Dining out can be expensive but it is something that I enjoy tremendously and a passion that I have been lucky enough to continue to indulge. During the height of the recession many restaurants changed their pricing structures and also started using cheaper ingredients in new and inventive ways in an effort to reduce costs and provide competitively priced menus. Lunch can often be a good option for those seeking a fine-dining experience at a reasonable price and a way to sample the food on offer in some of Ireland’s top restaurants at a fraction of the cost, as I found out recently.
During my recent visit to Cork I decided to have lunch at Greenes Restaurant in the heart of the city. The restaurant is located down a small laneway just off MacCurtain Street at the end of which is a wonderful waterfall. The sound of trickling water had an almost hypnotic appeal and was a thoroughly unexpected feature to find in the middle of the bustling city.
The room has a formal feel with white linen tablecloths but a sensitive touch on the interior decoration front has resulted in a room that is sophisticated and comfortable without feeling austere. Colourful artworks hang on the walls and add a welcome burst of colour to the muted tones that predominate.
Head Chef Bryan McCarthy has created an interesting Set Lunch Menu which is served from 12.30pm to 2.30pm each day and offers phenomenal value for money at 2 courses for €21.50 or 3 courses for €24.50. I grazed on a flavoursome and wonderfully moist brown soda bread as I examined the menu in greater detail. All the dishes sounded tempting and after dithering over which starter to go for I asked my waitress whether it would be possible to order two and pay for the extra order in addition to the set price. This did not present a problem.
|Goat's Cheese, Beetroot|
My next starter – Pork Belly, Black Pudding, Apple, Celeriac, Cider – was another excellent dish and a real crowd-pleaser. A generous cube of meltingly tender pork belly was served on a delicate looking remoulade made from impossibly fine strings of celeriac mixed in piquant dressing that I found totally irresistible. Thin batons of apple added freshness to the plate whilst puffed pork crackling which resembled little pearls were scattered on top adding textural contrast. A slightly sharp apple purée was a perfect counterfoil to the rich meatiness of the pork and the accompanying balls of breadcrumbed black pudding.
I decided to treat myself to a glass of Le Petit Balthazar Viognier (€7) which I chose from the restaurant’s well stocked wine list. The Viognier was perfect with my hake and had a lovely pale yellow colour and was a balanced, slightly fruity wine.
|Woodruff Set Cream Pudding|
I was pleased to finally have the chance to dine in Greenes Restaurant. Bryan McCarthy’s cooking is rooted in the French classics but brought bang-up-to-date with the use of foraged ingredients. He employs modern cooking techniques but this is never just for show or at the expense of the food on offer. I couldn’t believe how little the meal cost for the quality of food that I ate. I plan on visiting again soon because food like this should be experienced whenever you get the chance.
48 MacCurtain Street