Cork City, Co. Cork
We are sitting at a table at Café Paradiso. My travel companion and I've just come from
the organic farm in Novohal where most of the restaurant's vegetables are
born. Traipsing around the farm with
farmers Ultan and Lucy, we tasted peas from the pod, poked plump, white
eggplants, and nibbled on sweet lemon basil.
I am eager to taste how the chefs at Café Paradiso cook up these
ingredients in creative ways.
The setting is a whole sensory experience, from the
candlelight dancing in blue abalone shells on our table to the fresh flowers in
the bathroom. The staff is casually
dressed and attentive. The mood is
pleasant, inviting us to sit back, relax, and let the food take center stage.
The starters arrive, and we go gaga over them. My tartlet of caramelized red onion, pine
nuts and Bluebell Falls fresh goat's cheese with watercress pesto and
olive-crushed potato melts in my mouth.
The deep red-colored onions are very sweet and tender; the tiny pine
nuts a nice textural contrast. The
pastry is perfect. The watercress pesto
is unusual and goes well with the potato.
My travel companion's rice paper parcels of Asian greens and herbs with
a chili, lime and coconut dip and spiced cashews (13 euro) are unadorned and
refreshing. The mint and satchels of
tender, green goodness are a like a fresh garden in my mouth. We both agree that getting as close to the
source, especially if the source is fresh and flavorful, elicits the most
delicious results. And this dish tastes
like it was just picked from the garden.
But I also like complexity, and our entrees are full of
intense, sublime flavors. I have the
roasted Rosa Bianca aubergine with peperonata, kale and pine nut filling, crisp
smoked polenta, chive gnocchi and a basil and goats cheese cream (25
euro). I'm curious about the aubergine I
saw growing in the garden. Aubergine was
originally grown in the U.S. for decorative purposes only. I've not tasted white aubergine (thus the
name "eggplant", as we call it in the U.S), but I do love the dark purple
variety. The aubergine has a very
sensual texture, contrasting nicely with the red skin of the peperonata, all
layered on a bed of polenta. The
decadent goats cheese sauce with sweet lemon basil is amazing, and the gooey
gnocchi melt in my mouth. My travel
companion has the risotto of watercress and fresh peas with Oisin cheese, lemon
thyme oil and balsamic roasted baby beetroot with sugar snaps (24 euro). The Oisin cheese's savory flavor and shredded
consistency is a perfect contrast to the risotto. The fresh peas pop and release their sweet
flavor in the creamy sauce. The beets
are roasted and sweet with a magnificent, deep color. The whole dish is formed of wondrous swirls
of color, like the tide pools we've seen along the Cork coast.
My belly full of such goodness -- I feel like I'm on cloud
nine. My travel partner leans back and
twirls his mustache in contentment.
We don't have room left, but we'd like to taste
dessert. The chocolate and olive oil
mousse cake with pistachio praline and raspberry sorbet (9 euro) is
irresistible. The mousse is light and
fantastic, topped with a candied, pistachio crust, with a few fresh raspberries
scattered on the side. The color palette
delights my eye - browns and fuchsia and greens. The sorbet is a cloud of fresh raspberry
cream. The praline is paper-thin
chocolate, encrusted with raw pralines; it melts fast on the plate. "This thing
is gone," my travel partner declares, and eats the last bit. The texture and flavors are superb. This is the dessert I will dream about for
days to come.
Now all we need is a chaise lounge, where I can sit back and
stroke my travel companion's hair while sipping some fine liquor. Café Paradiso has thought of everything; they
opened a new B&B upstairs with three double rooms, for those wanting to
enjoy the lingering effects of the food, rather than drive home. Each room has a distinct color theme and
mood, with a luxury shower, a mini bar, and deliberately no television, to keep
the mind as fresh as the body.
Café Paradiso does not accept American Express, which
frustrated the two tables next to us. So
come prepared with cash or other major credit cards and let your appetite run
wild. Highly recommended.
Open Tuesday - Saturday,
Lunch 12:00-3:00, Dinner 6:30-10:30PM.
Closed Sunday and Monday.
Price of Main Meal
Roasted Rosa Bianca aubergine with peperonata, kale and pine
nut filling, crisp smoked polenta, chive gnocchi and a basil and goats cheese
cream (25 euro)
Price of Bottle of
Musaragno Cabernet Franc 2005 Vento (36 euro)
16 Lancaster Quay
Tel: +353 (0)21 4277939
Please phone to reserve a table - they do not accept
bookings via email.
How to get there
From Cork City centre, go on Washington Street/Western Road
towards University College Cork. Café
Paradiso is located on the right side between Reidy's Wine Vault and The
Thirsty Scholar. It is about a ten
minute walk from the city centre.
From Limerick, take the N20 to Cork City.
From Skibbereen, take the N71 to Cork City.
website for all current travel details and restrictions.