Last weekend I took my annual trip to Ireland to visit my mum. As I hadn’t seen a lot of friends in years I decided that this time round I would also try and see as many people as I could. So between catching up with friends, sampling a lot of Irish fish and food, revisiting old haunts and driving – literally from one side of the country to the other – it was a pretty busy weekend.
On Friday morning I took the first flight out of Stansted to Cork, which meant a 2.30am start, something that never goes down well with me but has to be done on occasion I have to say I always forget just how beautiful and green Ireland is in the spring and summer, especially when the sun shines which it did – I even got a bit burnt over the weekend. It was so lovely to be back.
My friend picked me up from Cork airport and we went for breakfast in the Farmgate Cafe in the English Market, somewhere we used to frequent on a regular basis for coffee and scones when I lived in Cork. And that’s exactly what we did. I had a delicious homemade brown
scone with rhubarb jam and a cappuccino, it was like old times and we chatted for hours. Situated in the hear of Cork city, the English Market is one of the oldest covered markets in Ireland and has been trading since 1788. It’s a really great place to visit and the cafe upstairs and market stalls are all really lovely.
The whole day and evening in Cork was rather nostalgic. I met another friend for lunch. On my request we stopped off in the local garage/grocery shop – Centra – where I got a hot chicken roll with spicy chicken, mayo, cheese and lettuce. It was my University hangover lunch and I’d had such an
irrational craving for it since I arrived that it just had to be done. It was carby and totally worth every bite. We spent the afternoon wandering around Cork and through the UCC campus where we both went to University. It was strange, I almost thought I’d see my younger self walking through campus on the way to a lecture with my girl friends.
In the late afternoon I met another old University friend for a pint – he loves his Beamish – so we went for a drink in another old haunt in Cork, The Oval. After which my friend who I was staying with and I took a trip to the new Oysters restaurant in the Clarion Hotel. The food was completely and utterly out of this world. We shared rock oysters to start with they were served with lemon juice and a shallot vinaigrette dressing, and were so fresh and delicious. I followed this with a chargrilled sea-bass served with orange and fennel stuffing, figs, potatoes and a delectable and very flavoursome vanilla sauce. Honestly it was like I’d gone to food heaven, it was truly outstanding. The food was washed down in suitable style with a bottle of Prosecco and followed by a raspberry and lavender creme brulee and an espresso to top the dinner off. It was 11.30pm by the time we left, that’s how much we enjoyed it.
Saturday morning saw me taking my old route back home on the Aircoach, however, this time I went all the way to Dublin. It was a stunning three hour coach journey through the heart of the Irish countryside which was in full bloom and at it’s greenest, it brought back so many memories. I met a few friends for lunch in Bewley’s on Grafton Street, another renowned Irish landmark. I hadn’t seen my friends for a few years and while they had developed a Dublin accent – all of them having lived in Cork before – I was told that mine had become somewhat posh, a jumble of English and Irish! I won’t say anything further on the subject.
I met my mum in the afternoon and before going to the theater in the evening, we stopped off for dinner in La Maison just off Grafton Street. Formerly a little French cafe which served divine cakes and pastries, the place has been turned into a Michelin starred restaurant, the current food being equally
on par with the pastries of yore. Sticking to what had become the theme for the weekend, fish, my mum and I both ordered the fried calamari for starters and I opted for the duck as a main, which was served with baked potatoes and gravy, it was delicious and very tender. As we were indulging we decided to order a plum tart between the two of us to share for dessert. All I will say to that is the French really know how to make pastries!
Sunday was spent walking along the coast and enjoying the sunshine and on Monday we drove down to Holywood, stopping off in Belfast for dinner on our way back. Neither my mum nor I had been in Belfast in years, actually I’m not sure I’ve ever been into the city before. We used to drive to the north a lot to visit family when my sister and I were younger but that’s when they still stopped and checked every car at the border, both sides of the road were lined with gun carrying military and Belfast was a no go area. The city was a lot more pleasant than either of us expected it to be but it was rather quite and empty.
We stumbled across a gem of a restaurant near City Hall, believe it or not, it was a seafood restaurant, Mourne Seafood Bar. We just had really good luck with fish that weekend, the food was really awesome, I had a delicious fresh cod with a lobster sauce. Needless to say I’m fished out for now, but in a good way.
It was a lovely weekend on many levels; seeing everyone again, being back in Ireland and also finding out that Ireland has become a really amazing foodie place with loads of great places to eat out, it’s definitely a strong contender to bear in mind when considering a foodie holiday.
It will be a while before I’m back in the Emerald Isle but I had my fill for now, literally, and it was great. I’m off for another long weekend this week so watch this space for my next travelling food post!