Cheffing is a tough gig.
So when chefs clock off, they don’t head home and cook lavish meals spanning countless tweezer-garnished courses for themselves.
Nope. They head for a spot where they can be the diner for a change. But it can’t just be any old spot.
When chefs ditch their whites and choose a place to kick back with a drink or dinner on a day off, you better believe it’s top-notch.
We asked some of Cork’s best chefs where they eat on stolen lunch breaks, nights out and big occasions. The result is a tasty selection of recommendations for everything from the city’s finest bagels, sushi, poke bowls and croissants to the best Michelin-starred restaurants for a memorable meal.
BRIAN MURRAY, THE GLASS CURTAIN
“If I make it on time, the salted bagel with cream cheese and crispy bacon at 5points on MacCurtain Street is a winner. They sell out fast. On a day off, I’ll head for Elbow Lane, it’s great that they open seven days a week – ideal for a Monday evening steak, always great service there too.
Having worked with Dan Guerin years ago and growing up in East Cork it’s always lovely to get back down to Cush in Ballycotton for a celebration meal. We were just there recently celebrating my father’s birthday and the food only gets better every time.
I remember, when I was not long cooking, being blown away by Les Gourmandises on Cook Street, it was pretty inspirational for me as a young cook. More recently, last October I went to Dede in Baltimore and that has to be the one to remember most. Such refined cooking but still really approachable.
There’s something light-hearted in the food and service there. The personality of Ahmed coming through on the plate and with Joey pouring the wine it was a great day to remember.”
MEADHBH HALTON, CAFE PARADISO
“My favourite casual spot would have to be Iyers, their samosa chaat is iconic and the dosa are so satisfying. They are flavour wizards. I love Nells, a wonderful wine bar with the tastiest locally focused inventive small plates on MacCurtain Street too and Maki Sushi’s poke bowls are class too.
For a casual coffee and a sweet treat, you can’t beat Some Dose. They have a great selection of cakes from local producers, like the Grumpy Bakers, and the coffee is made with such love!
My favourite spot for a celebration meal, aside from Paradiso of course, would have to be Coriander in Douglas, their crispy kale is the best.
My most memorable meal was in Restaurant Chestnut in Ballydehob, it was so beautifully presented. I’m a sucker for many, many courses – the more flavours I can try in one sitting the happier I am.”
CAITLIN RUTH, CAITLIN RUTH FOOD
“I love going to Diva Bakery in Ballinspittle. Their potato bread sandwiches are imaginative and delicious, they’ve got hand-rolled croissants, and they’re right next to Garretstown beach so super handy for a picnic.
I’m lucky enough to live right around the corner from Monk’s Lane in Timoleague, which has to be the most welcoming neighbourhood restaurant in Ireland, with an unreal beer garden, great wine list and excellent food. Also, I went to Goldie in Cork City the other night, and it was absolutely amazing.
For my birthday in 2016, my friends organised a surprise birthday dinner in Iyer’s when the restaurant was supposed to be closed. I could never go because I worked every night they normally open. The food and company couldn’t have been better.”
TAKASHI MIYAZAKI, ICHIGO ICHIE, MIYAZAKI
“One of my favourite casual places to eat in the city is L’Atitude 51 Cafe over on Union Quay.
For a celebration meal, there are two restaurants I would recommend. One is Sage, which is located a 30-minute drive from the city centre in East Cork. Another one is Cush in Ballycotton. Both places are close to the beach and ideal for making a memorable day out on a special occasion.
“Restaurant Chestnut is a place where I had a deeply impressive experience. The idea of using local food from West Cork and making charcuterie from whole pork at a local farm moved me so much. Their dishes have a delicate feeling and flavour that I loved as much as the worldview that chef Rob and Elaine have created.”
MEERAN MANZOOR, THE BLUE HAVEN COLLECTION
“I like The Glass Curtain and St Francis Provisions for casual meals, Kiely’s for chips and dips, Good Day Deli and Liberty Grill for brunch. Sensei is great for sushi and I love the Izz Cafe hummus and manoosh as well as their sweet things.
For special occasions it’s Paradiso, Goldie or Da Mirco for Italian food.
“My most memorable Cork meal ever was at The Glass Curtain – the food is quality and the vibe is so good. It’s different yet satisfying.”
BARBARA NEALON, ST FRANCIS PROVISIONS, KINSALE
“On a day off it’s out to Garettstown and a stop at the Wild and Tame coffee truck at the bridge, then on to Diva in Ballinspittle for a beautiful take-out sandwich, some soup, and a pain au chocolate (the best I’ve had).
For a special occasion with the family, we’d probably stay local and head to Bruno’s Kinsale for their gorgeous pizzas in the most atmospheric room. With friends, it’s got to be up to Cork City and L’attitude 51 for their incredible wines and gorgeous small plates.
