Goldie, 128 Oliver Plunkett St, Cork.
Telephone: 021 239 8720; www.goldie.ie
Ironically, as the world’s oceans increasingly bear the brunt of our environmental rampaging, seafood grows ever more popular and current trend du jour, ‘seacuterie’,nose-to-tail consumption of fish, including all manner of pickling, preservation and ageing techniques, is very much a conservationist response.
Meanwhile in Ireland, diners seem to have finally cottoned on to our world-class seafood and seafood-only restaurants are spawning like sprats.
The Market Lane restaurant group are not trendsetters per se but are particularly canny at identifying and applying them locally, vis a vis Orso (Levantine-Middle Eastern-Ottolenghi) and Elbow Lane (open-fire cooking; in-house micro-brewery).
Goldie sees them casting off and taking to the high seas, seacuterie ethos very much on board.
Masterchef and I get lucky with a table but Goldie operates ano-reservations policy so anyone watching the babysitter clock may well have to factor in a wait.
Tonight’s crowd (one older couple, probably tourists, the remainder, bright young things who make me feel pretty pensionable) is a demographic betimes dubbed rather baldly in the hospitality sector, ‘nearly-weds and nearly-deads’; money to spend and no children to bother about.
We begin with snacks. Good homemade crisps arrive with potent cultured cream dusted with seaweed powder though advertised prawn cocktail flavour proves elusive.
Chickpea wafer with butternut squash and possibly too-young-for-the-job Coolea cheese could use more punch. Best of the three are deep-fried crunchy fish bones (sardine head, spine, tail) withtogarashi and lime juice, better again when we improvise, dipping them in cultured cream.
Next up, small plates. Seared devilled sardines with pickled celeriac are pleasant but flavours all hover around the safety of middle ground, suggesting an incomplete dish.
Seared scallop, langoustine and crab are glorious fleshy gobbets of sweet, salty marine umami but trenchant,risotto-like lasooni split green peas stray beyond their supporting role. Salt fish brandade (emulsion of salt fish, potato, olive oil) with seaweed crackers and pickles stops us in our tracks;gobs full, we semaphore approval across the table.
Beautifully balanced, it is the best brandade I’ve tasted in Ireland, better than most I’ve eaten in Mediterranean countries where it is a staple.
Beetroot is better still: tuber, beautifully underplayed, still some way off earthy treacle notes that come with extreme roasting, making for a clean, silken mouthful, enhanced by one of my most favourite Irish products, sumptuous, tangy Velvet Cloud sheep’s yoghurt. Superb dill-heavy gherkin ketchup and horseradish complete an exquisitely poised dish.
Delicate flowers, we share a main course. Goldie, commendably, endeavour to source from local day boats and the nearby English Market, regularly serving up those ‘exotic’ Irish-caught fish that are more usually exported, the Gael still a cautious soul in that regard. We opt for pollock.
Another hugely under-rated fish, simple cooking is key; here, dredged in seasoned flour and pan-fried, sweet white fish falls away in pearlescent shards under gentle probing.
Pollock, however, is a demure sort, paling alongside big flavours: rich and creamy langoustine butter sauce works; roasted Brussel sprouts are overpowering, brassicas never taking kindly to extreme cooking. Sea salt shoestring chips are terrific dunked in the buttery sauce.
Truly sated, we share a dessert out of professional curiosity.
Elegant Killahora Orchard apple port notes elevate dense, lush panna cotta, carmelised tart heritage apple is near toffee,biscuity crumble crowns another successful dish.
Seafood flavours can span the taste spectrum so the Goldie wine list is curiously wimpish and only an off-list special (a Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc) works for us, though crisp Elbow Lane Jawbone pale ale is smashing with the snacks.
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For a young chef, Aishling Moore of Cork’s @goldierestaurant is raucously fearless. She will put ling and pollock on her menu as main course fish. She puts gherkin ketchup with roasted beets. Her brandade is so agrestic that it’s like something exported to Cork from the Iberian trade routes back in 1750. People, she serves a dish of crunchy fish spines with her own togarashi as one of the Goldie snacks. Give her a culinary inch, and Ms Moore will push the envelope a culinary mile. The result is some of the best, most intriguing and dynamic modern Irish food. Despite her out-there style, Cork loves Aishling Moore’s food: when she cooked in Elbow Lane you couldn’t get a seat. In Goldie, it’s the same story: get there early, or get your heart crushed by disappointment. And whilst critics tend to compare female chefs to other female chefs, Aishling Moore has no comparison and Goldie shimmers thanks to Cork’s new leading light. #Cork #irelandthebest
Market Lane seems to specialise in employing imagination and elan to transform awkward little spaces and it is a real pleasure to be squirrelled away in the back of this funky, intimate little space. Service, too, is top notch, bright, friendly, efficient.
Though not every dish served tonight completely succeeds, our only quibble about those nearly-rans is that they are merely ‘good’, a note or two shy of perfection achieved on several occasions.
Chef Aisling Moore is a serious talent and once she truly settles, hitting her marks every single time, Goldie will go from beingan already good restaurant to a burgeoning national treasure.