EATING OUT:After a long frustrating drive, the welcoming old-fashioned warmth at Greenes in Cork city is just the thing
THE CLOSEST you’ll get to a foam in Greenes Restaurant in Cork city is the bubbles in its water feature. This is an old-school restaurant, where they might call a gravy a jus but foam is what they use to pad the leather-bound menus. And on the night we arrive, that’s exactly what we need.
I’m with my Dad and it has taken us nearly five hours to get here because we didn’t get the memo that reads: Please note the Cork road doesn’t go to Cork. It goes to Limerick. Once you miss the turn-off for Cork, and begin to wonder why all the signs say Limerick, it will be too late. Your punishment for a lack of close attention to motorway signage will be a cross- country trek through Templemore and Thurles. During this part of the quest you will wonder at the wisdom of ditching the glove box atlas when your phone map app persists in showing you Greater Manchester with a giant red pin jabbed in the middle.
So after a long journey, I’m delighted that the right kind of smell of fish and cream and comfort greets us at the door of Greenes which is in Hotel Isaacs. It’s on my favourite Cork street, MacCurtain St, beside a beautiful clock shop which tells how late we are on the face of every kind of working timepiece.
Inside Greenes, there’s a stone wall behind large glass doors with water cascading down its surface. It looks like a real waterfall, a small river running from cliffs above. Diners have worried that the place is going to flood, the lovely waitress tells us. But it’s all an illusion, an artificial waterfall pumped from a pond in an endless and flood-free loop. At night it’s lit with a blue-violet light.
The place has a pleasant Friday-night buzz and we get good bread and water. After a climbing holiday, on which the staple diet was meat and cheese, my Dad is craving fish. We’re in the right place. At another table a teenager seems to be trying his first oyster, with helpful instructions from a couple at a nearby table on how to loosen the tricky little fella from its shell.
We go all fish for starters. A special tempura prawn and squid salad is the exact combination of crunch and flavour it should be, the salad element elegantly ringed in a strip of cucumber which acts as the bowl. It’s dressed with a light lemon dressing that works well with the leaves and fish. My West Cork crab mayo has been layered between cracker-y rectangles of mille feuille pastry, the creamy and papery textures working well, and two lines of red pepper sauce and pesto on either side like bar marks in sheet music.