By Joe McNamee
FOR some deeply banal reason — as it doesn’t involve immediate rendition flights to tropical climes, far from November’s draining grey torpor — we find ourselves in the environs of Cork airport on two consecutive days.
On the first, we fetch up at the prosaically named Workshop, a few hundred yards from the runway fence, in a smallish industrial shed sporting a pitched corrugated roof, not unlike many a mechanic’s yard I have frequented over the years. Inside is an entirely different proposition. There are handmade greeting cards, china tea sets and various jarred condiments for sale alongside a plethora of collectibles on display, including votives, religious statues, agricultural show rosettes, teddy bears, LPs and a record player, happily cranking out Abba for the duration of our stay.
Charming old toys and books fill a dedicated children’s corner. High on one wall resides a large print of Bertie Ahern — ironic or salutary depending on your political hue — and suspended over the counter, a monster model of a WWI Sopwith Camel biplane.
It is a day for soup and ‘sangidges’: wholesome vegetable soup for La Daughter and No 2 Son, while my tasty chowder is a step up again. Sandwiches are less successful: LD’s steamed chicken features bland sundried tomatoes and a rather unpleasant pesto. My ‘vegetarian’ sandwich makes all the right noises on menu but a smear of goat’s cheese, scant few salad leaves, a couple of sundried tomatoes and lacklustre chutney leaves ‘bread-to-filling’ ratio badly skewed. No 2 Son has Spiced Beef, again suffering from the same paucity of ingredients ceding dominance to bread; the aforementioned chutney and braised cabbage renders spiciness of decent meat redundant. We finish with some good baked offerings: Spongy red velvet cake, nutty brownie, chewy pecan tart and LD’s handsome homemade Oreo smoothie is a star turn.
Service, warm and friendly, is not without hiccups, suggesting a lack of any formal system, but The Workshop, already very popular, could be much more so again, once these few kinks are ironed out.
Michelin may well have once seen fit to award a star to a garden centre restaurant (for chef Skye Gyngell, at Petersham Nurseries), but the notion of dining where I have hitherto only ever purchased toaster, fusebox and some cabling, in Dwyer’s Electrical, an enormous industrial retail outlet, on Forge Hill, is meta-hospitality taken to new extremes for this particular diner. Again, I am pleasantly surprised. True, they have added a ‘garden centre’ — though any serious gardener will find it perfunctory — next to the restaurant space but Eden stands on its own legs, a bright, colourful design scheme extending into the heights above, delineated by a curving mezzanine floor.
I have a calamari burger with roast garlic aioli, gem lettuce and pickled jalapenos, thin strips of good squid, ‘breaded’ with polenta and fried, offer just the right amount of resistance to tooth and chillis provide a pleasing sting. Crispy fries are served alongside.
La Daughter brings home the bacon, a multitude of maple-glazed rashers in a crunchy toasted ciabatta while an ailing No 2 Son somehow finds the strength to eat a good toastie, cheese, ham and red onion on crunchy Pana sourdough, raw onion adding an all-pervading allium honk.
Once again, the progeny selflessly volunteer to test the sweet stuff and we return from the counter with Chocolate Chip Cookies and cakes. Carrot cake is light and mildly spiced with an especially pleasing hum of ginger and cardamom though I always prefer greater density and an obvious abundance of carrot for extra texture. Tunisian Orange Cake is delicious: Extremely moist yet not overly sticky or sweetened from an excess of syrup. Having had more coffee than a small plantation earlier that morning, La Daughter and I share a pot of Barry’s Tea, pleased to have it served in a pot though we pine for actual tea leaves.
Albeit stuffed, an intriguing selection of innovative salads (including roasted carrot, pearl barley, lemon & dill, and roasted cauliflower, spinach and Italian black rice) prompts us to take some home for Current Wife’s supper.
Eden is a highly impressive operation overseen by Daniel Horgan (whose family has owned and operated Kinsale’s Man Friday restaurant for several decades) and, while not cutting edge cuisine, it is considered, very well delivered and will only get better. I know where I’ll be buying my lightbulbs and plugs from now on.
Monday to Saturday, 8.30am-4pm;
Eden Café, Dwyer’s Electrical, Forge Hill, Airport Road, Cork
Tel: 021-4965880; www.edencafe.ie