Cork is something of a food lover’s paradise, with many of its restaurants making use of high quality ingredients from the large and growing community of artisan food suppliers in the surrounding area.
If you have a taste for the unusual, Cork has some regional specialties you might want to look out for – or to avoid! Drisheen is a sort of sausage or pudding made from sheep’s blood, breadcrumbs and spices, traditionally served with tripe (or stomach) in a thickened milk sauce.
Not perhaps for everyone – I think you have to be born in Cork!
One of the best black puddings in Ireland is produced to a secret recipe in Clonakility and features on many local restaurant menus. This too is made from blood, but it really is one you should try – I’m absolutely certain you’ll be impressed.
In more recent times a new tradition of cheesemaking has emerged and some really world class cheeses are produced locally. Look out for Milleens, Durrus, Gubbeen, Gabriel and Desmond in particular.
A. The English Market
Food has been sold in this famous market for almost 400 years and it’s a place for which the word cornucopia might have been invented. Stalls crowded into the market sell both cooked food and deli style take away food as well raw ingredients.
It is a treasure trove of locally produced specialties and imported delicacies and an experience not to be missed – even the Queen had it on her itinerary when she visited Ireland! In almost every restaurant in Cork produce from the English Market is on the menu and its presence in the city really is the driving force that has made Cork something of a foodie playground.
On a Summer day spend as little or as much as you like on the makings of a picnic, then take it across the road to Bishop Lucey Park to eat. When you need hot food try O’Flynns Gourmet Sausages or a hearty soup or casserole from Joup
B. Jackie Lennox’s Chip Shop
Located a little out of town on the Bandon Road, Lennox’s is THE place to go in Cork for a tasty take away meal of fresh fish and proper chips – chunky and freshly cut from good potatoes. They will be up there with the best chips you’ve ever eaten.
It is primarily a take-away, though there are a few tables inside. Everything is served wrapped in paper – whether you eat in or out – and portions are huge. There is a branch in Cork city on MacCurtain St, but connoisseurs of chipper cuisine claim it’s not as good as the original.
C. O’Flynn’s Gourmet Sausage Factory
The O’Flynn family have been making sausages for more than a century and the skills they’ve developed over those years show in their big tasty and meaty sausages. There are branches in the English Market and nearby Winthrop St, both small with just a few tables, though you can get take away too. You can have your sausages plated up as a meal or in a bap or roll, with a decent choice of sides and accompaniments.
Choose anything from the traditional Irish sausage to Italian or spicy Mediterranean sausage or the local Cork Boi complete with Murphy’s stout. They think up new flavours all the time too, but no matter which you choose the sausage will be extra meaty and reasonably priced. There is good coffee too.
Website | 086 810 3656
D. Cafe Gusto
By day this cafe on Washington St is a busy coffee bar serving terrific rolls, wraps and salads as well as hot dishes such as tagines, meatballs and soups in a cheerful and friendly setting. On weekend nights it becomes a great casual dining spot known for its good value and wide range of mezze, antipasto and tapas dishes.
It’s a small place, seating about 20, and the food is much superior to what you’d expect in a little coffee shop with genuine care about using good ingredients and treating them well. For a small corkage charge you can bring your own bottle in the evening. The coffee is excellent too.
Website | 021 425 4446
E. Dashi Deli
A small sushi and noodle bar that has some seating inside but is primarily a take-away. Sushi is the main draw and there is a wide selection. Prices range from 50c to €2, with vegetarian options available, so you can spend as little or as much as your pocket and appetite dictate. There are also mixed platters and bento boxes available.
The noodle bar again leaves it to you to choose – select a type of noodles, pick your toppings, add a sauce – and is good value, tasty and filling. Soup is also available as, somewhat incongruously, are a selection of very tempting cupcakes, gateaux and cheesecakes.
Website | 087 2605330
F. Farmgate Cafe
This is the restaurant upstairs at the English Market, so they don’t have far to go to source great ingredients and the menu varies daily according to what is available in the Market. There is always a buzz here and it is popular with shoppers, stallholders and office workers alike.
The food is very good indeed, from hearty breakfasts to imaginative and well prepared lunch dishes, soups and salads. Although it can be on the pricey side that is fully reflected in the quality of the ingredients and of the preparation. Closes at 5pm. And yes, they do serve Tripe and Drisheen.
