We have christened ourselves the Chowder Sailing Brethren of Cork Harbour.
There is me, Noel Barry who came up through the dinghy ranks in Monkstown with John Dooley, Robert the skipper who is extraordinarily generous with his boat, a 35 foot Jeanneau Sun Odyssey, Mark, a veteran of transatlantic and Caribbean cruising and racing and Arnaud, who worked in the French Navy.
Of a Sunday, we usually set sail around noon from the berth in Crosshaven and head out to the harbour entrance, a little beyond Roche’s Point. On occasions we are lucky and we see the dolphins caressing the tops of the waves and they often follow us for a short part of the journey.
But at this point, our thoughts turn to grub. If Arnaud is with us, we are sure to have a fine bowl of beef stew or chowder as he excels at a potato-based chowder.
But regrettably Arnaud cannot be with us every Sunday and on those occasions, we seek out harbour hostelries where we can berth the boatand find a decent chowder.
Tide plays a major part in deciding where we go on any given Sunday. If the tide is fully in, we have numerous choices, however if it is out, we really only have Cobh.
The surrounding area has numerous walks in woods, seashore or quiet country roads. In Cobh, The Quay Bar and Restaurant have their own pontoon and it is a great place to go to. You can dine indoors or outside, with sights and views that you exist in, if such is possible, right on the water’s edge!
The chowder is always welcoming on a cold day and you get plenty of it, with lots of cream. The only disadvantage is that the pontoon is taken up for the winter months and the place closes for a while also in January/February.
The only other place available then is the quay wall, where there are two metal ladders and at low tide, well then you have a little bit of vertical climbing to do! If a vessel is in, you might not be able to get at the steps at all. But once you are on land you have a fine choice of hotels, restaurants and bars.
Our usual spots are the Water’s Edge Hotel, the Commodore Hotel and the Titanic Visitors Centre and Restaurant.
The hotels’ chowders are good and service is friendly. The Titanic Centre is definitely worth a visit and the restaurant is cheerful and family orientated. The restaurant at Cobh Heritage Centre, in the old railway station building, serves a lovely chowder and reasonably priced too, but it is smuggled into Cork Harbour from the Kinsale Bay Co.
When the tide is flooding we can go to other locations such as East Ferry on the easterly or Rathcoursey side as we will get suitable depth under the keel of the boat at these locations.
Murphy’s pub is in East Ferry on the east side. It is an excellent place to call to, with a particularly tasty chowder that includes rasher pieces.
The Pepperstack Bistro at Rosies in Rostellan is one of our most favourite spots. You can now berth at the pontoon, at the end of the peer, from half tide up. Invariably we dine upstairs because of the great views.
Before you even order, you are given a cup of soup. The chowder is excellent, with plenty of variety and not too heavy on the cream and flour mix.
Another good location is the Bosun at Monkstown. Nicky, the proprietor is always welcoming and there’s a wholesome chowder dish. You can only really berth there at the high tide on a calm day, as you are up against the piles of the pier and you have to watch out for wash from passing vessels.
Sailing or motoring back to Crosshaven from these destinations in the evening dusk is a lovely experience, with the stars and planets coming out. We try to figure out their names with our Google Sky app maps on our mobile phones.
The odd Sunday we come to the boat and the winds can be just too much to go out in. Invariably we go for a walk to Camden Fort and beyond, before going to Hassetts or Cronins restaurant for their chowder.
Hassetts is popular with the walkers and bikers who come from Carrigaline as it is at the end of the offroad pathway and they do a fine chowder. Cronins bar and restaurant is in the heart of Crosshaven and their Mediterranean-based chowder is a masterpiece.
Cork City too has numerous chowder destinations, but the Long Valley’s creation is superb and on the menu every day. Willie Martin in the English Market supplies the fish fresh each day to them and has the recipe on display at his stall.
A suggestion of ours is that Cobh, with its many fine dining destinations, might run a Cobh Seafood ChowderFest over some weekend during the winter?
Here we could taste different types of chowder such as in New England. Other examples might be bisquebased chowder, bowls made from crusty bread balls which you eventually eat, chowders from all different fish types.
In the meantime, the All-Ireland Chowder Cook-Off is taking place this Sunday at Acton’s Hotel in Kinsale.
A chef from each of the 32 counties will present their own version of this classic seafood dish in a bid to be crowned All-Ireland Chowder Champion with the eating public, the ultimate arbiter, voting for their favourites.
The winning chef will be taken to Newport, Rhode Island, next year, to fly the Irish flag with a stint as guest chef.
2 oz butter
A large potato peeled & cubed
A large onion sliced
1lb Williams seafood mix
4 rashers smoked chopped
4 oz spinach (optional)
9fl oz whole milk
Salt & pepper
7fl oz single cream
2 tablespoons parsley
½ pt fish stock
Crusty bread to serve
Melt the butter in a frying pan over a low heat. Add the onion and fry for 8-10 minutes, until very soft but not coloured. Add the rashers and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the milk, cream, stock and potatoes.
Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
Add Williams seafood mix and cover the pan. Simmer for 8-10 minutes, until the fish is completely cooked through.
Add the spinach and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour into a bowl, sprinkle a little chopped parsley on top & serve with crusty bread.
From the Chowder Sailing Brethren of Cork Harbour: Robert Jeffery, Mark Newenham, John Dooley, Arnaud Distant and Noel Barry