Let’s talk about new powerhouse restaurant in Cork: Goldie Fish & Ale…
This is some of the most exciting food to grace Cork for a while: if not for the exceptional culinary inventiveness of 25 year old head chef Aishling Moore, or the deliciously friendly front of house service from a dedicated, highly motivated and cohesive team, but for its ethos.
For the past number of years, chatter has been all about #nosetotail and very much in the realm of meat. But other “wholeness” ethics of food production, cookery and consumption are pushing their way past and, in the hands of visionary and talented chefs like Aishling, are making an indelible mark and changing the way we think about what food is and how to better respect it by using the whole of it – not just the best bits: Root to Tip in the veg world, and Gill to Tail in the fish world.
Goldie is a fish and ale restaurant, and the nose to fin ethos is very much alive and kicking here: cod collar panko fried with chervil emulsion; the incredible fish head terrine, prawn cocktail crisps etc.
This, from a diners perspective is what makes Goldie Restaurant exciting – and challenging too. The fish head terrine may not be the first thing you’d automatically jump to, but order it – it is a texture somewhere between sushi and soft yieldingness of a crab salad: fresh, delicate, meaty and a lightness of being from the ribbon of fresh herbs running throughout. Crispy fish skin on top provides a contrasting texture to the soft bite.
The other radical element of this ethos is the commitment to the “whole catch approach” to fishing. Goldie sources all its fish from day boats landing into Ballycotton and Kinsale. These boats are small, heading out and back to shore in a day catching small amounts of seasonal fish from within inshore fishing grounds. The catch is landed in the morning and arrives into Goldie the same day and served up from 5pm to their customers. Family enterprises usually run these boats and are essential for sustaining coastal communities reliant on the inshore fishing trade. Fishing in this way is sustainable in many ways, and by buying the whole catch means that these boats can be sure they have a market for whatever they can catch, but also it is incumbent on the chef team at Goldie to make use of every bit, bite, fin, scale and bone of every fish landed in, making zero/minimal food waste another essential part of their offering thanks to their understanding and respect of the work that goes into bringing this fish to shore.
The interior of the restaurant is almost diner-esque with just a hint of art-deco Hollywood kitsch. There is window seating, counter seating and a few tables towards the back with high stalls. The kitchen is Right There; open to the customers with the pass aglow. Aishling’s team of chefs work with a quiet focus that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the plates are very seriously good. At the pass, Aishling inspects every dish, adding final garnish flourishes and a last meticulous clean of the plates, and then they are gone and delivered with a studied efficiently to your table in seconds. The dish comes with a spoken guide, and whatever question you may have about the food, its provenance or even what to drink with and why are all questions deftly handled with ease. The whole vibe is relaxed, welcoming; and every now and again in a moment of quiet time, Aishling herself steps out from behind the pass to come and say Hi, find out how your doing, and answer any more questions you might have while singing the Gospel According to Day Boats. It is all simply brilliant.
Finally, let’s talk about Aishling.
I met Aishling nearly two years ago during an interview where someone else was the focus. After that initial interview was over, I sat and chatted to Aishling for a good while, and quickly realised that she was someone to keep a beady eye out for. She was working in Elbow Lane at the time, mastering the grills at this fire only restaurant, and really finding her stride. She had spent her apprenticeship studying Culinary Arts at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), and had earned stripes working beside strong, talented female chefs Pamela Kelly at Market Lane and Kate Lawlor, the one time proprietor of the now sadly lost to us Fenn’s Quay. We bumped into each other a few times after that: at Food on the Edge in Galway and so on. And then in August earlier this year there was a very unpretentious post on her Instagram story that she was starting a new project and was looking for team members in the kitchen and front of house. Immediately, I got the tingles because it could only mean one thing: Aishling was finally opening a restaurant of her own.
To open a restaurant that just specialises in Fish is a risky business, but Ireland as a whole are finally starting to shake off the negative emotions towards fish, largely as a cultural and social hangover from the time of An Gorta Mhór: when there was nothing else to eat, eat fish. Along with Oysters, Mussels, the rise in popularity and quantity of high end Fish and Chip shops/restaurants and a newly embraced fascination of seaweed and other sea vegetables, we are learning to love fish again. It is our most abundant wild food source, but it is also our most precious, so it makes huge sense from a sustainability point of view that, if we are to start giving fish a more important role in our diets, replacing meat a few times a week, then we shouldn’t make the same mistakes as meat and only cherish the most popular fillets, cuts or species. Goldie does that by looking at the fish as a whole and then turning on the creativity to decide how to use every single part of it; embrace the seasonality of this migratory food source and take pressure off fish stocks but giving equal credence to all fish and seafood, not just the premier and most favoured.
I love what this restaurant is doing; and I love what Aishling and her merry cohort of chefs, front of house staff headed up by the ever smiling Jerry, and beer sommeliers have created. Being part of the wonderfully diverse Market Lane Group, (encompassing: Market Lane, Elbow Lane Restaurant and Brewhouse, Orso and the Castle Cafe in Blackrock), Goldie Fish & Ale is yet another very exciting addition but still with that unmistakable friendly and welcoming MLG touch.
And, without a shadow of a doubt, keep an eye on one young lady in particular. At only 25 years old, Aishling Moore is going to become a name that you will start to hear more and more often. She is already a gift to the culinary scene of Cork city, and one that will no doubt continue to develop both skill and creativity – and that is a very exciting prospect indeed.
Five Stars. I will become a regular here…
Find out more: www.goldie.ie – also on Instagram