Cafe Website |021 4278134
G. Strasbourg Goose
Almost everyone who eats here avails of the €21 three course menu, which is wildly popular and with good reason. There is a tempting selection of dishes at each course and you can switch one course for a glass of wine if you chose. You could begin with a starter of mussels in white wine, follow that with sirloin or rib eye steak and finish with hot chocolate fudge cake with ice cream. That’s pretty unbeatable value and it is good food well cooked and presented, in no way does it feel skimped on.
It is a family run restaurant, small and informal with a fire lit inside when it’s cold and some outside tables if the weather is kinder. Reservations are recommended, especially at weekends and during the tourist season.
No Website | 021 427 9534
A busy and popular restaurant with a diner/Italian menu based around burgers, pizza, pasta and salads. This place is always packed, is particularly popular with families and often has lines outside. There is nothing fancy about what they do and it’s not to everyone’s taste – fast uncomplicated food, served in generous portions at a reasonable price by friendly staff.
There is an in-house french style bakery where croissants, scones and cakes are freshly baked daily, and there is always a tempting array of cakes and desserts available.
Website | 021 4275077
A ‘concept’ restaurant can ring alarm bells, but this place has a simple plan and executes it well. It’s basically rotisserie chicken, burgers or ribs, but with top quality ingredietnt very well cooked and a good range of salads, accompaniments and proper freshly made desserts backing them up. Have the wings to start, amazing!
A small but good range of cocktails is available but it’s the craft beer menu that really impresses, with loads of locally brewed examples to try. It’s a hip and buzzy place with loud music and a trendy crowd.
Website | 021 427 8444
J. Liberty Grill
This is a sister restaurant to Cafe Gusto, but quite different in both style and in the menu served. Essentially it’s a burger restaurant, but really is so very much more than that, with great salads, starters, fish and chicken dishes and steaks on the menu also.
The burgers are a bit special too. You’ll find not just exceptionally good beef and lamb burgers but delicious vegetarian options like Halloumi and Tempeh burgers that even confirmed carnivores will enjoy.
There is a New England influence at work here and its evident too on the breakfast/brunch menu, which includes American style pancakes, eggs done many ways and crab cakes. The lunch menu is equally good. There are regular specials on all menus. Highly recommended.
Website | 021 427 1049
K. The Quay Co-op
The fact that this place is in a health food shop may make people expect food that is more worthy than delicious, but they’d be wrong. It may be healthy fare, but flavour is not sacrificed. Vegetarian and vegan takes on bistro staples such as lasagne, pizza, tarts and even burger are the main dishes on offer, along with good soups and salads and daily house specials.
An extensive dessert menu includes some really decadent chocolate cakes and tarts. Most of the ingredients are organic, and special dietary requirements are well catered for with gluten or dairy free options. It is self-service and open for both lunch and early dinners.
Website | 021 431 7026
L. Yuan Ming Yuan
Cork is not the greatest city for Chinese food and this place is a shining light. It is very (very) ornately decorated and you have to pick through the standard fare on the menu a bit to get to the good stuff, but the effort is worth it.
The Dim Sum is a must, a great selection zinging with flavour and freshness and with a decent kick of heat. On the mains, the slow cooked lamb and sea bass with ginger are stand out dishes. There are daily specials and a well priced early bird menu – recommended because it’s not inexpensive, though worth every penny.
Facebook| 021 425 4968
M. Market Lane
A busy restaurant and bar on two floors which sources most of its ingredients from the nearby English Market. The menu is extensive with main course staples such as Spinach and Ricotta ravioli, Lamb tagine, seared tuna and fillet steak supplemented by daily specials that reflect what’s in season or available in the Market.
It is a popular place for lunch, when there is a scaled down menu with the addition of really good sandwiches, and can get quite crowded so go early. If you are watching the budget the early bird dinner menu served until 7pm is great value.
Website | 021 427 4710
The menu here isn’t all about hot curries and even those who don’t think they don’t like Indian food will be surprised. No artificial colours or flavourings are used and all dishes are freshly prepared using local ingredients where possible. This result is dishes that range from wonderfully spicy and pungent to extremely delicately flavoured.
The tandoori dishes, cooked in a clay oven, are particularly good and the naan breads are a million miles from the tasteless cardboardy stuff that is often all you get.
Ask to eat ‘Indian style’ and you’ll be treated to a feast, where dish after delicious dish is brought to the table to be shared by all. As with most Indian restaurants there is a wide choice of vegetarian dishes and everything apart from the bread is gluten free. It’s a bit out of town, but worth the trip.
