I had expected to be eating crunchy fish spines in Aishling Moore’s Goldie restaurant in Cork city. They had been on the menu at one stage, and certainly sound more approachable than fish eye chips, fish black pudding, and milt mortadella, a few of the “scale to tail” recipes you’ll find in Josh Niland’s The Whole Fish Cookbook, which I spot on a bookshelf rubbing spines with Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar and Yotam Ottolenghi’s Sweet.
Using the lesser known parts of a fish may sound more click-bait than recipe, but they are on the menu in Niland’s Saint Peter restaurant in Sydney, where his aim is to minimise the discard from fish. Moore is a signed-up fan, and is particularly influenced by his focus on sustainably sourced fish. Whatever lands on the shore in Ballycotton lands on the plate in Goldie. It’s a lucky dip. One day, it could be ling, pollock and hake, and the next, it might be just one species of fish.
It's a snacks, small plates and main courses type of menu, a format that reflects the casual aspect of the long narrow room. We sit on high stools by the window, with our backs to the bar serving beer from their microbrewery across the road, and a semi-open kitchen. This is part of the Market Lane Group, hence the good beer. It's the place to be if you like fish; other than that, there is one chicken dish and a number of vegetarian options.
The polenta, €3.50, from the snacks section, is a particularly nice version of what can often be a stodgy affair. Crunchy, with a fluffy interior, it is delicious dipped in a tartar sauce. Our other snack, haddock karaage, €4.50, is a plate of four golden nuggets with a wasabi emulsion.
We have, of course, cast our nets too wide – I blame our very enthusiastic waiter – and follow with two small plates, two main courses and a side of chips. One main course between us, or just two more of the small plates, would have been plenty. But it’s an opportunity to get a sense of the menu, and he was spot on with his strong recommendation for the Mexican-inspired chipotle hake sope, €9.50. I mean, how could I pass a dish which includes tomatillo from the delightfully named Singing Frog Farm? It brings a splash of Mexican freshness to the crunchy masa base, smoky chipotle, fish and tangy onions. The Tamil Nadu mushy pea fritters, €8.50, are also a delicious vegetarian bite with a zesty gherkin raita.
We have two fish dishes for main course, and the caramelised chicory chutney served with pan-fried plaice in a puddle of nutty café de Paris butter, €22.50, turns out to be a bit of a revelation. It is quite incredible how the assertive bitterness of this vegetable can be softened to a caramelised hint of sandalwood, and it is so good with the perfectly cooked plaice. When it comes to wine pairing, chicory is a bit contrary but the Pousio, a crisp Portuguese Alvarino, €37.60, is refreshingly obliging.
A dish that has perhaps drifted a few nautical miles too far from the Marseillaise original is Ballycotton bouillabaisse, €25.50. I had been expecting some form of fish stew, instead, the pieces of ling, monkfish and plaice have been cooked separately, and served on top of a shellfish soup, with dollops of rouille, and fennel and caper salad. It’s missing just a bit of drama and complexity.
We share a dessert, again a good recommendation from our waiter. It is roasted white chocolate made into a sort of firm mousse, served with milk sorbet, and buckwheat tuilles, €7.90, which bring a restrained balance between sweet and savoury.
There’s a lot of thought behind the dishes at Goldie where Moore uses global flavours to add spark and originality to local produce. There’s an agility to how she composes her dishes; an energy, perhaps coming from waking up every morning to a brand new catch.
Goldie is very of the moment, with its casual vibe, tasty food and pleasant service, although it could perhaps do with a few more options on the concise wine list, which offers wine by the glass, pichet and bottle. I would love to return and trawl through the small plates with a few interesting glasses from small scale producers. And maybe even crunch on a crispy fish spine or two, if they’re back on the menu.
Dinner for two with a bottle of wine was €123.70
- The verdict Moore reels it in with flavours and sustainable fish
- Facilities Smart, with gen Z greenery and plants
- Music Loud and buzzy, Hall and Oats to Arcade Fire
- Food provenance Fish from Ballycotton, English Market and Castletownbere; chicken from East Ferry; vegetables from Singing Frog Farm
- Vegetarian options Limited but good, I recommend the polenta and mushy pea fritters. For vegan options, advance notice is advised
- Wheelchair access Room is accessible and there is an accessible toilet