More than a few are operated by some top-rate Irish hospitality practitioners with long culinary pedigrees, but others out there probably have some way to go to meet their standards, so this list is designed to help sort the wheat from the chaff - a Cork-based selection (and Belfast’s Bia Rebel making its annual flight south to the Rebel County) that just so happen to also be some of the very best food trucks in the entire country.
We are currently in the midst of an explosion in availability of grilled cheese sandwiches, with some superb practitioners around the country, and the very best of those could well be Simon and Liz and their Ron D’s stall which pops up just once a week, Wednesdays, outside Ballydehob's Community Hall.
Using Simon’s sourdough, baked weekly, the menu includes the Muffuletta, a famous Italian offering from New Orleans, with cured meats, mortadella, provolone and giandiniera. There are also two Reubens, one with salt beef and the other, a veggie version with chard and roasted portobello mushrooms. Even the basic ‘cheese toastie’ pulls out all the stops with a Hegarty’s Cheddar, Gubbeen, Durrus and smoked farmhouse cheese along with charred scallion sour cream. Dessert is potato donuts; say no more.
Former Barnabrow House head chef Stuart Bowes may be cooking his pizzas out of two Gozney Roccboxes, domestic garden pizza ovens, albeit with professional results in the right hands, but his truly superb pizzas, some of the very best available in Ireland, begin with a 48-hour proved dough and immaculately sourced ingredients, from county Cork and further afield, including Italy for premium tomatoes.
Regulars include Margherita with Ardsallagh goat’s cheese, sweet piquillo peppers and West Cork Garlic scape pesto; and pepperoni with Grano Padano, olive oil; and weekly changing specials, such as a recent and wonderful pumpkin and blue cheese, with sweet pumpkin puree, fior di latte, Gorgonzola, red onion and fresh chilli.
Various locations around Co Cork; Saturday, Coal Quay Farmer’s Market.
Formerly head chef of the late, lamented Deasy’s, near Clonakilty, the sublimely gifted Caitlin now operates from a food truck around West Cork, with a current two-week residency in Levi’s Corner House bar, in Ballydehob, lasting until later in July.
Relying on her West Cork seasonal local larder for inspiration, recent dishes have included: Sopranwich (focaccia with Italian fennel free range sausage ragu, buffalo mozzarella, lovage-rocket pesto & pickles); Tostada (free range chicken, ancho chilli sauce, black refried beans); duck spring rolls; and sesame noodle salad bowl. A true original.
See Instagram for times, dates and locations.
West Cork-based but a regular visitor to various locations and markets in Cork city, The Ramblin’ Sole could well have been included in our companion piece on fish and chips but, while seafood is very much at the heart of the offering, this is delivered with a substantially more creative twist, with homely crispy spuds always there as a supporting player.
Dishes include peppered hake and chorizo sauce and Thai Style fish burgers and the occasional and very fine burger has also popped up on the menu.
Glass Curtain chef/proprietor Brian Murray’s answer to continued closure of his MacCurtain St restaurant has seen him commission a handmade Basque-style grill, Birdsong in the City, currently popping up in the little mini street food market on Harley St, alongside the Metropole Hotel.
Recent superb dishes included a succulent short rib beef burger with celeriac in soft milk buns, grilled octopus with a spicy bean cassoulet and their ice cream sandwiches will be part of this writer’s death row meal, most especially the Bushby’s raspberries folded through vanilla ice cream enclosed in shortbread. One of the finest street food offerings around.
Bia Rebel Ramen
Returning to Cork once again for another seasonal pop-up, chef Brian Donnelly’s Belfast-based ramen outlet has received international acclaim for its authentic delivery of Japanese style ramen with a Hibernian twist. This year, he is bringing down his entire team, a fresh noodle maker and a Josper Grill, offering fresh noodles as well as a grilled West Cork beef and lamb, including burgers, BBQ brisket and five or six premium cuts daily for sharing, 1.5kg tomahawk steaks or cote de boeuf.
