Unit 5, The Elysian, Eglinton St, Cork
IT is a bleak, grey December morning when we arrive at Bookshelf at The Elysian (BATE), in a ground-floor corner of the Celtic Tiger Elysian Tower, but plentiful glass frontage and the soaring height of the room floods the space with all scant light available and then some.
The local hospitality sector, for the most part, is still housed in more traditional spaces, so this dramatic, modernist cathedral and its considered decor —matt grey walls, funky prints, minimalist wooden fittings — lend an intoxicating sense of being ‘elsewhere’ in mainland Europe. It is a rare feeling, both liberating and addictive.
Twenty years ago, the ‘brunch’ concept began to gain currency on these shores, but in reality, it simply entailed getting your fry-up at lunch-time. These days, it appears to have transformed into wellbeing 101: juices, smoothies, yoghurts, exotic fruits, healthy grains, superfoods du jour (chia, spirulina, etc), a far cry from the more traditional half a pig, sliced and pan fried in dripping.
It is actually a notion I like, subscribing as I do to another notion, actually, more of a national credo, that the fry-up is in fact traditional juju ideally used for the treatment of debilitating bouts of ‘morning after’. In such a progressive looking space, it stands to reason BATE will be similarly progressive on the menu so we go hog-wild with the healing.
La Daughter orders a forest fruits smoothie bowl, with coconut milk, seasonal fruit, housemade granola. All that’s missing is the diving board for it is large enough to swim in. It is also very good although ‘seasonal’ fruit (bananas, kiwis, strawberries, blueberries) very definitely refers to seasons elsewhere around the globe other than Ireland.
No 2 Son enjoys a long-time preference of his, overnight oats (bircher), this iteration soaked in banana and pineapple puree, served with maca powder, homemade granola and fresh fruit.
I lose the run of myself entirely, attempting to reverse a lifetime of indulgence with chia Pudding with Spirulina powder, coconut yoghurt, granola, blueberries, banana, kiwi, which turns out to be the very opposite of penitential, a pleasure to put away.
Bar the health food equivalents of eye of newt and lung of toad, and our preference for superior qualities of local, seasonal Irish fruit (grated Elstar apple would instantly elevate all three dishes), they are delicious though exceedingly filling; we eye our ‘mains’ with trepidation.
No 2 Son resets traditional equilibrium with floury bap housing maple streaky bacon, Lisduff black pudding, fried egg, melted cheese, nicely judged sharp-sweet homemade relish, and smashing rostis of leek and potato.
La Daughter has very tasty chicken breast in spiced breaded coating with smokey chipotle notes — one of several allusions to Mexican chef Eli Huerta’s culinary heritage — served in brioche with coleslaw, pickles and fine chunky chips.
I have open brioche sandwiches of poached egg, crab meat and lovely seaweed hollandaise but mashed avocado — possibly just removed from a long spell in the fridge — makes for a layer of permafrost that throws off the entire dish.
Current Wife, who tends to practice healthy living on a daily basis, not in rare, random and flailing spurts, had avoided our bowls of worthiness, leaving her with plenty of appetite for an egg white frittata, with spinach, mushrooms, grilled cheese. Flavours are sound but it is quite sorely under-seasoned. Sweet potato bread is excellent and could backbone any number of other dishes.
Coffee deserves special mention. As a confirmed locavore (kindly, well-meaning!) fascist, I naturally prefer Irish roasts; that there are now so many truly stunning Irish roasts further validates my unyielding zeal. Yet I forgive BATE entirely for serving beans from The Barn, in Berlin, as they are quite superb.
I relish an ascetic filtered Costa Rican (Volcan Azul), a clean, balanced, plummy mouthful of vanilla and figs. Post-prandial macchiato is equally fine while CW adores her immaculate flat white.
Our earlier encounter with ‘wellness’ means we leave bearing doggie bags of unfinished (but -not-forgotten!) main courses and a very firm vow to return to this delightful addition to the local dining scene, in particular to sample a highly intriguing evening ‘tapas’ style menu and enjoy the so easily accessible charms of another local ‘weekend break abroad’.