Grub Spy: Pickled pink

With perfectly crafted sambos, freshly baked treats and great coffee, this Macroom cafe is just the spot for a lovely lunch, writes Grub Spy Alan Kelly

The cheery exterior

Tasty custard doughnuts

Stone Valley coffee

Sunday World

It’s 12.45 on Tuesday afternoon in Macroom and there’s no escaping it. The traffic, I mean. It’s bloody horrendous. The weird thing is, I’ve never not been able to get a parking space here, and I’ve visited the town quite a lot over the years.


South Square, Macroom, Co Cork

4.5 Stars

Food: €23.50; Drinks: €4.80

Today we need a break — the heat, the noise, the traffic, it’s all just too much. We’re desperate for a caffeine injection and some kind of bread-y, toasty snack. Unfortunately, about 2,000 school kids on their lunch break feel the same way and are busy clogging up the SuperValu coffee and sambo counter. I always say you can eat a great menu with your eyes. Granted it’s a fleeting experience but every so often, it can happen. It happened for me in Macroom. We’re walking by Pickled, a tiny shop front painted in roaring shades of pink — when we stop, reverse, and do a double-take. Their A4-sized window menu reads like a cornucopia of gourmet delights. There’s a sourdough sarnie with loin of bacon and wholegrain mustard mayo, dressed with organic rocket leaves. A sourdough toastie with chicken, tangy nduja, scallions and chimichurri mayo. A soft baguette with egg mayo, pickled pink onions and fresh leaves. There’s also a juicy chicken baguette with spicy Asian slaw, pickled cucumber, wasabi mayo, chilli and fresh mint. That’s the one we go for, along with a rich Reuben filled with gorgeous pastrami, buttery Emmental, sweetly pickled gherkins and cucumber, clumps of briny sauerkraut and just the right amount of fine quality mayo. I mean, how could my eyes not feast on a temptation like that? And do they deliver? You betcha. Along with being assembled ever-socarefully, the sharpness and sweetness of their in-house pickled goodies brings these familiar lunchtime snacks to life. The Reuben in particular is like luxury food and comfort food rolled into one. Sitting comfortably on a bench just off the town square, we finish with a knock-out freshly baked custard doughnut and a delicious plum and pistachio slice. Ably assisted with two damn fine Americanos (from Stone Valley Coffee Roasters in Clonakilty), we have thoroughly enjoyed our emergency lunch break. And although we are informed that Macroom is to be bypassed in 2024, which no doubt will utterly transform the town, the present-day horrendous traffic doesn’t bother us quite so much now. I have to say, the food at Pickled thrums with exciting flavour combinations. It’s a deli, bakery, professional kitchen, coffee shop and (for the time being, I imagine) a takeout-only. It’s a gazillion times better than your usual run-of-the-mill sandwich gaff, where less-attentive proprietors cram their subs, rolls and sandwiches with fistfuls of industrial slaw, fluorescent orange cheddar and maybe a clump or two of dried-out tuna, which more often than not ends-up a sloppy tasteless shambles. At Pickled, that blunderbuss approach to sandwich-making doesn’t exist. Here they manage, with aplomb, to make nigh-on irresistible sarnies. The baguette plays a big roll at Pickled (get it, a big roll?) — it’s ‘inbreaded’ in their specialities (jeez, that’s even better). All joking aside, it’s hard to imagine a better place to grab a sumptuous lunch on the go.

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