Pride of place goes to their signature dish, The Belfast, a Tokyo shoyu ramen taking 40 hours to make and incorporating up to 30 different ingredients, with flavours calibrated very much to suit an Irish palate. Desserts include potato, seaweed and wild honey ice cream along with more mainstream flavours for the more cautious diner.
Chef Davitt Conroy, recently returned from New York with his wife to live and work once more in his native Co Cork, has a number of summer events on the go, including a pop-up restaurant on Three Castle Head but Tunnel to Table is a food truck with a rather high end output, a nine course tasting menu with wine pairings (supplied by Le Caveau) of the very finest of local, seasonal West Cork produce, much of it from the Glensallagh Gardens tunnels, all served up in a covered marquee looking out over bucolic countryside.
Recent dishes have included: Baby Red Potato Confit, Hijiki Seaweed Butter, Samphire; Hake Anise, Saffron Dashi Oyster Mushroom, Fennel Frond Tempura; West Cork Wagyu Short Rib, Black Garlic Jus, Aged Balsamic Carrots, Truffle Fried Shallot; and Flourless Chocolate Cake, Pistachio Praline, Raspberries in Cognac.
Currently featuring in RTÉ’s Battle of the Food Trucks, Julia Hemingway’s cute little mobile unit could well have featured in the ‘fish and chips’ section for she certainly turns out a very fine ‘one and one’, including chips cooked in beef dripping but that would be to sell her short for her seafood menu, daily changing with the seasons and the local catch, is a true delight, recently including barbecued lobster, lobster roll, scampi and chips, mussels (made with fennel, tomato, white wine and dill) and chips, and hake goujons and chips.
Brehon Hotel Head Chef and erstwhile Chef Collab founder/mentor Chad Byrne spent his lockdown well and The Hungry Donkey has proven a huge draw, first with 5km locals and then for hungry pilgrims travelling from further afield when restrictions eased. The highly authentic tacos are essential, scallop spice bag is as irreverently more-ish as it sounds, and don’t let the rough-and-ready street food styles fool you, there is technique and talent also at play here.
An Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) featuring fresh crab and prawns perfectly illustrates the marriage of same to some well-sourced produce, all making for some very fine al fresco dining in lovely locations in Killarney.
Pubs in the city
Now long enough in the tooth to realise we will never get the class of climate to have us supping al fresco in our shorts the whole summer long, it is essential to treasure those precious glorious sunkissed days when they do come along and when they do the ONLY reasonable response is to find an outdoor sanctuary in which to draw out an afternoon in the company of a few ice-cold beverages and good friends.
Granted, there are more and more outdoor options coming online each day as the pandemic has pushed the party out onto the streets but we are in search of those hidden gems, those little nooks, crannies and, in the case of rooftop beer gardens, eyries, that allow us to switch off entirely from city life for a spell.
Space in the city centre is hard to come by, most especially when it comes to devoting it to a beer garden that is highly unlikely to be suitable for year-round alfresco use so we are especially pleased to see the increasing use of alternative rooftop spaces adding a whole new perspective on Cork city and bringing us that bit closer to the oh so precious sun.
Coughlan’s, Douglas St
One of Cork’s great ‘old man’ pubs that was successfully transformed into a fantastic bijou live music venue without losing so much as an ounce of its original character, the partially covered beer garden always managed to hold a crowd throughout most of the year but the freshly tarted up space is now one of the most charming little spots in the city.
Tom Barry’s, Barrack St
One of the original and best beer gardens in the city, a lovely space in the summer sunshine and with a real open fire for hardier souls who want to make it a year-round affair. With a woodfired pizza oven operating right in the middle of the garden, turning out very decent pizzas, you barely have to stray from your seat to add a little soakage to your summer supping.
