Cork… The Comeback Kid

The following is a fantastic article written by Aoife Carrigy for


Being a Jackeen, I don't immediately appreciate the poetry of my nightcap in Cork's hottest new cocktail bar. I'm in town for a collaboration between one of Galway's most creative chefs, JP McMahon of Aniar, and one of Cork's, Bryan McCarthy of Greenes Restaurant; and we're finishing the night in the newly-opened Cask.
Mine's a Katty Barry: an elegant but earthy coupe of gorse-infused Bombay, woodruff, Irish pears and Prosecco. As I later learn, it's named after a local hospitality legend immortalised in song for selling crubeens (pig trotters) "fairly bursting at the seams". How better to end a memorable meal that celebrated the locality through dishes like Irish halibut and Ballyhoura mushrooms with foraged sea radish and pepper dulse?
Cork may be the nation's second city, but it boasts our island's richest food heritage. Just look at the quality of its markets, from the historic English Market (, where locals stock up on offal, olives and everything in between, to the unique food purveyors and producers at farmers' markets like Mahon Point ( The Leeside city's bountiful hinterland gave us our first artisan food producers, with pioneering farmhouse cheese- makers leading the way for craft smokers, charcuterie makers and real bread bakers.

For decades, in fact, it was Cork's chefs and restaurants that pushed boundaries in Irish food. Myrtle Allen redefined Irish country house cooking at Ballymaloe House (; baker Declan Ryan ( secured one of Ireland's first Michelin stars at Arbutus Lodge; Seamus O'Connell of The Ivory Tower ( introduced fusion flavours in the 1990s; and Denis Cotter of Paradiso ( proved that menus don't need to revolve around meat - plant-based cooking can produce top-class dishes too.

l'Attitude 51


For years, the rest of the country scrambled to catch up with these trailblazers. But then, things seemed to quiet down in by the River Lee. Compared to Galway's giddy buzz and Dublin's generous range, it lagged and lost grip on its claim to the 'food capital of Ireland' title. But lately it seems a new energy is stirring, so I've come to nosy around and ask if Cork is on a culinary comeback.

Recession hit the city hard, says food blogger Billy Lyons (, one of my dining companions at Greenes. "For a while there were new places opening but places closing again as quickly," he tells me. But there was never a shortage of interesting spots in which to eat, he adds, and a 30-something couple at our table agree - though I'm struck by how many of their favourite haunts lie beyond the city centre: 12 Tables in Douglas (, Bastion in Kinsale ( and Sage in Midleton (, for example.
Cork's city centre is evolving, says Beverley Matthews of l'Atitude 51 wine bar (, where I earlier sampled a bowl of Hederman smoked mussels with a glass of manzanilla sherry. "Maybe it's people coming back from abroad who have tasted exciting things and want to bring a little bit of that home," she conjectures, citing the buzz created by "really good and very different types of eateries" like Miyazaki (, Iyer's ( and Ali's Kitchen ( Recession seems finally to be loosening its grip, too.

"Cork is changing," agrees Rebecca Harte of Farmgate Café ( in Cork's English Market - a guardian of the city's food traditions if there ever was one. "There is significant inward investment and a new lightness and energy to the city. It's palpable."
It certainly seems that way. The opening of Cask on MacCurtain Street is just part of a major public and private investment in the streetscape, hotels and hospitality offers of Cork's Victorian Quarter. And it's not the only area starting to buzz. Over on Washington Street, the recent opening of Rachel's ( by Rachel Allen is one of several new arrivals to the 'hood.

"I just hope we retain its heart and soul as we move forward," adds Harte. Judging from my visit, they're doing just that - bringing a typically independent twist to international trends and grounding a taste for exotic flavours in a deep-rooted loyalty to local produce. Dublin and Galway had better watch out: Cork has got its mojo back - and it's coming after that food capital crown.

English Market



Local produce, international palate

Corkonians have never been shy of earthy flavours and nose-to-tail cooking. The English Market's treasured Farmgate Café ( is the place to sample tripe and drisheen (a unique local beef and sheep's blood sausage), while I spot roast bone marrow and lambs' kidneys on several menus including Crawford Café ( My vegetarian waitress at House Café ( encourages me to order deep-flavoured fritters of fresh blood black pudding from McCarthy's of Kanturk, and they make a fine lunch.
Of course the city also boasts some of the best vegetarian food in the land, from the sure-handed sophistication of Paradiso ( to the hearty wholefoods of Quay Co-Op ( and the bright salads and pickles at The Rocketman Food Co (

Don't be surprised to find a taste for exotic flavours in this centuries-old trading hub, from which salted butter and beef were shipped around the world, and salt and spices shipped in for use in traditional specialties like Cork's famed spiced beef. Today, spice fiends flock to the family-run Iyer's ( for cheap-as-chips southern Indian treats like masala dosa (a fermented rice-flour pancake) or to neighbouring Thali ( for a Nepalese alternative.
One of contemporary Cork's most exciting chefs, Takashi Miyazaki is building a sizeable reputation for his tiny six-seater ramen bar and takeaway on Evergreen Street ( Diners think nothing of queuing for an hour to eat his nuanced Japanese creations, while his regular pop-up collaborations in intriguing settings (the Mitchelstown Caves, for example, or Dublin's Fumbally Stables) are piquing national interest in Cork's newfound pep.

