Clodagh McKenna’s Insider Guide to Cork, Ireland

Clodagh McKenna’s Insider Guide to Cork, Ireland

The chef and Cork
native couldn’t be a better guide to take on a tour of Ireland’s
gastro county. Woollies and wellies packed, we’re following her
every step, from food market to café to pub to restaurant to the
best place for a walk and a picnic.

Ireland’s “rebel county” has a flair for food; some even
consider this southern settlement a gastro haven. Among those
singing its praises is Irish chef and food writer, Clodagh

Starting her career in food in her home county of Cork, Clodagh
trained and worked at world-renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School and
House – owned and run by the first family of the Irish food scene,
the Allens – before moving to London
and later Hampshire.

While cooking enthusiasts are encouraged to make the trip to
rural East Cork for a cooking workshop or to indulge in a weekend
of quintessential Irishness at Ballymaloe House, limiting yourself to just one
pit stop or day trip beyond the county’s capital is a mistake made
by many – but not by you.

There’s a coastline’s worth of quaint seaside villages to
explore, snug pubs with live-music sessions to happen upon and
A-grade restaurants dishing up top-quality local produce. So, do
like Clodagh and don your best woollies and wellies and head south
– starring this Insider Guide on your phone or building out your
own itinerary on our travel

What’s your connection to the city of Cork?

I was born in Cork and went to school there.

The best day to arrive is…

I think a Thursday is always a great day to arrive in any
destination – a day to find your feet before the weekend kicks

What’s the best way to explore?

You’ll need a car to explore Cork; there are so many fabulous
places outside of the city that you won’t want to miss.

What’s the city’s dress code?

Cork is chilled, so pack comfy clothes – shoes for walking and
big woolly jumpers to keep warm. Oh, and a rain jacket, rain is par
for the course in Ireland.

Best hotel in the city?

I love staying at The Imperial Hotel. It’s a buzzy hotel, right
smack in the centre of the city. It has an air of old-style
grandeur about it; it’s been around for over 200 years. The rooms
are quite spacious, plus it has a spa and a beautiful brasserie
(which was inspired by Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel).

Where should we head on a Saturday morning?

To Midleton Farmers Market, which is just a 25-minute drive east
of the city. Many years ago, I used to have a stall there selling
fresh pasta and pâtés that I made. There are some really fantastic
local farmers and artisan producers – look out for Belvelly
, Ballymaloe Cookery School and Ardsallagh cheese.
You can also have a late breakfast there. It runs from 9am-1pm.

Where’s good for lunch?

My favourite place for lunch in Cork city is Farmgate Café in the
English Market on Princes Street. Everything on the menu is sourced
from the market, so it’s a fabulous way to taste the local produce.
It’s set on the balcony of an 18th-century covered market – get a
seat on the edge and take in all the bustle below.

For a group dinner book a table at…

Greene’s Restaurant on MacCurtain Street – head to the
Cask next door
beforehand for a drink.

Other food spots to try…

Paradiso, Lancaster Quay, Cork City

Filter (for really good coffee), George’s Quay,
Cork City

, Kinsale

Rosscarbery, West Cork

Three of the best pubs in Cork are…

The Mutton Lane Inn is my
favourite pub in the city. It’s a cosy and friendly, beautifully
lit by candlelight and serves a fantastic pint of Murphy’s – a
local stout that you must try! It’s located down an alley by the
English Market.

Hackett’s Bar in Schull is a
traditional Irish pub serving delicious, locally produced food.
Like a lot of pubs in Ireland, it’s been there since the 1920s and
hasn’t changed that much since. The crab salad with aioli and soda
bread is not to be missed and there’s also great live music in the

O’Sullivans Bar in Crookhaven is the
best place to enjoy a creamy pint of Guinness and a quart of fresh
prawns with a beautiful view of the sea and harbour. Depending on
the weather, you can sit inside next to the cosy fire or at one of
the outdoor tables by the water.

For a taste of history head to…

William Burges-designed St Fin Barre’s

Butter Museum

Crawford Art Gallery

Check if there are any festivals while you’re in town – Cork is
famous for its cinema and jazz festivals

Great day trips from the city include…

A drive down to West Cork to see all the beautiful seaside
villages – Schull, Kinsale and Crookhaven are my favourites. Every
village has fabulous pubs and live music.

Worthwhile walks include…

Around Lough Hyne in West Cork, the most spectacular walk in the
county – lots of people don’t know about it. Bring a packed picnic
from the market.

One misconception about Cork is…

I don’t think there are any misconceptions about Cork; it is
known as the food capital of Ireland and it really is.

A book to read before we go?

Cork City Through Time by Kieran McCarthy and Daniel Breen.

A souvenir to bring back…

Smoked salmon from any of the many smokers in Cork and Gubbeen
farmhouse cheese.

And finally, what’s in your SUITCASE?

Woolly jumpers, a rain jacket, comfy walking shoes, a hat and a

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