Clancy’s Rooftop Bar
This historical old boozer in the heart of the city has been reinvigorated since it reopened in 2019 and standards have been upped; that the in-house barista coffee service uses Golden Bean, one of Ireland’s finest roasters, says all you need to know about standards and attitudes. The kitchen begins with breakfast and runs right through 'til 9pm, including in house pizza. But it’s the wonderful rooftop space that seals the deal, a perfect spot to put away something cool from the extensive cocktail list while looking out across the rooftops.
Fionbarra’s, Douglas St
Through various incarnations over the years, there has been a great beer garden scene to the rear of this great old pub on Douglas St, this writer once taking it over entirely for a birthday celebration that still lives long in the annals, but since becoming Fionbarra’s, it has received the extra attention needed to turn it into a deservedly popular year-round drinking space, with the in-house pizza oven supplying the vittles.
The Fran Well
One of the originals, in so many ways, beginning with a bank of grass alongside the in-house craft brewery, The Fran Well now has one of the best outdoor spaces in the country, a Leeside take on a Munich beer hall with a fine, fine range of craft beers and some of the very best pizzas in the country from the Pompeii Pizza outlet that anchors the space, as cosy in winter as it is blissfully indolent in the full summer sun.
SoHo Garden Terrace
SoHo offer all the usual enticements necessary for a convivial afternoon in the sun in terms of beers, beverages, cocktails and a tidy little menu to nibble from but it is their location on one of the highest of the old city centre buildings that offers a truly superior vista including great views of Triskel Christchurch and the park alongside.
Cork Coffee Roasters, Anglesea St
Granted, this is another outlet of the venerable old Cork Coffee Roasters, a local independent company that established the template for the contemporary coffee scene in the city, but to their range of coffees they have added beers and pizzas (you can’t have the beer unless you have the pizza) and a rooftop garden in a lesser-explored part of the city.
The Corner Flag, Turner’s Cross
Though design and layout may be kindly described as ‘prosaic’ in comparison to some of the beauties listed above, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better and more novel vantage point for holding a cold beer and following the exertions of beloved Cork City FC, with Turner’s Cross pitch directly alongside on the other side of the dividing fence, especially convenient now that entry is currently restricted to season ticket holders.
Pubs in the country
There’s nothing like hopping into the car and fleeing the city on a beautiful summer’s day and even better still when you’re not the designated driver and get to enjoy an alfresco ale or two in some scenic spot in the glorious Irish countryside, with bonus points for a location by the water.
The Blackbird, Ballycotton
Always a cracking pub, the Blackbird beer garden is a machine of some sophistication without for a moment losing its antique character, a retractable roof offering ample protection from weather’s extremes. What’s more, the beer garden is also home to The Field Kitchen turning out smashing fish and chips as well as chicken and beef dishes, the menu always featuring produce from the best of local suppliers
Monk’s Lane, Timoleague
If its location in the heart of the criminally lesser hymned and very lovely village of Timoleague weren’t enough, the Monk’s Lane garden is a truly delightful space, beautifully planted and with all manner of cosy corners to pitch up in. As well as a great range of beers, wines and cocktails, there is a full menu of their very fine fare to dine on as well
This third-generation pub now run by Máire O’Mahony and partner Victor Murphy, a consummate Leeside hospitality professional, includes a splendid open yard housing a Bedouin tent covering 11 picnic tables, additional sunshine tables as well as Granny’s Garden, another sheltered and non-smoking space decorated with artist Máire’s art and wonderful planting in the flower beds.
As well as excellent craft beers and wines and mixologist John Coleman turning out superb cocktails, the always superb restaurant menu has been adapted to outdoor dining, on Thursday to Sunday, with planned live music from the stage later in the summer subject to the ongoing evolution of pandemic restrictions.
Arundel’s By the Pier, Ahakista
The beer garden space is simple and straightforward but you won’t really spend much time checking out the garden furniture because you’ll struggle to find another pub in the county that has such glorious views. Sited on splendid Sheep’s Head, it looks across Dunmanus Bay, to Mizen and on a good day, there are few finer places to be in the world. And good days are invariably improved further again by a cracking little menu based on local produce.
