Power house: Electric, 41 South Mall, Cork, County Cork
A restaurant in a former bank, now popular with legal eagles? Well, those boys certainly know how to look after themselves, says Lucinda O'Sullivan, so it must be good. Sure enough, Electric didn't disappoint
I guess it's quite some time since a restaurant of size and import has opened in the centre of Cork, and on the Mall to boot. In recent times, the focus for such openings has centered on Lapp's Quay, with the Boardwalk Bar & Grill and Augustine's joining the lovely Club Brasserie, which has been there quite some time.
The suits certainly seemed pleased to have a new watering hole on their doorstep with the creation of Electric, a large new restaurant and bar, in what was formerly the ACC Bank building; they were out in force. The legal crowd -- solicitors, barristers and a judge -- held forth in one corner. How cosy -- let's compare briefs, boys.
The location is stupendous and I can see this being really popular in summer, but then bankers have always known how to look after themselves.
Overlooking the River Lee, the renovated art deco building has a vast patio and people were already sitting outside. There was a lovely feel on a balmy evening as we crossed the River Lee by a footbridge a few yards down. The ground floor is a general bar serving coffee and pastries from 10am, casual food from noon to 5pm -- hip sandwiches, cottage pie, soups, pate and so on -- and at 5pm each day they offer complimentary pinchos -- Basque tapas -- to complement their wines.
The restaurant is on the first floor; bag a table by the window and you have wonderful views over the river and up to St Finbarr's Cathedral. Just as the legal boys were gathered downstairs, the well-dressed girls and girlettes were arriving in force for dinner upstairs. The ambiance is contemporary and smart, but it is clear they are aiming at the mid-price market. The chef and co-owner is Kevin O'Regan, who was previously at the Liberty Grill, and, before that, at Silks Restaurant at the Horse & Jockey Hotel in Tipperary.
Starters, all under a tenner, included chicken liver and smoked bacon pate with toast and plum sauce, and pan-fried Brie with basil, serrano ham and tomato and mint chutney. Home-smoked duck was served Swedish-style with beetroot, port and marinated cranberries. I had a carpaccio of turbot and salmon (€9) centred with a quenelle of sour cream and chives, vodka and lemon oil, and topped with lots of rocket. I liked the lightness and freshness of the dish, but it could have done with more impact from the vodka and lemon oil. Brendan had a good crab and salt cod fritter (€9) cut with the sweet-sour sharpness of cucumber pickle and aioli.
Main courses are divided into "Mains, Fish and Steaks". "Mains" covers pasta and a Caesar salad; these can also be had as starters. Under this umbrella, too, was a beefburger with Cashel Blue cheese, and roast chicken with vegetables and goose-fat roasties.
The "Fish" section included beer-battered fish and chips; grilled, organic salmon fillet nicoise; grilled, whole white sole with crab, parsley and lemon butter; and baked ling. Brendan's rack of lamb (€24) consisted of two decent chops, cooked pink, on a ragout of broad beans and smoked bacon, new potatoes, and topped with green asparagus, and a tomato and Parmesan butter. The fish on offer didn't grab me, so I went down a road I seldom travel with a whopping great fillet steak (€28). It was really good, juicy and tender, served with garlic butter, sauteed mushrooms, rocket, and hot, hot, fresh horseradish creme fraiche -- something that makes all the difference.
"Something Sweet" were all priced sensibly at €7 and Brendan had a zingy baked lemon tart with lemon sorbet. Cheese for me was smoked Gubbeen, Crozier Blue and Ardrahan (€8) -- a generous plate --served with quince jelly, grapes and brown crostini. With a bottle of Muga Rioja Reserva 2006 (€30) and optional service our bill came to €129.
Electric will add a frisson to Cork dining this summer. It will be a "Theatre of Life", to quote themselves.
41 South Mall,
Tel: (021) 422-2990
Sunday Indo Life Magazine