Grub Spy: What a corker
Grub Spy Alan Kelly dishes the goods on Ireland’s tastiest dining destinations
it’s early Saturday evening, and we are standing on a strangely quiet Barrack Street in Cork. I say strangely quiet because to a runner-in like me, Barrack Street looks like it was made for craic and pints and general shindig-ery.
We pause to take-in Pigalle’s attractively painted frontage before we proceed through the doors.
PIGALLE BAR & KITCHEN 111 Barrack St, The Lough, Cork 4.5 Stars Food: €82; Drinks: €51
Immediately we are met by a warm contented purr of cheery voices already deep into a great evening out. It’s the exuberance that was missed so very much during Covid: that special sparkle few restaurants ever manage to deliver. It’s almost impossible to define. But describe it any way you want – buzz, ambiance, vibe – we all know it when its there, and we definitely know when it’s not.
Good food is one thing: it’s what gets us first through the doors at least once. But it’s not always what draws us back. I think all sharp-eyed chefs, restaurant owners and publicans understand that. And Pigalle has ‘it’ in spades.
Inside there’s a snazzy polished-oak kind of dining room with a stylish bar, cute little alcoves, and exposed brick walls hung with paintings from local artists.
The dinner menu is self-assuredly short. There are snacky things, like sourdough with Salsa Verde, at €3 a pop: cheese & onion crisps, toasted pecans & peanuts, or olives with fennel seeds. We go for a starter of spicy deep-fried kimchi fritters with pickled Yacón, spring onion mayo and Japanese Furikake for extra bite – and a raviolo filled with scallop and prawn topped with pangrattato crumbs, neatly set in a ladle of delicious prawn bisque. For mains we try roasted fillets of Red Mullet (thoroughly scrumptious) with some mild curry butter sauce, pickled fennel and a tangle of crispy super-light potato strings.
A simple but tasty vegan dish of roasted cauliflower with panisse fries, quenelles of especially tasty pumpkin seed mojo-rojo, alongside colourful loops of tahini and dukkah. Maybe the panisse are a tad on the dry side, and maybe we could have done with some more of the cauliflower? Not really complaining though since both plates return to the kitchen scraped clean.
Desserts are also right on the money. A heavenly slice of rich dark chocolate mousse comes with beads of zesty passionfruit sorbet and a scoop of passionfruit sorbet. I could eat a dessert like this all night.
And then there’s Pigalle’s take on a classic rhubarb and custard tartlet with rhubarb crème fraiche sorbet and a dab of butter-toffee-like sauce. It tastes gorgeous and looks like a picture in a fancy foodie magazine. We enjoy some organic Pinot Grigio and a glass each of Tuffeau sparkling Chardonnay. It’s a new bubbly for us and something we’ll be having again.
How simplistic it would be to start pontificating about how all restaurant experiences should be like this. And yes, it would be fantastic. But I go back to what I mentioned earlier. A cool buzz is at the heart of all great restaurants. And when top-notch cooking is included in the mix. you end-up with a corker like Pigalle.
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