Pine Lodge, Myrtleville
That old favourite for many a long year, perched on the hill overlooking Myrtleville Beach, has been given a thorough going over in recent years turning it into a wonderful outdoor space to match the charms of the interior with shipping containers added to offer further protection from the elements. A full menu of family-friendly fare is also on offer.
It is certainly a sign of the changing times that pubs existing solely on beverage sales and without edible offering to supplement to takings are becoming increasingly rarer and food has been an equal part of the game plan at Mikey Ryan’s from the off. However, you’ll be hard-pressed to match their amazing outdoor space and facilities in any other Irish ‘beer garden’.
Along with the usual picnic benches to the rear of the glass-walled pub with drinks available from the Horse Box Bar, is The Secret Garden, a hidden walled garden BBQ space for up to 30 and then, the piece de resistance, The Glass Well, a glass garden room for private dining groups, holding up to 12.
All rather fitting when you consider it is part of the overall Cashel Palace Hotel restoration project, set to be one of the most exclusive and exciting new additions to the Irish hospitality sector when it finally opens after pandemic delays, next year.
In a city with some absolutely cracking pubs, and several with lovely river frontage along the mighty Shannon, what is regarded as the city’s oldest boozer, dating back to 1794 in a premises built in the late 1600s, has the very best outdoor setup of all, close enough to the water to hand a pint over the railing to passing river craft.
The covered garden offers ample shelter, ideal for an Irish summer and with big screens and regular BBQs, it makes for an ideal ‘sports venue’ if a trip to nearby Thomond Park or the Gaelic Grounds is a step too far.
Chippers and more
Unveiling a list of top chippers, especially on Leeside, inevitably leads to endless squabbles when personal favourites don’t make the cut or endure some similar slight. So, with a body swerve Maradona would have been proud of, we’ll sidestep that particular landmine by focusing instead on a seaside selection - fish and chips served up at the seaside.
After all, there are few pleasures to match biting into freshly fried battered fish alongside the ocean from which it was caught, with the salty tang of sea air adding a magical extra seasoning, all in all, making for one of the essential elements of a perfect day trip to the beach.
Our selection is scattered around the county, several of them food trucks operating from long before owning a food truck became a pandemic trend to tick off the list along with baking sourdough and banana bread.
What’s more, you eat them al fresco so be sure and ask for your crispy fresh fish to be left unwrapped so it doesn’t steam itself to a state of advanced sogginess as so many fish suppers do when transported home for domestic consumption.
Find yourself a nice little perch by the briny, sprinkle on the salt and vinegar, squeeze a lemon slice on the fish and dine on one of the most perfect food combos ever invented. And if your especially canny, you’ll have brought along a chilled bottle of something nice to wash it all down.
There’s fresh fish and then there’s fish served up by a family of fishermen, the O’Driscolls, of Schull. Sean O’Driscoll and brother Ollie are well known to farmers’ market customers throughout Munster (Mahon Point, Coal Quay, Bantry, Midleton, Limerick Milk Market, Dungarvan), where they sell the fresh catch from their own boat.
Meanwhile Sean’s wife, Caroline, and their two daughters man the fryers every Friday night from the food truck parked alongside the estuary in Ballydehob, where they serve up light and crisp battered hake, pollock, haddock, whiting and whatever else is hauled up in the nets by brother Oisin O’Driscoll—and with excellent chips to match.
Friday, Saturday 5pm-8pm
This is how you do fish and chips by the sea, from a stylish and funky little cabin right on the beach at Long Strand, with picnic benches available for the overspill and, if they’re also full, you’ve a whole beach before you. Peter and Elaine Shanahan’s fish and chips are cracking and the most popular choice, with mixed fish option also on offer (choose from hake, lemon sole and plaice or freshly breaded scampi) but really push out the boat with The Sharing Tray: crispy battered fish selection; fresh scampi, calamari with mushy peas, tartare sauce and chips.
