Cork: Warm and welcoming

The Cornstore, 40A Cornmarket Street, Cork. 021-4274777, cornstorecork.com

“The Cornstore staff deserve special mention... they coped more than well, they were cheery, unintrusive, efficient and could not have been more helpful.”

I ONCE knew a dear lady who could not vote for Charles Haughey because he always sat beside his chauffeur, nodding and waving like a hungry auctioneer, trying to give the impression that he was Everyman. He was trying to convince those who might be swayed that he really was, despite the Charvet shirts and Abbeville’s stable yard of hunters, just one of us.

Mr Haughey’s corruptions — €45m by a recent estimate — did not matter a whit to this grande dame but that he should encourage a breach of society’s (her’s anyway) immutable rules condemned him utterly. That person, long dead but greatly missed, also asserted with complete certainty that it was possible, with just a glance, to differentiate between a Fianna Fáil politician and a Fine Gael one. One knew what a jigger button — look it up — was for and used it, the other did not and never did. Policies were almost irrelevant, behaviour meant everything. Or, as she would argue, one flowed from the other.

You get the drift, this lady was born in the closing decade of the century before last and had a lexicon of what it meant to be a civilised, decent and well-behaved citizen. One of her mantras still rings true, even if it has to be adjusted to today’s mores — “Manners are no more than a discipline you impose on yourself to show respect for others ...” She knew that the ebb and flow of relationships are shaped by the impressions we create and the rules we follow.

At The Cornstore, in the very heart of Cork’s Cornmarket Street where so much local folklore is rooted, the image builders have decided it is a “warm and lively dining experience in a Manhattan-style setting, complete with a unique wine and cocktail bar” where their “Cocktail Mixologist... prepares ... popular cocktails …”

It is indeed a warm and welcoming place, alive and hopping. We visited on a Saturday evening and because we may have left it a tad late to book a table — noon that day — had to take a table at 6.30. Before we left, a little short of two hours later, the place was abuzz, every table full, a constant flow of diners climbing to the upstairs dining area. And this is worth special mention... the staff coped more than well, they were cheery, unintrusive, efficient and could not have been more helpful.

I suspect that The Cornstore prefers having full tables to the fanciful fat French man’s stars so coveted by food luvvies. It targets that mid market, the one Mr H may have been blessing from the front seat of the borrowed Merc, the one that makes up the great majority of those happy to eat out today.

DW opened with a generous endive salad with Crozier blue cheese, grapes, apples and honey mustard dressing. Simple, satisfying and perfectly in tune with the ambitions of the house. As was mine... a dish of duck liver parfait with sour dough toast, pickled wild mushrooms, grape and apple chutney.

The Cornstore puts an emphasis on beef and offers a range of steaks — including, when available, an alluring Tomahawk cut. You can have any standard steak with sautéed tiger prawns, pan seared fois gras, with half a grilled lobster or, thankfully, plainly with a sauce on the side. I had a sirloin with Béarnaise. It was good, entirely enjoyable but not exceptional. The beef is aged for up to 35 days and if this is something to celebrate today the jigger-button lady would have — rightly — expected all beef to be hung almost that long.

DW had bass with fennel, lentils and pomegranate salsa. Again very pleasant but no barriers broken. One of the desserts, a Murphy’s stout crème brûlée did not work, the earthiness of the porter burying the subtlety of the crème brûlée. Mine, a rhubarb trifle, was lovely.

The Cornstore was a pleasant experience, faultless but middle of the road, though what the jigger-button lady would have made of the cocktails, the Manhattan atmosphere or, God forbid, the Mixologist, hardly bears thinking about. About as much as Charlie Haughey made of the people he was waving at I’d say.

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