How Cork restaurants are adapting to give diners a Covid-friendly Christmas experience

We look at the changed face of Cork’s food scene, as some restaurants reopen for the festive season, while others adapt or choose to sit this Christmas out
How Cork restaurants are adapting to give diners a Covid-friendly Christmas experience

Claire Nash of Nash 19, Princes Street, Cork, which is teaming up with Ali's Kitchen this month. Picture: Dan Linehan

The pandemic has changed the world of food and hospitality, making it completely unrecognisable compared to this time last year. Where once restaurants would have been heaving as family and friends gather around tables for an annual catch-up or a festive treat, now there are fewer tables at which they can sit, and fewer restaurants opening their doors to diners this Christmas.

Cork is known for its thriving food scene, from Michelin-starred chefs to acclaimed menus in established restaurants and burgeoning bistros filling most streets. This year, however, those behind many of our favourite eateries have decided they feel safer sitting this Christmas out and are remaining shut at what should be their busiest time of year. Others have reinvented the wheel, moving their furniture and, in some cases, moving venues.

'My first Christmas off in 17 years' 

 Publican Ernest Cantillon outside Electric Bar and Restaurant on the South Mall, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan
Publican Ernest Cantillon outside Electric Bar and Restaurant on the South Mall, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

Last week, management confirmed Electric on South Mall will remain closed over the Christmas period after they considered their “economic and safety” concerns.

“After a day of soul searching weighing up pros and cons with the team, we have decided not to open up for Christmas. It's not a decision we have taken likely and we are glad the decision was ours to make. We have lots of other fun things planned and will share details as we go,” said owner Ernest Cantillon.

“We hope all our colleagues that are opening have a royaler and make it to Christmas healthy and wealthy! Apologies to those whose traditions we have broken, I know some of you were on track for 11 Christmas Eves in our restaurant in a row.

“While the decision was primarily economic and safety informed, we won’t lie, a Christmas off, my first in 17 years, is a serious compensation prize.” 

There’s still some Christmassy activity happening at Electric, though. This Sunday they’ll be giving away free mulled wine or hot chocolate from 3pm to 8pm and encouraging those enjoying the festive tipples to make a donation to SVP.

Ali is ‘Nashing’ through the snow 

 Claire Nash of Nash 19 and Ali Honour of Ali's Kitchen. Picture: David Keane
Claire Nash of Nash 19 and Ali Honour of Ali's Kitchen. Picture: David Keane

Ali’s Kitchen operates from a small venue on Paul Street which, they believe, doesn’t have enough room for adequate social distancing indoors. Rather than shut their doors, however, they are collaborating with Nash 19 on Princes Street.

“Due to recent Government protocol on social distancing with inside seating, we are not able to open for December. Instead AK is teaming up with our fab friends at Nash 19 to combine our efforts in delivering a full festive offering with Nash and AK favourites with plenty of festive spirit.” 

For booking information, see www.nash19.com or contact 021-4270880 or info@nash19.com.

Rising from the ashes 

L'Atitude 51 reopened its doors in recent days after a fire forced its closure in March 2019.
L'Atitude 51 reopened its doors in recent days after a fire forced its closure in March 2019.

One Cork wine bar shut a full year before the rest of the country followed suit. It wasn’t a pandemic that forced L’Atitude 51 to stop serving, but a fire in the premises on St Patricks Day 2019. A firm favourite for wine lovers, coffee drinkers and those looking for some nibbles as well, L’Atitude has a prime position near Cork City Hall - it was once home to The Lobby Bar.

Last week, it reopened and now operates a wine shop as well as offering its usual selection of coffees and food in takeaway form. Management hopes to provide more wining and dining options in the coming weeks and months in line with public health guidelines, “OK that’s it! We’re finally taking the plunge and will officially reopen, for now just as a wine shop doing take out coffees, soup and toasties. But really hoping we’ll be allowed do more in the next couple of weeks. Been idle for too long and raring to go!” 

Not a coq and bull story 

Coqbull's newest restaurant is located in Soho
Coqbull's newest restaurant is located in Soho

Coqbull on French Church Street will be opening for dine-in once more on Friday. 

“We will be welcoming reservations for up to six people and will be adhering to all social distancing guidelines and regulations issued to us. We have invested in table separators, perspex screens, masks etc,” they said about the Cork restaurant.

The team behind Coqbull, which was set up in Cork seven years ago and joined soon after by two Limerick restaurants, has announced it is setting up another restaurant in a surprising location: Soho, London.

“We recently acquired a London flagship site for our wonderful Coqbull brand, which was established in Cork seven years ago,” they said. The London branch of Coqbull opens tomorrow at 5pm.

"Opening up a new Coqbull in Soho, London in the middle of a pandemic... Are we mad?"

Swinging high

Sophie’s Restaurant opens next week in The Dean.
Sophie’s Restaurant opens next week in The Dean.

Cork city's newest hotel opens next week near Kent train station. The Dean will be welcoming customers to Sophie's, a rooftop restaurant with spectacular views over the city and some famous swings for diners to try out. 

If you were hoping to make a reservation for some pre or post-Christmas dining, you're out of luck.

"Sophie's Rooftop [is] fully booked for December and unable to take any new reservations for December," The Dean announced today.

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