An appetite for culture


Cork's thriving cultural scene has long fostered some of its best food offerings. Thirty years young, the Crawford Gallery Café ( remains one of the best lunch spots in the city, even with stiff competition from the nearby House Café in Cork Opera House ( Meanwhile, arts and exhibition centres like Triskel Christchurch and St Peter's are hot-housing indie cafés like Gulpd ( and Portafilter (

The Farmgate Café hosts regular cultural gatherings, talks and workshops, often in collaboration with UCC scholars and writers, and their 'poetry wall' was joined last year by a striking photographic installation of radical and revolutionary Women of the South.

In another feat of creative programming, The Montenotte Hotel ( has been opening its in-house Cameo cinema to non-residential guests with a movie-and-meal special offer. And l'Atitude 51's ( lively calendar of wine-focused events includes movie nights where guests enjoy food and wine inspired by films as diverse as Jiro Dreams of Sushi or Natural Resistance.
Several new food and drink-focused festivals have sprung up too, including ones dedicated to burgers in January, whiskey in April and dessert in June ( Bon appétit!


Rebel trends

From baristas to brewhouses, smoking to small plates, Cork has a typically independent take on international trends. For every Umi or Bunsen that opens in the city, as Dublin-based operators recognise the upswing in Cork, there's a locally owned EAST falafel hatch ( bytherocketman) or Son of a Bun ( burger joint.
Cork adapted fast to the slow 'n' low pit-smoked barbecue trend, with Bad Boys BBQ ( and White Rabbit Bar & BBQ ( of MacCurtain Street hot on the heels of John Relihan, pit master at Holy Smoke ( and former head chef at Jamie Oliver's Barbacoa.

At the clubby Elbow Lane Brew & Smoke House (, I wash down a sublime house-smoked monkfish pastrami with rye porridge with their own Herkules-hopped Angel Stout brewed at an in-house nanobrewery.

Small plates are big news in Cork, especially when paired with well-considered drinks. Jacques ( is rejuvenating a long-standing business with an Irish gin menu and tapas with a local twist. Chef Bryan McCarthy of Greenes brings a fine-dining sensibility to small plates at sister establishment Cask ( think salt cod brandade with pickled dillisk and scurvy grass served with farm-to-glass cocktails from award-winning bartender Andy Ferreira.
Coffee lovers can fuel up on brews from local roasters Rebel City Roast at Cork Coffee Roasters ( Coffee) and The Golden Bean at The Rocketman ( or two Filter outlets ( where a menu of various roasters, origins and brewing styles is despatched with pure Cork charm.

Elsewhere, Ali's Kitchen bakehouse ( pairs Cloud Picker coffee with superlative doughnuts (caramel custard and praline, anyone?) while Oh My Donut! ( is injecting a dash of candied colour to an up-and-coming Washington Street.




Paradiso Rooms

Diners at the celebrated Paradiso restaurant can stay in an ensuite guest bedroom upstairs, where a breakfast of baked pastries and breads, farmhouse cheeses, granola and fresh fruit is delivered to your room.



Hotel Isaacs Cork

Enjoy a discounted meal at Greenes Restaurant and a nightcap at neighbouring Cask before retiring to a recently modernised room in this sister hotel, knowing that breakfast will be as well-sourced as dinner.



The Montenotte Hotel

This recently refurbished four-star hotel is a good base to explore Cork’s rebranded Victorian Quarter — keep an eye out for good deals on rooms as well as movie-and-dinner offers.


The eagle has landed!


Saturday 01st July, what a remarkable day for Cork Airport. Aviation history was made at Cork Airport with the departure of Norwegian Flight D81821 from Cork to Boston/Providence – the airport’s first ever scheduled transatlantic service.

Tuesday 04th July, another day for the record books. Cork Airport got to personally wish our American friends a Happy Independence Day as they welcomed passengers that arrived on the first ever inbound scheduled transatlantic service with Norwegian from TF Green Airport (PVD) in Boston Providence.




Cork Airport Managing Director Niall MacCarthy will lead a delegation of local business and tourism stakeholders on a trip to Boston/ Providence this Thursday (July 6) returning into Cork Airport early Saturday morning.

The delegation comprises Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD, as well as representatives from Cork Chamber of Commerce, Cork Business Association, Irish Hotels Federation, Cork City and County Councils, Irish Aviation Authority and local travel trade.
The purpose of the trip is to further forge links with counterparts in Providence and Newport in Rhode Island to help promote the new historic direct transatlantic route with Norwegian.

Niall MacCarthy commented: “While it may be a short trip to the US, we have arranged a full schedule of meetings on Friday as well as a formal reception with the Governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, at the State Capital.  The trip is an excellent opportunity for us to build on the relationships that we have formed over the past number of years, when we have been trying to secure the route. There is tremendous desire in the US for direct access to the South of Ireland from both a business and tourism perspective.

