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

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - APPETITES -

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.

amuse, es­puma

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

lu­cin­dao­sul­li­van.com

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