Eating Out: Lucinda O'Sullivan at Deep South in Cork
The shabby vintage decor and too-cool-for-school vibe at this Cork cafe bar needs a bit of a rethink..
There's a fine line between being naturally cool and overly contrived. Likewise, there's a fine line between shabby chic and just plain shabby. It felt like the latter when we arrived for lunch at the Deep South Cafe Bar in Cork.
We had been in Limerick the night before, then driven down to Cork, arriving for an early lunch. A chap with a portfolio under his arm and another, who looked like a bouncer (with an earpiece in), were deep in conversation out front, but they moved out of the way to let us into what had all the feel of a closed-down cinema or ballroom.
The decor was of the vintage upcycling variety . . . before being upcycled. A long entrance passage featured a train-like row of tables with old seats from the Everyman Theatre.
We moved on up a step, flanked with potted palms, around by a long, curved bar. On the left were more train-like cubicles, divided by old wood partitions marked "Provincial Bank of Ireland".
A bare space at the top of the room looked like it could have been a stage. More steps went up to the loos while, to the right, a dining table and wardrobe stood in front of curtains, and a side room looked like a station waiting room.
A couple of chaps were moving around behind the bar, with lumberjack shirts appearing to be the dress code. "Hi, guys, would you like a nice lunch?" asked one.
That was all good – until we heard "Hi, guys" being said to each person entering. I thought to myself, "These guys need a scriptwriter." Good greeters need to judge customers – not everyone is "Hi, guys" material.
The "guy" in charge told us he was involved with House Cafe at Cork Opera House, but, if it's a theatrical vibe they want here, they need to camp it up more.
We moved back to the conjoined "theatre seats" in the entrance "foyer", but it was all so junk-shop interior, it was depressing.
Having said that, the food wasn't bad at all. Many of the dishes were, to an extent, assembly jobs, but I like that sort of antipasti/ charcuterie-style food. Snacks (or starters) for €2.50-€9 included spiced almonds; barbecue ribs; home-made pork scratchings; some pickled eggs; olives; and Deep South Mezz (mezze).
Open sandwiches (€7) included smoked mackerel, with potato salad and lemon dressing; while the hot meat sandwich of the day was pulled pork with celeriac and gherkin slaw.
My companion had what turned out to be a very good bowl of onion soup (€5) with excellent brown bread, and butter in a nice little ramekin.
I kicked off with the mezze (€9). It was served in a sextet of stainless-steel timbales containing pinto bean and squash hummus; parsley and walnut pesto; marinated olives; roast peppers; mace butter; and quark with coriander and cumin seeds. Again, an assembly job, but pleasant enough and with good, rustic breads.
Mains included beetroot hotpot with puy lentils, kale, flat parsley and yoghurt; spiced lamb stew; and a po' boy hot fish sandwich.
My companion had sliders (€11) – two decent burgers on tomato and lettuce in a blaa, with wedges.
My warm salad of roast squash, sweet potato, Knockalara sheep's cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds and orange dressing (€10) with southern-fried chicken pieces (€3) was excellent; different and plentiful.
Cocktails were €7-€9.50, but wines were up there, price-wise, for such a casual place, at €19.50-€32.50. Listing them without provenance as "France cabernet sauvignon (€27.50)", "USA riesling (€32.50)", "Italy prosecco (€28)" was all too-cool-for-school and a tad cavalier at those prices.
With a pint of Heineken (€4.80) for himself, and eau de Cork for me, our bill, with optional service, came to €47.80.
Just get down off the hipster stage a bit, lads. Tart the place up and you might be able to stage Murder on the Orient Express!
51 Grand Parade,
Tel: (021) 241-8845
Three to try: diverse dining
Trawl & Trend
Tel: (027) 51684
A seafood cafe by Bantry-based Murphy's Irish Seafood, which provides the freshest pescatarian delights from trawler to table. Open from 9am-6pm, choices range from chowder to open sambos, through tapas to sharing boards
Try Crab claws with chilli and garlic, €9
Wine From €20
Taste of Kabul
23-25 Sundrive Road,
Tel: (085) 177-0555
Style A new Afghan restaurant serving good-value, traditional dishes, from lamb and chicken qormas to Afghan chilli and Qabuli palaw
Try Mantoo – steamed minced beef and onion dumplings with dal qorma, garlic yogurt and dry mint, €12.50
Wine No alcohol on sale. Bring your own wine
La Bella Donna Restaurant
2 Bridge Street,
Tel: (074) 972-5790
Style La Bella Donna offers a comfortable, stylish ambiance and is providing a little corner of Italy in Donegal. From good pizzas to pasta, risottos and steak
Try Linguini alla pescatore – mixed seafood in garlic, chilli and white wine sauce, €14.75
Wine From €18.95
Sunday Indo Life Magazine