“Now that this superb new service is up and running, it is crucially important that it is supported both here in Munster and in Rhode Island. For our part, we will do everything we can to ensure that both regions’ economies feel the benefits."

The delegation will fly out at 16:20 on Thursday, July 6 and return at 08:30 on Saturday, July 8.


Here are a few of our personal favourites from a momentous weekend at Cork Airport.

CBA Warmly Welcomes Cork Airport Becoming Europe’s Newest Transatlantic Airport As Norwegian Service Takes Flight

Historic Day As Cork Goes Transatlantic With New Boston/Providence Route


  • For the first time in Cork Airport’s 56-year history, direct scheduled transatlantic travel is now a reality
  • Historic route heralds the era of low cost year round direct transatlantic travel from Cork Airport to the US East Coast
  • New Norwegian service will operate three times weekly from Cork to Boston/Providence on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays
  • Ultra-low cost transatlantic flights from Cork to Boston Providence are available this year from €129 one way or €230 return on

Saturday 1st July 2017: Aviation history was made at Cork Airport today with the departure of Norwegian Flight D81821 from Cork to Boston/Providence – the airport’s first ever scheduled transatlantic service.

The new transatlantic service will operate three times per week, linking the South of Ireland region to the Greater Boston, Rhode Island and New England areas. The long-awaiting opening of the new route will lead to greater travel, trade and tourism between the two regions.

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, Niall MacCarthy, Managing Director at Cork Airport, thanked the team at Norwegian for partnering on the long and hard journey to deliver new direct transatlantic service from Cork to Boston Providence.  “I would like to thank especially all of our stakeholders, on both sides of the Atlantic, who assisted us with their support to secure the granting of the licence,” he added.


“I also want to acknowledge the wider team here at Cork Airport, across our own and many companies, who work seven days a week, fifty two weeks of the year, to deliver outstanding customer service to all of our passengers. I am proud to say that this great service from all our staff was recognised recently when Cork Airport won the “Best Airport in Europe” award of its class at the Airport Council International Congress in Paris earlier this month.”


“The official history of Cork Airport was last published in 2011 in a book entitled ‘Fifty Years Have Flown’. Today I am very proud to say that a new chapter can be added to that book and Cork Airport is now Ireland’s and Europe’s newest transatlantic airport. From today, you can now fly year-round,  at low cost to the East Coast of the United States of America direct from Cork Airport, with great value parking, a short walk from the terminal and a very friendly, convenient service.


“The airport in Providence is a great facility with fast and efficient Customs and Immigration services and excellent transport connections. There is a direct train service from the airport itself straight to Boston in 90 minutes ($11.50) and Providence itself, Newport, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Cape Cod are all within convenient reach.


Even more importantly, thousands of US visitors can now land right here in Cork to start their journey on the Wild Atlantic Way and throughout Ireland’s Ancient East. Cork Airport is the only airport in Ireland connecting directly to both of these Irish tourism products. This will bring jobs, revenue and tourism growth directly to businesses and towns throughout the South of Ireland and grow our regional economy”, he stated.


“With the chill winds of Brexit looming, tourism diversification is critically important to maintaining our strong regional economy and the US is a key growth market for the South of Ireland now and going forward”, he noted.  “Today is a historic day. I wish Norwegian every success, as together we open a new chapter in the history of Cork Airport.”


Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos said: "The first ever transatlantic flights from Cork are a huge milestone for the airport, Norwegian and most of all passengers who can now enjoy direct, affordable travel to the USA. These flights simply wouldn't have been possible without the huge support of the Cork community over the last three years so we are delighted to see everyone's hard work pay-off as our first flights take to the skies this weekend."

Tourism Ireland Chief Executive Niall Gibbons said the new Norwegian flight from Boston/Providence was “excellent news” for tourism to Cork and the South of Ireland. “We are delighted to co-operate with Norwegian and Cork Airport, to maximise the promotion of this new service.  As an island destination, the importance of convenient, direct, non-stop flights cannot be overstated – they are absolutely critical to achieving growth in inbound tourism.”

Last year, we welcomed a record 1.6 million North American visitors to the island of Ireland, worth over €1.3 billion to our economy. Tourism Ireland has prioritised North America for 2017, as a market which offers a strong return on investment, in terms of holiday visitors and expenditure. We are confident that our strategy – combined with more airline seats than ever before from the US, including this new Norwegian flight to Cork, as well as a strong dollar and the strength of the vacation experience around Ireland – will deliver further growth.”
Commenting Lawrence Owens Chief Executive of the Cork Business Association said:" This is a seminal day for Cork Airport but also for the Southern region of Ireland.Having made this historic breakthrough we now have to ensure this service is supported from both the private and business sectors.Great credit must go to Niall McCarthy and his superb team at Cork Airport and indeed to all the Stakeholders who have helped deliver this game changing and historic new route for the Cork region".