Rachael Kealy took a trip to one of Cork city's newest openings, Dockland, to test out its offer
We visited Cork’s Dockland on a blisteringly cold winter’s morning. Somewhat eager to escape the chill of the Lee, we pulled at the door a half hour too early. Normally such rudeness would evoke a stern reply, but not so at Dockland. One of the owners – Beth Haughton – unlocked the door and invited us in, leading us carefully around staff as they vacuumed floors, polished glasses and set tables. The kitchen wasn’t open yet, but would we like coffee?
Would we indeed. We settled into banquet seating, defrosting in a ray of morning sun while we glanced through the menu’s many options, each representing surprisingly good value for a city-centre location.
Beth explained that she and Harold Lynch used to run the Club Brasserie from these premises, but dreamt of creating something more casual, better suited to an all-day trade.
During the renovation, they ripped out everything except the stunning parquet floor. These days, the feet that tread the wood are more likely to sneakered, rather than heeled. That’s not a bad thing: there is a distinctly easy-going vibe, perfect for brunch with the Sunday papers. There’s an elegance, too, in its simplicity, with panelled walls and a striped, Parisian-style awning outside. Basil plants sit fragrantly on the counter, while Chinese lanterns float ethereally above our heads.
We both opted for ‘breakfast in bread’, which entailed a hollowed-out baby sourdough, filled with Ballyhoura mushrooms in a velvet cream, with wilted spinach, cracked black pepper and a touch of tarragon (€9). A few shavings of Parmesan provided the perfect umami finish. The simple dish was hearty and yet decadent, its rustic local flavours at once familiar and revelatory.
My dining partner’s ‘Grill Up’ (€12) was piled high with dream ingredients: perfectly poached eggs loosening droplets of sunrise-yellow yolk onto fat, glistening sausages and streaky bacon, each sourced from nearby Balti more. Raw spinach and chopped chives lent a touch of freshness, while a richly-flavoured tomato fondue underpinned the dish with an exotic, gentle sweetness, reminiscent of shakshuka. In a feat of wanton carbicide, my companion managed to demolish the entire sourdough, its meaty filling, and a side of crispy fries to boot.
He wasn’t done yet, however. A round of French toast – or guggy bread, as it’s known in our house – soon arrived, with maple syrup and salty bacon completing the taste trinity (€6.90). The fluffy, sticky, golden bread was exactly as it should be: an enjoyable dance between sweet and savoury.
Our first dessert choice of chocolate cheesecake hadn’t set yet, so we opted for rolled meringue, although this too may have benefited from a little more time (€6). Sliced almonds contrasted beautifully with sweet poached plums, but the meringue was still gooey and soft, lacking even the occasional crunch.
As we left, a gaggle of late-lunchers arrived, each greeted with the same easy warmth by the indefatigable Beth. I have every respect for restaurateurs, cognisant always of the long hours and extreme pressures. Many bow out – even at the height of their success – and few have the energy to reinvent and relaunch, as these proprietors did. I wish them every success in their second act.
We Loved: the welcoming staff and locally-sourced ingredients
We Spent: € 39.75 on three dishes, a dessert and coffees
Lapps Quay, Cork
+353 (021) 427 3987
Open: Every day, see website