If it’s just the two of us we would take an overnight pass and head to Ballymaloe House. Everything about spending time there makes me happy.
My most memorable Cork meal was at Mews. It was 2017, we still lived in San Francisco and we were on a scouting out trip to West Cork. Some friends recommended it and I can truthfully say it’s still one of the loveliest dining experiences of my life. Everything was just so genuine, heartfelt, and generous.
Another one was cooking 45-day-aged Cote de Boeuf from Caherbeg on the beach at Garretstown with grilled whole fish, spuds cooked in an oven we made with hot rocks from the fire and a bunch of friends to share the food. All our kids playing in the sea at nightfall and the mackerel jumping in the incoming tide; the stuff of dreams.”
ROB KRAWCZYK, RESTAURANT CHESTNUT, BALLYDEHOB
“O’Neill Coffee in Skibbereen is where I love going on our days off. I’ll head there to enjoy great coffee and chats.
Pilgrims in Roscarberry is a place where Elaine and I go with family when they are visiting West Cork. It’s where we mark special family occasions with my parents too, such a beautiful place.
One of my most memorable Cork meals was at Ichigo Ichie by Takashi Miyazaki in Cork. It’s an incredible experience dining there.
“I’m looking forward to going back again soon, actually.”
DARREN KENNEDY, SAGE, MIDLETON
“Day off treats for me involve going to one of four places; Hansum in the Marina Market for a chicken salad bowl, 5 Points Deli on MacCurtain street for a bagel and a smear (with bacon and a mug of tea), over to Masseytown on Paul Street for a baguette with rotisserie chicken and bearnaise sauce or to Miyazaki at the end of Barrack Street for a restorative bowl of ramen and some dumplings.
For celebrating or everyday dining, it’s The Glass Curtain. I go there to bookmark a birthday or a special occasion or when I just really want good tasty grub, or a negroni and some jambons.
My most memorable meal for sure was at Ichigo Ichie. We ate there just two weeks before they got their Michelin star in 2018. I had just gotten married and went with some good friends to keep the celebrations going. We were all blown away by the entire restaurant and dinner.”
AISHLING MOORE, GOLDIE, OLIVER PLUNKETT STREET
“I love Wabisabi Japanese restaurant on Oliver Plunkett Street. Their kimchi soup is my go-to food if I’m feeling a little under the weather. I’m a huge fan of the Reuben in the Sandwich Stall in the English Market and the kombucha from My Goodness.
For a takeaway, I love Miyazaki on Barrack Street – the lemon ramen there is life-changing.
Elbow Lane has always been my favourite restaurant since it opened, I used to eat there on my days off. I feel so lucky to have been able to work there for three years. It’s a place I’ll always go to when I feel like I have something to celebrate, it’s a special restaurant with great food and amazing people.
My most memorable meal in Cork would have to be in Ichigo Ichie, it was such an excellent experience. I’ve been lucky enough to eat there three times. I brought my mum about four years ago and we sat at the chefs’ counter.”
DERMOT O’SULLIVAN, GREENWICH, CAROLINE STREET
“The Sandwich Stall in The English Market is where I like to pick up a sandwich and a cup of Golden Bean coffee roasted by Marc Kingston in East Cork. Fresh, local produce and delicious salads also accompany their offering.
I love our neighbours Jacques Restaurant on Oliver Plunkett Street; it’s a warm welcome, great food, nice surroundings and a superb wine list.
My most memorable Cork meal ever was at The Good Things Cafe, now closed, in Skibbereen. My friends and I went there a few summers back. Great food and off the beaten track in West Cork. It’s sadly missed!”
DAVID DEVEREAUX, 51 CORNMARKET
“My favourite casual restaurant has to be The Liberty Grill. I love going there on a morning off for their Eggs Benedict – always lovely – and the staff is superb.
For a special occasion, it would be Dede in Baltimore. It’s my partner Anne’s birthday on Tuesday and we have booked a table, I’m really looking forward to it, it’s top quality cooking.
My most memorable Cork meal would have to be Sunday lunch in Pilgrims in Rosscarbery a few years back. The food, setting and service were all spot on, it just stuck with me.”
MIRCO FONDRINI, DA MIRCO, BRIDGE STREET
“The Farmgate Cafe serves corned beef and lamb liver with the best jacket potatoes in Ireland. Those two dishes are part of Farmgate and the market.
When I can, I love to eat at The Glass Curtain on MacCurtain Street. Unfortunately with a restaurant and two small children, it’s very hard to get out these days.
One of my most memorable Cork meals ever was at Bastion in Kinsale in 2017. Great food and I’m a big fan of sous vide that they use. I still remember the lamb main course…”