavour.ie Billy at Rookie Cook , Fiona at Enjoy Food With Me , hello again to Dublin based Eva from The Healthy Tart and of course Karen from Kenmare Foodies… What a fine bunch!
Keep Well and Eat Happy
13 thoughts on “The United Colours of Cork”
It’s like I’m there with you all! Sounds like a splendid adventure. Cheers, my friend!
You are welcome. Yes, it would have been fun to have you with us! ( I mean, imagine Rachel in “Rachel’s Restaurant” 🙂 😉 )
Vagabondage. Génial! My challenge, should I choose to accept it, is to use that word in a sentence over the coming week… Bonne chance!
Bonne chance mon ami, with your running and ramblings, it shouldn’t be too hard! 😉
Touché, though talking to one’s self doesn’t count, of course. 😉
Thank you so much! 🙂 Have a lovely weekend! Summer is finally here in Ireland! ( well, for now 🙂 )
Great post. Excellent to see the enthusiasm for getting together.
Thank you Conor; my longest drive for lunch with Killybegs, but worth it. Wonderful people and city! ( 541 kms round trip 😀 )
It takes another message from you to finally remind me that I needed (not wanted, you understand – needed) to read this. Though I lament not having given it time before, like all piquant treats it was worth my self imposed wait. Thank you, my friend. Thank you for the reminders and thank you for the introductions. You have done the beauty and delight that is Cork city proud. I am sated with impressions of a place I must visit again soon (it’s been 14 years – how on earth did that happen?) and you can be sure I will be like a squealing joyful piglet when I get there with all the new treasures that have sprung up since I was last there and all the old friends cheesie or not that I need to reacquaint with. This was a slice of heaven and I thank you.
You are most welcome; don’t forget to give me a wave when you do, we’ll have a slice of Gubbeen or something 😉
I will, I will. A slice of Gub-Gub is always a welcome distraction 😊
At this moment I am going away to do my breakfast, later than having my breakfast coming again to read other news.