Restaurant review: Filter, George's Quay, Cork

Filter is Cork’s epicentre for serious coffee drinkers.

Tea has serious competition as the national brew. We have turned to coffee with a vengeance — and I speak not of the freeze-dried powdered muck.

The evidence is not just statistical but daily before our eyes, every second citizen sporting a paper cup of liquid caffeine. 

A new wave of native roasters are producing world-class beans and Cork itself hosts a thriving network of local independent coffee houses and cafes. 

On foot of last weekend’s splendid Cork Coffee Weekend, taking place in multiple Leeside coffee ‘temples’, it seems high time to take a tour. (Note to my cardiologist: This ‘review’ was not conducted over a single day.)

Tucked into a cute ‘faux-scruffy’ nook on College Rd, a thesis’s throw from the main UCC campus, I’d have relished Doppio ( 30-odd years ago when first sallying forth through the groves of academe. 

Nibbles are acceptable, if perfunctory (sausage rolls, pastries), the coffee choice between fine local roasters Golden Bean and Badger & Dodo. We stretch decent flat whites (Golden Bean’s Blackburn Estate, sweet, buttery caramel, soft acidity) over a pleasant hour.

The Bookshelf (, on a corner off South Mall, is a fine high-ceilinged room. Decor is basic but comfortable, an oasis in the heart of the city. 

They do a tasty if abbreviated weekend brunch menu but on the weekday we visit, along with well-poured milky flat whites, No 1 Son and I enjoy exquisite raspberry scones.

Alchemy and Alchemy 2 ( occupy separate sites on the southern fringes of the city centre, sharing a visual theme, distressed clutter combined with wordy bookishness, including an in-house ‘library’. 

All beans are from Dublin-based roastery 3FE and the menu includes soup, salads, and sandwiches, while confections range cover both sinful sugar and virtuous vegan. I opt for syrupy orange cake nailed down with a fruity espresso. Both are friendly lounging spaces with regular live events and exhibitions a further draw.

Cork Coffee Roasters ( supremo John Gowan is the godfather of the city’s modern coffee scene, starting back when a ‘barista’ sounded like something a mumbling drunkard clung to when climbing up stairs. 

Returning in 2007 to open his roastery, imbued with the spirit of the Seattle coffeehouse scene, he set about recreating it here. His coffee shops are tiny bespoke treasures, the Bridge St mothership’s window a perfect post for people-watching. 

Sweet nibbles are thoughtfully chosen and we opt for dark, full-bodied Americanos of the Rebel City Roast.

Coffee Central (, established in 2001, is even older, a counter with a few stools and standing room only, sited on the main confluence of human traffic through the English Market. 

There is no finer spot to take the city’s pulse. It is a local institution where you can’t fail to meet an old friend or make a new one. 

A full-bodied espresso with a healthy spoon of sugar to counter old-school high-roasted acidic bite does the trick.

Filter has the clean, spare lines of a lab but none of the sterility and is Cork’s epicentre for serious coffee drinkers. Before La Daughter was first sentenced to hard time in the educational system, we’d regularly breakfast on almond croissants, macchiatos, and hot chocolate. 

I’d be furnished with whatever always excellent pour-over brew was on that morning. Along with an extensive array of coffee-related kit, Filter carries a superb range of beans from top Irish roasters to titillate the obsessives. Yet it functions equally well as a coffeehouse for the general public. 

In more recent years, proprietors Eoin and Alex established an off-site bakery, supplying the shop (and other coffee-houses) with an inventive range of breads, sandwiches, and snacks. 

Today, with motor running and traffic warden lurking, I have the swiftest of espressos, a 3FE Malarkey Blend (Colombian Caturra and Nicaraguan Natural Bourbon), full, fruity with startling citrus notes.

Page space prohibits further details of my defibrillated tour but, if you remain unmoved, still loyal to the ‘leaf’, pretty much every one of the above, along with all other good, local coffee outlets, also serve a fine cup of tea — and not a teabag to be seen, foul abominations that they are!


Filter Opening Hours: Mon-Fri, 8am-6pm; Sat, 9am-6pm; Sun, 10am-5.30pm 

€2.50 (single espresso of featured coffee) 

Coffee: 8/10 for today’s espresso, generally 9.5/10 

Service: 8.5/10 

Value: 9/10 

Atmosphere: 8.5/10

Filter, George’s Quay

Tel 021 455 0050


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