No 5 Fenn’s Quay: A corker of a lunch
Chef Kate Lawlor’s restaurant is one Corkonians can be genuinely proud of
Restaurant Title: No5 Fenn's Quay Restaurant
Proprietor: Kate Lawlor
Address: No 5 Fenns Quay , Sheares Street
Phone: 021 4279527
Somewhere under the River Lee in a secret spur off the Jack Lynch tunnel lies a velvet-lined sound-proofed room. After DNA testing, fingerprint and accent-screening, genuine Cork people can descend the dripping stone stairs into the chamber. The door closes with a loud sucking sound behind them. Safely inside they shout out all the things they hate about Cork. Finally they pull a red and gold tassel to be released and emerge blinking and smiling into daylight, refreshed and ready to resume their lifelong vocation as PR people for the city.
Corkonians are so relentlessly cheerful about their city they can be like newly ordained ministers determined to convert a crowd of heathens to the cult of Cork. Our lovely taxi driver has persuaded us that the weather, actually even the air, is better here after news of storms in Dublin.
Yet even the staunchest Be-Lee-ver (sorry) would have difficulty telling anyone that Cork city’s restaurant scene is in rude health. There are bright pockets but no blanket of good mid-range restaurants like the one that has spread over parts of Dublin. Despite the mothership that is the English Market, Cork is a city where restaurants seem to be surviving rather than thriving.
Chef Kate Lawlor cooks at Fenn’s Quay, a restaurant that’s a small walk from the main shopping streets of Cork. It’s in a building that feels like it’s had several additions grafted on. We get a table for lunch in the glass-roofed bit that connects the original front to the extension at the back. The walls are painted in a magnolia colour that’s verging on bedsit-chic. There’s purple upholstery on the chairs. In truth the place could do with a good makeover. But grumbles about the tired decor melt away when the food comes.
We’ve chosen mainly from the specials which are handwritten on paper which comes on a clipboard. This is usually a good sign, a chef who’s cooking the good stuff that has come through the delivery door rather than sticking to a year-round menu based on an unchanging supply of ingredients.
It’s a simple side dish that persuades me that Cork can lay legitimate claim to a large dollop of betterness. Take hot mashed potatoes and stir in plenty of grated smoked Gubbeen. The result is a bowl of fluffy stringy chewy warmth that is a little bit of happiness in a bowl. It’s served alongside my fish platter of expertly cooked elements, a meaty piece of seared tuna, still soft and dark in the middle, battered monkfish that tastes spankingly fresh, a breaded plaice and a lone and lovely scallop.