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Grub Spy: Cushy number

Alan Kelly dishes the goods on Ireland’s tastiest dining destinations

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Inside Cush

Inside Cush

Some of the food on offer

Some of the food on offer

The scenic exterior

The scenic exterior

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Inside Cush

We all know it’s been a disastrous couple of years for pubs and bars the length and breadth of the country, with more than a few of them going to the wall. The surviving landlords and bar owners, staring down the barrel of permanent closure, have had to become seriously creative and fully engaged in responding to drastically changing times.

CUSH
The Pier, Ballycotton, Co Cork
4.5 Stars
Food: €113; Drinks: €54.60

A pint and a toasted ham and cheese would no longer cut the mustard. Joe Public desperately needed to find enjoyment wherever he or she could, and I can only say “well done” to how so many
of our fine old boozers have answered that call.

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Some of the food on offer

Some of the food on offer

Some of the food on offer

Cush, a gorgeous little bar hiding in plain sight in downtown Ballycotton, is one of those fine old boozers. It’s the kind of place that reassuringly keeps the nasty outside world at bay while still managing to prioritise top quality and flavour in everything that leaves its kitchen.
Take our impeccable starters for instance. Three juicy big pan-seared scallops, topped with seaweed are sitting in a pool of dreamy spiciness. There are baby parsnips lightly poached to sweet perfection. A petite slice of black pudding adds a delightful finishing touch. Heaven on a plate.
The same is true of a slow cooked pork shoulder croquette with a velvety celeriac remoulade and a blob of burnt apple sauce. Both are lookers and both are made for devouring.
For mains there is a chunky fillet of prime turbot, topped with a daub of caviar, two nicely fried baby leeks, a splodge of salt baked celeriac purée, and a terrific splash of buttery seaweed sauce.
It is pan-fried in a way that brings out the best in this king of white fish. A very fine job indeed.

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The scenic exterior

The scenic exterior

The scenic exterior

You need an expert touch to roast a loin of monkfish to perfection. With griddled shoots of white asparagus, buttered cavolo nero, another blob of that celeriac purée, and a dash of prawn bisque, plus an exceptional side of baked hispi cabbage covered with a crunchy layer of spicy nduja breadcrumbs. What an amazing fishy feast this kitchen has produced. We share a super delicious dish of buttery mashed spuds.
We still have room for desserts. And what desserts they are. I can’t remember the last time I sampled a baba this good. Usually doused in rum, this fluffy soft baked beauty is soaked in Vermouth, ably accompanied with blood orange segments and a quenelle of whipped Mascarpone.
Next up is a chocolate-hazelnut praline mousse with a chocolate triangle wafer and a spoonful of vanilla ice-cream. I mean, how could we not want desserts this good. An extensive wine list further tempts us with a scrumptious Portuguese Crasto Branco.
It’s not only in West Cork that you’ll find yourself falling over fantastic bars and restaurants. East Cork is now joining the ranks of culinary excellence.
In this lovely place you can lose yourself for a couple of hours, soak up the laid-back atmosphere while being looked after by friendly staff who care about what they do and serve up. If you get a chance, try it.
And before you know it all will be right with the world again

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