As anyone in Ireland will tell you, there is fierce rivalry between Dublin and Cork. People in Cork, “Corkonians”, consider themselves to be the “real” capital of Ireland and not Dublin. People in Dublin slag (mock) the accent of the people in Cork. If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s quite a sing songy accent and even requires concentration from me to understand clearly at times! It is a beautiful city and undeniably has some of the best food in Ireland so I concede that it justifiably has a great reputation for food. As to whether or not it’s the real capital of Ireland…that’s another discussion! So with some friends I recently took an overnight trip to the food capital of Ireland!
We took the train from Dublin’s Heuston station which takes only 2.5hours and leaves you in Cork city at Kent Station. We headed to our accommodation for the night which was the River Lee Hotel.
With its beautiful setting on the banks of Cork’s River Lee, this luxury Cork hotel is the perfect base from which to explore all the delights which this great city has to offer, from its great music pubs to its bustling markets, and from its fascinating museums to its historic monuments.
We left our bags and headed off for lunch at the famous Farmgate Café in The English Market which is walking distance from the hotel. So why is it called The English Market I hear you say? The Market was created in 1788 by the Protestant or “English” corporation that controlled the city until 1841. This was a new flagship municipal market located at the heart of the new commercial city centre. When local government was reformed in 1840, and the representatives of the city’s Catholic, “Irish” majority took over, they established another covered food market, St. Peter’s (now the Bodega@St Peter’s Market) which became known as the “Irish Market” to distinguish it from its older counterpart, which remained associated with its English creators. The name “English Market”, then, dates from this era of transition. So there you go!
The café which is on the first floor overlooking the market is in the enviable position of being able to pick from all the produce beneath them for their menu. After ordering our food, our very efficient server brought us to our table and soon after brought us our food. I had a beautiful Goats cheese and beetroot sandwich on wholegrain bread but alongside sandwiches there was a whole array of hot dishes and cakes and muffins to choose from. After lunch we wandered around the Market taking a look at all the food goodies available and there are lots; fresh fruit and vegetables; butchers; fishmongers; pastry makers ; chocolate makers; breadmakers – the works! There are also little alleys off the market out to the main streets and in these alleys they have more shops – make sure to have a look at them too. There was one I especially loved which had loads of vintage crockery. Everything I saw in there was what my Granny would have had in her house!
After returning to our hotel for a bit, we recharged and headed out to Jacques Restaurant in the city. Recently voted the best restaurant in Cork, this is one of the restaurants recommended by Clodagh McKenna in our Irish food trails tour on Tour Ireland. Jacques is a lovely restaurant with a newly added Tapas bar. It’s located right in the city centre, so perfect for a nice dinner and then maybe a ramble around town afterwards and a nightcap. We were welcomed by Eithne Barry one half of the couple behind Jacques and shown to our seats. The ambience in the restaurant is lovely and is naturally only surpassed by the truly excellent, tasty, fresh food that we had there. My companions for dinner that evening are still talking about their beetroot dish they had (Middle Eastern Beetroot with Knocklara cheese, hazelnuts scallions & flat bread) which I tried a little of and it was amazing! Definitely a huge thumbs up for Jacques! We left full and happy and headed off for a drink in Arthur Maynes Pharmacy which is actually a wine bar but was trading as a pharmacy for almost a century.
Back to Dublin’s fair city…. (the true capital!!)
If you’ve been to Dublin before or if you’ve been through the airports in Ireland you’ll no doubt have seen the Butlers Chocolate Cafes and shops. If not, a treat is in store! Butlers have cafes all over Ireland selling their delicious chocolate and they have the most amazing hot chocolate which has to be tried to be believed!
Now you can take a tour of the Butlers Chocolate factory where they make all these delicious goodies!! If you go during the week you get to see the workers in the factory doing their job. Cleverly Butlers have a walk way on the first floor around the factory which allows visitors to have a bird’s eye view of what’s happening without actually disturbing the workers.
The tour includes a short video, chocolate museum, a walking tour around the factory seeing the different processes involved in making these treats and then a chocolate experience at the end. This is the best part for all concerned – adults and kids! I went there at Easter time with my sister and niece and our experience at the end was to decorate a chocolate bunny with some melted white chocolate.
Great fun! All in all it takes about 2 hours and you finish in the café on the ground floor which also has a shop naturally filled with chocolate as this tour definitely gives you an appetite for it! This can be added to any tours that we book on Tour Ireland.
Coming soon…..Bloom in the Park, Taste of Dublin, cookery schools with the Irish mammies….
Stay tuned to Facebook for more updates…! Have a great weekend 🙂