Sun­day Times Mag­a­zine – AA Gill


A restau­rant rooted in good things and fine tastes, all served with plea­sure and good nature

So this week’s review is going to be an unex­pected trea­sure: the Far­m­gate CafĂ© in the Eng­lish Mar­ket in Cork.

This is the best cov­ered mar­ket I’ve come across south of Scan­di­navia and west of France, sell­ing locally landed fish and the many, many Irish iter­a­tions of pig, plus mar­vel­lously smoked beef. In the gallery above it there is a long cafĂ© that uses the mar­ket ingre­di­ents to fur­nish a short but boun­ti­ful menu. I started with packet and tripe. That’s bleached tripe cooked in milk with onions and dasheen. It’s a fine, almost taste­less blood pud­ding, most like a blood jelly I once found in Hong Kong. This is a dish so bliss­fully bland it’s like eat­ing a water­colour: a pale palette of flavours drift over your tongue.

I’m cham­pi­oning bland bleach-​blonde food at the moment. It’s such a relief and a gen­tle plea­sure after the pun­ish­ment of crammed heat and spice in shouty food. My piquant Blonde and the twins had very good plates of smoked fish, then we all ate a heroic beef stew, with mashed pota­toes that deserved their own gold medal from the Philo­soph­i­cal Society.

The room has queues at the door and the tables are full of fam­i­lies and cou­ples who have come to shop and to eat and to gos­sip. It’s truly soft and gen­er­ous, hon­est and deli­cious. A restau­rant rooted in good things and fine tastes, all served with plea­sure and good nature.

As a wait­ress gave me the bill, she said: “We’ve always dreaded that one day you might come in, then we dreaded that you never would. Is this busi­ness or pleasure?

Well the best thing about this job is that I can make my plea­sure my busi­ness. And if all that weren’t per­fect enough, it is gar­landed with hand­writ­ten poems from Irish writ­ers — they call it the Great Wall of Cork. I was sit­ting under­neath Sea­mus Heaney and the poem For Wednes­day, which, as so often with him, catches you as if by serendip­ity to say exactly the right thing: ‘As big soft buf­fet­ings come at the car side­ways. And catch the heart off guard and blow it open’.

Read the full review and errata on thetimes​.co​.uk (sub­scrip­tion required)

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