Food writer Joe McNamee tells us how to stay fortified while doing the final round of Christmas shopping in Cork.
If you’re like me - a trepidatious shopper known to pick up gifts at the petrol station on St Stephen’s Day - the prospect of battling Yuletide crowds for an entire day requires especial fortification of the nerves.
It’s best, I reckon, to have a plan for the whole day from breakfast to dinner. And if you’re doing your shopping in Cork, you’d be hard-pressed to beat starting your day in the inner-city oasis that is the Good Day Deli.
This a modernist glass cube sits in the tranquil gardens of the Nano Nagle centre in the heart of the city. Prime yourself for the day ahead with healthy, wholesome and quite delicious breakfast fare from a largely meat-free and conscientiously-sourced menu.
Dishes can range from house-made granola with yoghurt and fruit, to smoked beetroot eggs Benedict, and grilled halloumi stacks. But the hibiscus-poached pear pancakes with coconut mascarpone, washed down with splendid West Cork Coffee Roasters coffee, is precisely the type of dish to gird my loins for the impending battle.
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Get your caffeine fix before lunch
There are plentiful and excellent options for a mid-morning coffee on Leeside from snug, cosy Cork Coffee Roasters outlets to the matt-black sleekness of Soma. But Filter, a veritable temple to the Way of the Bean, always features a top range of roasters available in myriad formats alongside some very fine nibbles.
You could easily pick up a gift or two while sitting and supping, selecting from the wide range of coffee paraphernalia or even from one of the regularly rotating artworks exhibited on the walls.
Lunch in the Farmgate could go either of two ways, both delicious: a simple soup-and-sanger combo from the open-air ‘café’ perched on the mezzanine overlooking the iconic fountain in the English Market; or a proper ‘dinner-in-the-middle-of-the-day’ lunch in the closed-off and innately stylish ‘restaurant’.
I’ll plump for the latter without going quite as far as a feed of tripe and drisheen or bangers and mash. But I’d certainly find restorative healing through the in-house savoury tarts, perhaps one with Ballinrostig smoked cheese, potato, leek and caramelised onions, washed down with a glass from the tidy little wine list.
A drink before dinner
There’s all manner of fine establishments in Cork offering a pre-dinner drink after a hard day’s pounding the pavements in search of stocking fillers, from the amped-up exuberance of cocktails in Cask to the craft beer heaven of Impala.
My preferred option at Christmas, when the comfort of tradition always holds sway, still leaves a bewildering array of choices. But I tend to plump for Tom Barry’s, one of the cosiest and most atmospheric pubs in the city (and also home to a fine partially-covered beer garden), but it is also right next door to our evening’s dinner venue.
Pigalle Bar & Kitchen is stylish yet warmly welcoming, delivering a sublimely relaxed take on that ‘big night out’ feeling. The food from chef Mark Ahern’s kitchen is superbly rendered based on some of the finest produce in the land.
And that cocktail you may have hankered after earlier? Well, Pigalle has a cracking list of those as well.