Heading to Cork city this weekend and looking for something new to sink your teeth into?
With so many great outdoor dining options in the city, included the much-lauded Prince’s Street transformation and Marina Market, you might be looking to try something else this weekend. I’ve been taking opportunities to pop up to the city as often as possible these last few weeks, and with this weeks announcement by the Government that indoor dining is pushed back for the foreseeable, dining alfresco and getting weather hardened is just what we’ll have to do to support local hospitality businesses and enjoy the kitchen efforts of some of the city’s gifted chefs.
So, without prejudice, here are my top tips for dining out this weekend. Keep an eye out in The Echo a new four part series on alfresco dining and drinking this summer from mid-July every Wednesday.
Market Lane / Elbow Lane / Goldie Fish & Ale – Oliver Plunket Street
While Cork’s Princess Street’s gains from pedestrianisation have been well documented, many traders on the inner city’s Oliver Plunkett Street also regard the move by Cork City Council as a ‘life saver’.
Tracey Sweeney, co-owner of the Market Lane Group, which operates three restaurants on the street says “With the addition of permanent outdoor seating along the spine of Oliver Plunkett Street we’ve been able to regain 30% of the covers we had pre-covid, albeit when the weather is accommodating. This not only helps us recover as a business, but creates new, exciting opportunities, particularly for smaller traders on the street, that simply didn’t exist before. It really helps us future proof our businesses, as we think that the move to outdoor dining is becoming more and more important to cater to.”
As well as its mothership, Market Lane Restaurant, the group has Goldie and Elbow Lane restaurants on Oliver Plunkett Street. Pedestrianisation has allowed the group to establish covered, outdoor seating areas outside the restaurants. In addition, due to the support of non-hospitality businesses, restaurants have been able to use the foothpaths and loading bays outside other shops on the street when they are closed for business, which has been invaluable.
Lisa Grainger of the up-market Olori boutique, one such business, feels that the efforts made by hospitality operators to jazz up the area really adds to the ‘city experience’ and creates a huge buzz on the street. “This ultimately benefits everyone,” she says.
“This generosity has also bound us together as a neighbourhood” continues Sweeney, “which uniquely consists of mostly independently-owned businesses. There is a palpable sense of hope and enthusiasm amongst traders that with enhanced pedestrianisation, Oliver Plunkett St will continue to be a real destination for locals and tourists alike. This is a huge bonus for the inner city.”
This enthusiasm has been heightened by the recent announcement that Cork City Council have gone out to tender for the development of the adjoining Beasley Street, one of the few fully cobbled streets left in Cork city. Plans for the quarter now include a music and literary stage, food trucks and stalls, vegetable and herb plots, and much more.
The Castle Cafe at Blackrock Castle Observatory is also part of the Market Lane Group and have utilised the courtyard dominated by the castle tower to create a very special space that a little bit of sanctuary away from the hurley burley of life!
Harley’s StrEAT, near Mary Elmes Bridge
The range of pop up food trucks appearing on this little side street in front of Mary Elme’s Bridge is growing every week. Right now, there is Bev’s and Brews for coffee and cocktails, Taco Rebels for the ultimate food on the go, Cork Sultan Delight serving up flatbreads with everything on, and Cool Wok who promise to “Wok You” with their pan-Asian offering of noodle and rice dishes.
There is also Birdsong in the City, a new pop up over-the-fire-cooking venture from The Glass Curtain and chef-proprietor Brian Murray. Provenance of ingredients is key here, so expect sustainable fish, grass fed and free range meats, seasonal veg, inventive cocktails, and the best ice cream sandwiches known to man.
This pop up was only supposed to run for two weeks, but with indoor dining pushed back on the never-never, expect Birdsong in the City to be hanging out on Harley’s StrEAT for the next while. So no excuse to not check it out. My advice? Come early, come hungry, and eat the menu!
There’s also some pretty funky merch for sale by Hairy Baby Tees too!
The Terrace @ L’Attitude 51
Two for the price of one – experiences, that is, when you visit L’Atitude 51 on Union Quay, and now you can come for the wine and stay for the wine thanks to the little Terrace outside the shop overlooking Cork’s River Lee. Make use of the extensive knowledge proprietor Bev Matthews has of their 200+ bottles of wine available to buy to take home, or by the bottle or glass sat in the sunshine Leeside watching the world go by!
This is Cork’s best Cave a Manger experience by far, and great to see it rising again literally from the ashes. Also serving West Cork Coffee too.