Cork is renowned as the Food Capital Of Ireland. We have some of this island’s richest farmland, most innovative chefs and most adventurous producers (such as the West Cork farmer who has Ireland’s only herd of dairy Water Buffalo and produces award winning Mozzarella).
Our best known, award-winning restaurants are destinations in their own right. But Cork cuisine also has a quirky and unconventional side, a taste for the surprising and the exotic. Or just the old fashioned comfort foods that have fed generations.
This 4-day itinerary will help you navigate the unexpected, often hard-to-find side of Ireland’s most adventurous food region. It’s time to come to Cork, and taste its wild side.
Breakfast or brunch at - The Workshop, Ballygarvan. Just a 15 minute drive from the city (close to the airport if you are arriving on an early morning flight) you will find the decidedly different café society of The Workshop.
The clue is in the name, as this really was a carpenter’s workshop until 2014, when brothers Billy and David decided to turn their Dad’s old work-shed into something new. Breakfasts are simple and hearty, with all ingredients locally sourced (you may want to take away some of their famous buns and cakes). The Workshop also has a vintage furniture and antiques space, they still work on the wood and the ethos is re-use, up-cycle and help out the local community. They also do lunches and high teas.
Return to the City – No serious foodie, or even casual visitor, can come to Cork without experiencing our famous English Market, Ireland’s biggest and best indoor food market. London has Westminster Cathedral, New York, its Times Square, Cork has “the Market”, feeding and entertaining the locals since 1788. Spend an hour or two browsing and grazing.
But if you want the “Pure Cork” (as we say) experience, ask at the butcher’s stalls about our famous Crubeens (pig’s trotters), Drisheen (a variation of black or blood pudding) and tripe (various bits of cow).
Cork is also famous for its Spiced Beef, a tangy, salty cold slice (often steamed in Stout Beer) and the Market has some award-winning butchers (including Tom Durcan's) who specialise in this delicacy, vacuum-packed and ready to take home. It goes great on sourdough bread and you will find the market Sandwich Stall offering this, while close by you will find a O’Flynn’s Gourmet Sausages and sample their take on the humble hot-dog.
Cross over to the north bank of the river (10 minutes stroll) to Pope’s Quay, beneath Shandon’s Bells and the famous (yet tiny) Iyers Cafe.
This tiny, family run café has some of the best (all veggie) Southern Indian food and snacks you will find anywhere in the world.
It’s a firm-favourite with Cork people who appreciate a world class masala dosa with fresh chutneys and sambar. Iyer’s has won rave reviews in the national and international press, don’t miss it.
Walk up Barrack Street to number 137 Bandon Road and the legendary chip shop run by Jackie Lennox and his family. Virtually all Corkonians have fiercely held opinions on the best Fish’n Chips in the city and Lennox’s has its own, very militant supporters.
It’s 100% Cork and even standing in the queue can be entertaining. Make sure to try the deep-fried Potato Pies, a famous Cork delicacy. Afterwards, walk back down the hill and stop off in Tom Barry's Pub, with its gorgeous beer garden, craft beers and a wood-fired pizza oven.
Morning - Head out of the city to Divas Cafe, Deli & Bakery, a 40 minute leisurely drive to the tiny village of Ballinspittle. Divas opens from 9am with breakfasts and lunches, the ingredients are all locally sourced (the eggs come from the farm next door) and it’s a surprisingly funky little café in a very rural setting.
It’s also just one mile from the Blue Flag beach at Garretstown, so you can walk off the Eggs Benedict with a stroll on the beach (or a swim) afterwards.
Return to the city to the very bijoux Miyazaki Japanese kitchen at the city end of Barrack Street has achieved near-legendary status since Japanese chef Takeshi Miyazaki and his family arrived in Cork a few years ago.
This little kitchen and take-away (with just a few stools along its counter) has received rave reviews in the national and international press and is now drawing visitors to Cork in its own right. Daily specials and classic Japanese dishes are all freshly made and so satisfying.
Coffee and authentic, Italian, fresh-made ice cream and sweet treats at Casanova Gelato at 13 George’s Quay.
Casanova’s has the best of traditional (and not so traditional) varieties of ice-cream, a lovely spot to while away a half-hour over a hot drink and a cold treat.
Braver souls may want to try their seaweed flavoured ice-cream
Try Meades Wine Bar at 126 Oliver Plunkett Street, for fine wines, tapas and light suppers in the very intimate, relaxed Georgian Setting of an old city-centre inn. Or, for a more lively evening, there’s the very quirky Arthur Mayne's Pharmacy, just around the corner from Meades on Pembroke Street (beside the Imperial Hotel).
Mayne’s was, up until recently, an old fashioned pharmacy. Now it retains the look and feel of that old family business, but push through the door and it’s a lively wine-bar which serves tapas style dishes and hearty suppers late into the night.
For carnivores and craft beer fans- Elbow Lane Brew & Smokehouse on Oliver Plunkett Street has great ribs, steaks, grilled fish and the finest local craft beers.
On Saturdays – visit the famous Midleton Farmer's Market – in the historic market town of Midleton, a half hour drive from the City. There are scores of stalls, open from 9am-1pm, with the best in local produce, cheeses, breads, speciality meats and much more. Spend a few hours grazing and gazing. A true joy for the dedicated Foodie
For lunch try The Farmgate Resturant & Country Store in Midleton – for the best in locally sourced, hearty country food.
Iberian Way, a little off the beaten track on Douglas Street. Despite loud cheers from well-known food critics, this tiny deli and tapas café remains one of Cork’s best-kept secrets.
Two Spanish friends run a homely little kitchen which serves up amazing tapas and light bites. Ring ahead and try to book a table, it’s a very popular spot.
Afterwards, you might want to stroll down to the end of the street to Coughlan's Bar, a gorgeous Victorian pub that has top quality live music and a quirky beer garden.
Brunch in Tara's Tea Rooms on MacCurtain Street. This very Shabby Chic, quaint tea-rooms does a wonderful full-Irish breakfast, or more healthy (and veggie) options for brunch.
It’s a bit of a secret spot for locals, a real diamond that you could easily overlook.
In Bunny Connellan's Restaurant at the seaside near Crosshaven. Generations of Corkonians have delighted in “the cottage on the rocks” – Bunny’s Bar, high up over tiny Myrtleville Bay on the sea, is about a forty minute’s easy drive from Cork and offers stunning views out over the bay along with a terrace and restaurant serving hearty gastropub plates and local seafood.
Finish your foodie odyssey around Cork with a bracing dip in Myrtleville Bay, home to the year-round, open-water enthusiasts of the Myrtleville Swimmers