Website | 021 4894482
O. Fenns Quay
When the word went out a couple of years ago that this popular restaurant had changed hands, the worry was that standards would change. They have changed, but its been in an upward direction and the food now really is quite special and the winner of several awards.
A combination of great ingredients, well matched flavours, very assured cooking and excellent presentation elevates even simple sounding dishes to something more than you expect, particularly for firmly in the mid-range prices.
The restaurant is open from breakfast right through to late evening and there are good lunch time specials.
Website| 021 427 9527
The dinner menu is divided into ‘Mains, Fish or Steaks’, the former including dishes such as Honey roast duck and Spiced rack of lamb. Steaks, all Hereford or Angus beef, are particularly good. There is a good selection of starters and desserts and a wine list that is shaping up nicely.
A keenly priced early-bird menu is served until 6.30 and is definitely worth checking out as eating a la carte can be a little pricey. In the downstairs bar a good value day time menu of sandwiches, pies, tarts and light meals is available.
Website | 021 422 2990
Q. Star Anise
The surroundings are cool and contemporary, the welcome warm and genuine and the food bursting with flavour and a treat for the eye as well as the palate. Fish dishes are to the fore, but there are always excellent meat and vegetarian options on the menu too.
The food is light, cooked to make the most of good ingredients, and hits that sweet spot where you finish a meal feeling very well fed but not overfull.
Very good value fixed price menus are available all evening during the week and before 7pm at the weekend, though the a la carte is also well priced for food of this standard.
Website | 021 455 1635
R. Cafe Paradiso
If you are a dedicated carnivore for whom eating vegetarian conjures up visions of health food or stodgy nut roasts – banish such thoughts at once, you are about to be converted.
Even reading the menu is mouth watering – try a starter like ‘vegetable sushi with tempura of aubergine & carrot, pickled ginger, wasabi and a dipping sauce‘ or a main like ‘maple-glazed king oyster mushrooms on leek & walnut croustade with potato & black kale gnocchi in sage & cider butter‘. Desserts are equally tempting.
This is the best vegetarian restaurant in Ireland, one of the best restaurants of any kind, and many people visit Cork just to eat here. A lot of the ingredients come from local artisan producers – excellent hand made cheeses and locally grown vegetables, most of them specially for the restaurant. The menu changes constantly depending on what is in season – artichoke will only appear during the short time it is available from a local farm.
Exceptional cooking and the time and care involved in finding and using high quality ingredients like this doesn’t come cheap and this is a relatively expensive place to eat. It’s worth every penny, but even if you are watching the pennies you needn’t miss out – the pre-theatre menu served until 7pm is a good value fixed price option.
Website | 021 427 7939
S. Les Gourmandises
A unpretentious place run by a husband and wife team – one a chef the other a sommelier – both of whom have worked in several Michelin starred restaurants. Although this is without question high end dining, it is not overly formal and the restaurant is a very comfortable and pleasant place to eat. Many of the staff are French and it feels a little as though a classic French neighbourhood restaurant somehow landed in Cork.
The food is wonderful, with precise and well balanced flavours, combinations that you’d never believe could work but do and flawless presentation. The portions are not large, which bothers some people, but with food like this it’s not about counting the bites but rather savouring each one.
The quality is reflected in the price, it’s priced for the special occasion rather than the everyday. The good prix fixe menu will keep spending under control, but if you can afford it the main menu is worth blowing the budget on.
Website | 021 425 1959
T. Oyster Restaurant
Hotel restaurants are not always places where you expect amazing food but Oysters at the Clarion Hotel is a definite exception. Fish is the order of the day here, though there are options for dedicated carnivores and vegetarians too.
You can taste the freshness of the fish in each dish, it’s all caught locally and this evening’s fish could well have still been in the sea this morning. A seafood platter for two people is a great way to sample it, a vast and delicious selection of the best of the day’s catch that is as much as feast for the eyes as, well, a feast.
The seafood chowder is justly lauded, lighter than some, brimming with perfectly cooked fresh fish and with samphire and pancetta bringing an extra something special.
There is no denying that is an expensive place to eat, two people dining A la Carte would need to choose pretty carefully to have change from €100. The weekly Market Menu on Wednesday, where all ingredients are sourced fresh from the English Market, is a great way to try the food at a more affordable price of €25 per person.
Website | 021 427 3777
Map of Cork Restaurants