There are times when a sausage roll scoffed on the fly won’t cut it.
Milestone birthdays, graduations and other special celebrations, demand a lunch with a certain degree of importance. And usually a decent glass of wine to toast the occasion. Make no mistake; this is not dinner time, when the list of fancy establishments to choose from is as long as your arm.
No, no; a red letter lunch is a different thing altogether and should be savoured as such. Happily, there are a few city kitchens with years of experience in making it special.
Just don’t plan on eating dinner afterwards.
1. The Crawford Gallery Café
Originally opened in 1989 by the grande dame of Irish hospitality Myrtle Allen, the Ballymaloe ethos seeps into every corner of the lovely dining room of the Crawford Art Gallery on Emmet Place. Foodies agree the lunch menu is one of the best in the country and well they should; where else can you sink your teeth into devilled kidneys on hot buttered sourdough from €5.50?
Wash it all down with an ice cold Riesling and keep your eyes peeled for celebrity diners; word has it that it’s a favourite haunt of Cillian Murphy’s.
2. The Farmgate Café
Tucked away in the eaves of the pulsing English Market, the Farmgate is people watching central for those who want a hefty sandwich on the tables overlooking the fountain, but turn left at the top of the stairs instead of right and you’ll find their hallowed seated area where you’ll be waited on hand and foot by some of the best servers in the business.
The dishes change daily depending on what’s in season but the stew and chowder come highly recommended and we can never resist the rock oysters (six for €9.50). Lunch here deserves a glass of wine at least but if you’d like to push the boat out with Champagne, there’s a bottle of Gobillard Grande Reserve with your name on it.
3. Perrotts Garden Bistro
Heaven is a free afternoon and a seat in the gorgeous glass conservatory of the five-star Hayfield Manor.
The menu at Perrotts Garden Bistro is diverse and delicious but those with proper notions will devour the trio of O’Connell’s salmon (hot smoked, beetroot marinated and poached with fennel, €10.50) and the roasted Irish lamb rump, with a side of truffle mashed potatoes, natch.
The pretty brasserie of Imperial Hotel on the South Mall, Lafayette’s is an art nouveau ode to a grander time, all the more authentic given the hotel’s 200 year history. Instagram your coffee on the decadent copper counter top, take in the Byzantine inspired, hand painted ceiling, then settle yourself near one of the handsome pillars and order the Croque Monsieur (a very reasonable €6.50).
Long before Cork’s historic Victorian Quarter started to attract gaggles of hungry hipsters, Michael and Catherine Ryan and Canice Sharkey were luring diners to MacCurtain Street for simple, seasonal food.
The dining room, a sympathetically restored 18th century warehouse, is a lively spot to hunker down as the rain lashes against the arched windows.
Check the blackboard for the dishes of the day or plump for a market plate filled with pan fried lambs liver and kidneys with mustard and forest mushrooms (€9).
6. Nash 19
A proper Cork institution, Nash 19 opened its doors on Princes Street 25 years ago. The fare is hearty and fastidiously locally sourced, with fresh fish and slow-cooked casseroles a regular fixture.More importantly for posh lunchers, the wine list is chosen from small organic and bio dynamic vineyards.
If you really want to blow someone’s socks off, you can even book a private dining table in the Sternview Gallery.