We take a look inside Rachel's, a new venture for Rachel Allen, well-known TV chef, journalist and author.
The Tiffany-blue building on Washington Street doesn’t scream ‘celebrity restaurant’, but in effect, that’s what it is: Rachel’s is the latest venture for Rachel Allen, well-known TV chef, journalist and author.
Inside, the design follows the usual formula (exposed ceiling, polished concrete, bare bulbs) but the expansive interior includes more considered, personal touches too: the walls feature an eclectic mix of antique cameras, evocative art and an oversized pitch-fork.
Despite a few hiccups when booking, we were warmly welcomed by an attentive staff, and quickly settled into a light-filled table by the window. The heady scent of burning logs wafted from a wood-fired oven, stirring our appetites.
The menu is succinct but seductive, with an impressively local provenance; the dishes showcase some of the finest Irish produce, including Ballycotton seafood, Ardsallagh cheese, and Shanagarry pork. Inspired, I opted to start with three native Irish oysters (€9), alongside a refreshingly dry, citrus-scented flute of Cremant d’Alsace Brut (Mayer Fonne, €14). The oysters arrived almost naked, dressed with just a sliver of seaweed and a forgotten rump of lemon. It transpired that the delicately-flavoured oysters needed few accoutrements, imparting an intriguingly crisp, briny aftertaste.
Conversely, my companion’s flatbread (€13.50) could have hung in the Tate Modern. Generous folds of organic smoked salmon were draped across colourful pickled rainbow beetroot, with a sprig of dill perched jauntily on top. An avocado dressing perfected this simple, satisfying and stylish dish.
Staying seasonal, I chose a rustic, tender rack of lamb for my mains, arranged on a bed of smoked baba ganoush and a vibrant, uplifting tzatziki (€28). I accepted our server’s recommendation of a New Zealand Pinot Noir (Stoneleith, €9), which proved to be an easy-drinking, gently-spiced match.
I had a rare moment of order-envy, as my dining partner sawed through his free range pork belly (€27) and I heard the delectable snap of the caramel-coloured crackling. The dish entailed a gloriously golden mille-feuille of pork that was at once soft and crispy, lean and fatty, sweet and savoury. A fennel and radish slaw served to cut through the meaty flavours, while salsa verde and Kalamata olives lent a bucolic touch. Both mains came with a king’s feast of salted skinny fries, organic green leaves, roasted root vegetables and decadent dauphinoise potatoes. The prices are on the upper end of reasonable, but the portions are generous, and sides positively abundant. Rachel’s is a restaurant to visit on an empty stomach.
Dessert was again something of a masterclass in simplicity: two crunchy ginger biscuits sat puddled in lemon curd, enlivened by a quenelle of tart berry sorbet and a smattering of meringue shards (€8.50).
A piano bar adjoins the restaurant, offering a blue-hued lounge (Algonquin-style) for diners to enjoy a post-prandial cocktail. Next time, we’ll make a night of it.
We loved the simple, elegant dishes and the fiercely local provenance
We spent €109 on two starters, mains, drinks and a dessert
28 Washington Street, Cork
Tel: + 353 (21) 427 4189;
Open: 5pm – 10pm Monday to Saturday