Crab Sandwich and fish tacos also on offer. Specials can include fresh whole Irish prawns and crab claws, dripping in garlic and herb butter. Confectionaries and treats baked in-house by Elaine. Breakfast is breakfast bap, buttermilk pancakes or avocado toast, and West Cork Coffee.
Breakfast, 9.30am to 11.30; Lunch, 12pm to 6pm
Granted, Rosscarbery Traditional Fish & Chips is a little further away from the beach than the others listed, to the side of a garage forecourt on the road between Rosscarbery and Clon, but not only glimpses from the sea possible from there but you’re just two minutes from Owenahincha Beach down the road.
It was an Italian friend in the catering industry who first alerted me to the quality of the fish and chips on offer here and when an Italian tells you about fish and chips, you listen, as they were the prime movers in introducing this dish to Ireland and helping to make it a treasured national favourite. While we always prefer those establishments who specialise only in fish, it has to be acknowledged that there are still those die-hards yet to be converted to the sublime merits of the bounty from the sea so many places offer a wider ranging menu.
RTF&C’s options, however, include, alongside the burgers and chicken, Rosscarbery and Clonakilty pudding burgers, a nod to two great producers in the locality.
Tuesday to Sunday, 12.30pm to 9pm
Operated by Murphy’s Mobile Catering, at a gorgeous location within a stone’s throw of the departure point for the cable car to Dursey Island, this little enterprise has been turning out cracking fried fish from the sea for quite a few years, becoming a real edible treasure on Beara and while they’ve added the usual suspects, burgers, battered sausages and chicken nuggets, and outliers such as turkey and buffalo burgers, the prime attraction remains the very excellent fish and chips, depending on local catches, it can include haddock, monk, hake and cod, and this writer remembers with particular relish a delicious dish of fried mackerel some years back. Also shows up in the nearby village of Allihies.
Dursey, 12.30pm to 18.30pm. Allihies, from 4pm to 9pm
Another food truck with a bit of history under its tyres, long predating the pandemic gold rush, this little outlet on the Kinsale Bridge has long been a favourite with locals and tourists alike so expect long queues and while chips could betimes benefit from a bit more TLC, the fish is absolutely cracking.
Fresh and beautifully battered in a light, crisp coating, including hake, cod, lemon sole, mackerel and, a great favourite with the kids, Kibbeling, a Dutch version of fish goujons of battered and fried white fish. And the view of the estuary isn’t half bad either! In recent times, they have also opened up an outlet in Carrigaline.
Fri/Sat/Sun, 12pm to 7.30pm
You’d be hard pressed to find a more stylish ‘chipper’ anywhere else in the country but style is most certainly not achieved at the expense of substance for Eunice Power’s gorgeous quayside outlet as every item on her menu is perfectly excecuted: from Bertram Salter’s free range chicken, buttermilk brined and served in a Walsh’s Blaah with crispy bacon, avocado and basil mayonnaise; to deliciously dirty taco fries; to Syrian flatbreads and falafel.
But it is the fish and chips that truly defines And Chips: on our last visit, glistening, golden-battered coating housing pearlescent steaming hot cod along with superb handmade chips, that just HAVE to be eaten with legs dangling over the harbour wall.
Linnane’s is so much more than a chipper, with calamari (tender squid, coated in coarse polenta and deep fried to perfection, served with garlic and lemon mayo) and wild native clams cooked in garlic and wine standing out from our last visit but there are few finer places in the world to eat deliciously crisp battered tender fried fish (species depends on local availability) with gorgeous handmade chips, sitting on the quayside terrace, by the Flaggy Shore, looking across to the coastline of Co Galway—plus, how many chippers have a fine pint of porter to serve as pre-prandial aperitif and then a flinty fresh Trimbach Riesling to follow to wash down those fine fish and chips.
Source : https://www.irishexaminer.com/food/arid-40335251.html4702