Cork: Bathe in the calm light and muted sounds of Café Serendipity

Café Serendipity,
30 Palace View,
Western Road, Cork.
021 2410466,
serendipitycafe.ie

Café Serendipity is a lovely, welcoming place, all muted sounds and calm light.

EVEN though he occasionally took to the bed to promote peace John Lennon had a pretty ugly, unattractive trait. He too often offered vicious sleights — so very caustic they must have been enduring and terribly undermining.

He, with wife Yoko Ono, retreated under the five-star hotel sheets in 1969 for a week in Amsterdam and another in Montreal, to protest against the Vietnam war but Lennon spared no-one’s blushes.

An old story illustrates this well. Once, when asked by a bedazzled reporter, if Ringo Starr was the best drummer in the world Lennon snarled: “The world? He’s not even the best drummer in the Beatles.”

Even if Ringo Starr has three layers of the thick skin needed to get to the top of the show business greasy pole that kind of kick in the snare drum must sting, even across the almost three-and-a-half decades since Mark Chapman murdered Lennon in New York in 1980.

But then Starr’s life has had its considerable, almost unimaginable for most of us, compensations. He was lucky enough to get a back seat in one of popular culture’s great adventures even if his talent was not incomprehensibly gargantuan. He was in the right place at the right time and as he approaches his 74th birthday is, the very epitome of the cheering legend so prominently displayed at Café Serendipity: “The lucky tendency to find things by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” And good luck to him.

And good luck to Café Serendipity too... they more than deserve it. This was an unexpected pleasure, a more interesting than is usual menu, a fine meal and all enjoyed in a lovely atmosphere and space almost hidden on the western fringes of Cork city. Maybe it’s because they resonate with your own ideas and moods but some restaurants fold you in their character as soon as you walk through their door. Café Serendipity is one of those lovely, welcoming places. All muted sounds and calm, lovely light and enough room between the tables so you don’t hear your neighbours chewing their food or giving out about their daughter’s “unemployable” and “pointless” boyfriends.

DW opened with a salad of prawns and pineapple with candied walnuts. It was visually very impressive and tasted every bit as well as it looked. A sharp beginning. I had breast of pigeon on a bed of crispy potato with a rosemary jus. At some times of the year — right now, after winter when ivy berries are a staple for the birds — their flesh can be almost impenetrably dark and, if this is the right word, untranslatable. However, this dish was lovely. It was dark-chocolate dense and carried a few steps along the road by the just-right rosemary jus.

For her main course DW chose confit of duck with chorizo croquette, baby carrots and asparagus. This is a widely offered dish and very few restaurants manage — some don’t even try — to put their own stamp on it but Café Serendipity did. It seemed to have a freshness and spark too often missing elsewhere. Just like the Beatles the sum of its parts was greater than the sum of their individual talents.

For my main course I could not resist the slow-cooked rabbit. What a pleasure it is to see a restaurant offer a dish that because of our head-up-our-snare-drum mores is dismissed sniffily by those who have never eaten well-cooked, imaginatively presented bunny. Foolish you if that infantile cap fits because this dish — served with gnocchi, chickpeas, baby carrots, rosemary jus and asparagus — was really excellent. So very good in fact that I must oil the Remington and try to reproduce it.

Desserts — apple crumble with ice cream and Bailey’s croissant and butter pudding — were lovely too. As was the wine — La Hoja Rioja Tempranillo 2012 for €27 — chosen from the high end of a moderately priced wine list.

Ringo Starr may enjoy a serendipitous life but this meal and this restaurant have little enough to do with luck but rather hard work, imagination and good cooking — and an unusual, engaging style.

THE TAB: Dinner for two, three courses with wine, coffee and tea came to 84, tip extra.

HOW TO:

Daytime Café: Monday to Saturday, 8 to 5.30.

Evenings: Thursday to Saturday, 6pm on.

The verdict:

Food: 8.5/10
Service: 8/10
Ambiance: 9/10
Wine: 8/10
Value: 9.5/10

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