Loosen the belt
The classic refined lunchtime took a beating in recent years in favour of a pulled pork roll or a bowl of noodles at the desk, says Lucinda O’Sullivan. However, lavish lunchtimes are on the rise again and Greenes in Cork is a great place to enjoy one
With the corporate world not daring to be seen wining and dining in public during the lean years, the more formal-style lunch trade disappeared, which was a huge loss to high-end restaurants. However, it’s making an appearance again, particularly in Dublin. Lunching is a great way to try Michelin-star venues and other top spots without breaking the bank. You mightn’t get the sliver of foie gras or the sprinkle of caviar — but you get to experience the level of cooking, presentation and service.
Spotting recently that Greenes Restaurant, at Hotel Isaacs in Cork, has just introduced a two/threecourse lunch at €22/€25, I popped along with my friend Rena to give the lunch menu a whirl. The food here has always been good, but the arrival of Bryan McCarthy as head chef about 18 months ago, has raised the bar considerably.
A native of the beautiful village of Glandore in west Cork, McCarthy was previously at Springfort Hall in Mallow. Though we’ve seen a lot of ambitious young chefs in Dublin lately, there hadn’t been a lot happening at the finer end of Cork’s dining scene. Sitting around on the judging panels for the major awards, as I do, McCarthy’s name consistently popped up when it came to Munster. He won the RAI’s Best Chef in Cork 2015, and, more recently, in the Food&Wine Magazine Restaurant of the Year Awards 2016, Greenes took the Best Restaurant — Munster award, with McCarthy coming in second to Wade Murphy of 1826 Adare as Best Chef — Munster.
Greenes has the unusual visual aspect of a 60ft rocky waterfall right outside its window. The menu offered a quartet of starters, mains and desserts, as well as a five-course tasting menu at €49.50 per person (Thursday to Sunday — available for the whole table only). Sticking to three courses, we were first brought a zingy lychee and lime
a frothy foam sprinkled with green tea powder.
Multiple ‘Best Irish Chef ’ award winner Sunil Ghai has been dazzling people with his food. Pickle, his new eatery with the brilliant Benny Jacob, is serving north-Indian food in a setting based on the old Irani cafes of Bombay. Traditional tiffin lunch boxes are complete in themselves, but other dishes are available. Price: Traditional tiffin lunchboxes, €11-€14 Try: Kashmiri Tiffin Box — prawns, lentils, rice, naan, pickle, vegetables and kebab, €14 Drinks: Wine, soft drinks One of the most popular venues, and always abuzz, Pichet has had a major revamp, showcasing Chef Stephen Gibson’s great food to even better advantage. A modern take on a classic bistro, think pork fillet with white onion risotto and pinenut gremolata; or pea soup with Iberico ham croquette. Price: One/two/three-course lunch €15/€20/€25 Try: Chicken breast with sauerkraut, Morteau sausage and lentils Drinks: The works Discreetly tucked away in a former mews coach house, Eamonn O’Reilly’s elegant restaurant is the older sibling of The GreenHouse. Here, chef Ciaran McGill is serving up some of the finest French-style contemporary classic food in Dublin. They are also open for lunch, which is fabulous, at weekends. Price: Two-course lunch, €25; desserts, €6 Try: Braised beef short rib served with glazed shallot, cep and truffle Drinks: Extensive wine list
Rena’s starter of pork belly and black pudding was contrasted with the light, fresh flavours and textures of apple, celeriac and cider, all sitting perfectly on a black plate. I had mackerel and crab, which again was beautifully presented, with slivers of mackerel highlighted by glistening blobs of squid ink and cucumber purees, a of crab, nasturtium leaves and radish wafers. Mains included braised feather blade of beef with mushroom, celeriac, onion and kale; or a chicken dish. A substantial, deliciously-flavoured Ballyhoura mushroom risotto, spiked with Coolea cheese, garlic scapes (flowering buds), and
peppers, was topped off with purple potato crisps, and Rena loved it. I chose the fish of the day — hake with sea vegetables and a cream. The hake was perfectly cooked, with a nice crispy skin, but they were out of samphire, and there was nothing very distinctive about the greenery and green beans beneath it, or the dashi cream, so that was fine, but a bit bland. We also had a side of baby potatoes (€2).
We finished off on a high note with sublime, artful presentations of chocolate pecan tart with barley, caramel popcorn and salt; and a woodruff cream pudding with raspberry, pistachio, iced coffee, buttermilk, honey and white chocolate.
They have a good wine list, with a lot of wines available by the glass and 500ml carafes, which I always love to see. So, with a carafe of Marlborough Hunky Dory Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (€23), bottled water (€4.80) and service, our bill came to €87.30. As it transpired, McCarthy wasn’t at the stove on our visit, but his team held up well. It was great value, and I would heartily recommend a visit.
quenelle dulce dashi cremeux
Greenes 48 MacCurtain Street, Cork. Tel: (021) 455-2279 greenesrestaurant.com