Joe McNamee heads to Monk's Lane in Cork to sample the old country pub.
IT is mid-term so I gather around me a pair of the progeny and a brace of Foleys, Chanson and Gambler, and set off for a jaunt around West Cork. Unlike the more recent blast of apocalypse-heralding ‘summertime’, this February day sticks to a more familiar script — sulky grey sky scowling through windscreen, nagging cold wind despite mid-teen temperatures — yet this most exquisite part of the world is, as always, soothing balm for ragged edges, tonic for faltering spirits, and by the time we have arrived in Timoleague, we are nicely primed for a spot of lunch.
The little village appears as quiet as you’d imagine any small rural hamlet might on an off-season weekday. Have you booked, asks Chanson. Not at all, I scoff, reasoning most rural establishments at this time of year will be near paying diners to pop in and break bread. We walk through the doors of Monk’s Lane to find it stuffed to the gills. Greatly chastened, I presume we’re in for a long wait but the Gods smile on us today for there is single remaining table to the rear with space for all five of us.
Monk’s Lane is still an old country pub but its two rooms, separated by an open archway, have very much been given over to their new primary purpose, that of feeding customers with actual food as opposed to the porter of yore. Scandi minimalists might be inclined to view with alarm the large assortment of solid dark wood furnishings packed into this low-ceilinged room but somehow it works, becoming a cosy intimate space greatly enhanced by some lovely floral arrangements.
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Thanks to the wonderful Fiona O'Donnell MSc Nutritionist @westcorkfit for a great write up about her visits here. She’s a a very inspiring person (and great craic!)... highly recommend following the blogs on her website and social media 🚴♂️💪🥂. www.westcorkfit.com . #dontknowhowtolinktoblog 😂. #wildatlanticway #timoleague #waw #westcork #ireland #irelandgram #goodfood #corklike #corkfood #fitfood #eatlocal #supportlocal #lovecork #keepitlocal #localbusiness #artisanproduce #thisisirishfood #gin #
No 2 Son tackles Rosemary focaccia with the gusto it deserves, a fine hunk of soft herbaceous bread with an oily crust encasing a Gubbeen duet of cheese and salami and salad leaves with a mug of earthy spiced lentil soup on the side.
Gambler operates along similar lines, opting for a fine ‘toastie, provolone cheese on toasted sourdough with sweet sundried tomato and red onion jam and a mug of the same soup.
A children’s menu featuring lamb quesadillas and fresh battered haddock deserves especial kudos for pitching above the more usual run-of-the-mill fare on offer in too many establishments so La Daughter reckons chicken goujons might be worth a shot. They most certainly are and then some, bearing all the hallmarks of being made in-house rather than cooked from frozen, tender, flavoursome with a crisp coating; accompanying handcut fries are equally commendable.
Chanson has excellent fish and chips, gorgeous fresh haddock in superb craft beer batter, and along with fries, pea puree, homemade tartare sauce and salads.
My golden fried Macroom halloumi salad features five crisp little fritters of chewy, salty cheese, all the seasoning needed for a sweet beetroot chutney, pickled cucumber, scallions and very fine salad leaves, with a maple drizzle, a most cracking lunch dish altogether.
We also order a salad plate for the table: bulgur wheat, coleslaw, mixed beans, leaves, tomatoes and pickled cucumber, all very decent renditions featuring excellent produce. And, as if on cue, a man enters the pub and walks on through to the kitchen bearing a bag of those same very fine salad leaves, a small-scale local grower, one of a local network providing the raw materials for much of the kitchen’s output.
The progeny demand their usual tithe, a selection of sweet stuff, and when they arrive, neither are the big ‘kids’ found wanting, all five of us piling into flourless chocolate cake anointed with a healthy spillage of chocolate sauce, a surprisingly light sticky toffee pudding and the full-on sugar explosion that is roast white chocolate and mixed berry cheesecake, each flanked by a scoop of ice cream and a scoop of cream. A round of good coffees and we’re ready for road once more.
There is no re-invention of the wheel going on in Monk’s Lane, these are all familiar dishes from the causal dining canon, but their delivery is top notch, built on a solid foundation of very good, and for the most part, locally-sourced produce enabling an extremely consistent kitchen to dish up sublimely tasty food. And next time I’ll know to phone ahead!
Monk’s Lane, 15 Mill St, Timoleague, Co Cork.
Tel: 023-8846348; www.monkslane.ie
Bar hours: Wednesday to Sunday: 12pm to midnight (from 1pm on Sunday).
Food service: Wednesday to Saturday: lunch, 12.30pm to 3pm; dinner, 6pm to 9.30pm; Sunday: dinner, 1pm to 7pm.