I HAVE loved Douglas Street for decades, even living there for two mightily and joyously eventful years, but you need to be able for the heady claustrophobia that comes with this off-kilter curve of random buildings, crammed in shoulder to shoulder, most especially during the dark, wet days of winter.
A few weeks ago, I entered the garden sanctuary at Nano Nagle Place for the first time, feeling like a potholer squeezing through a tiny tunnel to emerge in a great cavern.
Formerly, South Presentation Convent and school, it is now home to a heritage and community centre named for its original founder.
The serene hillside garden behind peers over the rooftops to the city beyond.
To have discovered this inner-city oasis while formerly a Douglas Street citizen would have been akin to finding the lost city of El Dorado.
Good Day Deli (GDD) is sited in a purpose-built glass cube in the garden sanctuary. Though hardly open a wet week and, as yet, unadvertised, it nonetheless sports a healthy queue of waiting diners.
Conscious of an impending school run, Gambler Foley and I squeeze alongside two randomly encountered friends.
GF takes the soup, pleasant, sweet carrot and coriander while I start with Toon’s Bridge Halloumi, fast becoming a trope on Irish menus, a cracking new ingredient to expand the national repertoire.
GDD gets the supporting cast spot on: meaty sweet beetroot, gently citric orange, lovely fresh leaves weaving splendidly around carmelised slabs of grilled cheese; I top the lot with nutty in-house dukkah (a condiment of roasted nuts and spices).
GF’s Seasonal Tart features good flaky pastry, a just-set custard housing Ardsallagh Goat’s Cheese, sweet Roast Red Onion and nutty Kale. A mouthful has me pining for a winelist that is still a few weeks off.
Kai Moana Fish Tacos feature ‘fingers’ of Irish hake, light batter flecked with nigella seeds. Served in superb Blanco Nino Corn Tortillas (produced in Ireland, from Irish-grown corn), raw slaw, pickle and lemon coriander mayo complete a terrific dish. Mr DJ, a late arrival, takes one sample bite and orders same.
We finish with local roaster Tony Speight’s very fine West Cork Coffee, sublimely prepared by in-house baristas, Moses and Tim.
Shared nibbles of a ‘flight’ of cakes (Orange & Polenta, Murphy’s, and Carrot Cake) are met with equally ascending ecstasy, candied ginger in the Carrot Cake a particular delight.
Having rather rushed my initial visit, a bright crisp morning allows time to savour the location before joining the queue (yes, you do detect a pattern!) for a more leisurely Sunday brunch.
No 2 Son and La Daughter order Poached Pear Pancakes but delicious, grainy pear draped with coconut mascarpone is a dessert, plain and simple, and while the progeny will take dessert at any time, No 2 Son subsequently orders scrambled eggs.
These are my type of eggs: not ‘fried brain’ style resulting from vigorous stirring over high heat, but infinitely richer, more luxurious ‘curdled custard’, the generous serving undulating over two healthy hunks of toasted sourdough.
I’m a bit ‘meh’ about My Heart’s Desire’s choice of huevos rancheros, a staple from the Brooklyn Hipster playbook, now to be found wherever the twirly moustache brigade are breaking fast but equally I appreciate the ‘meatiness’ it brings to a meal usually favouring the carnivore, especially when breakfast/brunch is a traditional fry-up with its multiple piggy parts.
Furthermore, MHD’s beans are pleasingly ‘delicate’, not the usual dense slurry of molten chilli fire that can only and logically be consumed with an ice-cold beer and mescal chaser (another class of ‘breakfast’ altogether!).
Fried eggs spill soothing yolk while a perky tomato salsa offers further lift. My Poached Eggs with smoked salmon and hollandaise is a classic combo, immaculately delivered.
Co-proprietors Clare Condon and Kristin Makirere are deadly serious about promoting sustainable food systems (also through planned educational events, as soon as the initial dust settles) and commitment to local, natural, seasonal and organic produce is glaringly obvious in their impeccable choice of local suppliers.
It is rare indeed for a new restaurant to open with initial vision so perfectly realised, better still when that vision is so rarified, making GDD one of the best new arrivals in many a moon. Cork people will have to get used to queuing — fear not, GDD is very much worth the wait.
Good Day Deli Garden Café, Nano Nagle Place, Douglas St, Cork.
Tel: 021-4322107; www.gooddaydeli.ie
€52 (lunch, including beverages);
€46 (brunch, including beverages) How to:
Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm, last orders 4pm