Winner: Liberty Grill, Cork
'A feed you can't beat." "Poached eggs to die for." "Always amazing brunch." "So great, you'd queue for it."
Those were just a few of the glowing terms readers used to describe the breakfasts they've enjoyed at Liberty Grill, a bistro-style institution on Cork's Washington Street.
It has been named Ireland's Best Breakfast in our Reader Travel Awards 2020.
A "fantastic selection" of "fresh local produce well presented" is what to expect here, you told us. One of the highlights is an all-day brunch menu described as "New England-influenced" - a simple and tasty expression of great local ingredients, many sourced from the English Market nearby.
Think French toast with Caherbeg smoked bacon, or Rosscarbery black pudding served with sourdough, hollandaise and poached eggs, or a 'Union Hall hollandaise' with smoked mackerel and potato cakes topped with poached free-range eggs. There are solid vegan and vegetarian options, too.
"The quality, the flavours, the choice," you said. Liberty Grill has "amazing staff and the food is excellent with great choice... great ingredients and presentation". Not only is it serving "quality locally sourced food cooked to perfection", but it offers "quality customer service" to boot.
Lots of reader comments in this category called wholeheartedly for traditional options, of course.
"Always have the full Irish," as one of you put it. "Love trying all the different rashers, pudding and sausages, depending on what part of the country you are in." Another protested "it's not a proper start to a holiday" without the full Irish.
Despite the enduring popularity of this morning feast, however, our judges noted readers increasingly calling out generic meats and sliced pans, and praising local, fresh produce where they see it. Sourcing, labelling and local, seasonal ingredients are the way to start the day.
The Irish breakfast is a national treasure, we can all agree... and Liberty Grill is the place to tuck in.
Contact 021 427-1049; libertygrill.ie
1. Liberty Grill, Cork
'Stunning breakfast. Always leave happy and ready for the day.'
2. MacNean House, Co Cavan
'Beautiful food that would make you get up early!'
3. Adare Manor, Co Limerick
'The choice is just savage! So tasty, with everything cooked to order.'
4. Avoca, Various locations
'Great options, savoury or sweet, in a great atmosphere.'
5. Brother Hubbard, Dublin
'Something for everyone... on the pulse... great atmsophere.'
6. Monart, Co Wexford
'Would go for the breakfast alone. Out of this world!'
Our restaurant critic Katy McGuinness paid a visit to Liberty Grill to sample our readers’ pick for Ireland’s Best Breakfast. Here’s how she got on...
It’s a wet Tuesday morning in Cork, the kind of day when greys of the sky, river and streets merge into one. A bitter wind blows down Washington Street, but Liberty Grill is warm and cosy, buzzing with the hum of contented customers. The early birds have been and gone, replaced by a steady stream of more relaxed folk, many greeted by their first names and settled into preferred tables. This is clearly an establishment with a cohort of loyal regulars.
I’m offered a pitch in the corner towards the back, a good vantage point from which to observe comings and goings. On one wall, a board name-checks the restaurant’s suppliers: Caherbeg pork, Clóna dairies, Hassetts bakery, Ballycotton fishmongers, Beechwood Farm eggs, O’Mahony’s butchers, Barry’s tea, Waterfall Farms vegetables and McGrath’s jam — a rollcall of all that’s best in the ‘real capital’, many names familiar from the English Market nearby.
Even the pickiest of eaters would find something to get excited about on the brunch menu, served every day, not just at weekends. The young woman at the next table tells her friend that one of the specials is always vegan; today it’s apple & cinnamon French toast with toasted flaked almonds and maple soy yoghurt. But I’m more interested in the version of eggs Benedict made with Durcan’s legendary spiced beef. In the end, though, it’s the Union Hall hollandaise that snares me: smoked mackerel and potato cakes topped with perfectly poached free-range eggs, accompanied by a little jug of excellent hollandaise.
The service is all smiles, not in my face but more than pleasant, with the offer of a newspaper because I am on my own. The floor staff seem to get on with one another, too; not always a given in a busy restaurant.
A double espresso macchiato is the best I’ve had in a long time. Just what’s needed before I face back out into rain, umbrella at the ready.
NB: The Irish Independent Reader Travel Awards 2020 are sponsored by Iarnród Eireann. Read the full list of winners here and share on social using the hashtag #indotravelawards.