In its day, and as a classic of its type, the Oyster, with its mahogany panelling and mirrored walls was for generations the epicentre of fine dining, long business ‘lunches’, PR, sales and marketing schmoozing, and quite the place to impress a date, or celebrate a big family event.
Originally known as the Royal Oyster Tavern and Dining Room, it had a pedigree dating at least to the early 1900s, and was sold by the Nicholson family of Woodford Bourne & Co wine importers fame in 1990, before going into a succession of ownerships and subsequent decline.
The Oyster Tavern’s rebirth is eagerly anticipated, and it is expected to play a further role in promoting Cork as a premier food capital, with the world-renowned English Market just over its side wall on Market Lane.
News of who will take on the business and service mantle at the Oyster will come as Dublin-based Umi Falafel finalises its fit-out at 11-12 Academy Street, in the former Zamora restaurant which had opened as recently as 2014.
Umi Falafel are already in Dame Street, and Rathmines in Dublin.
And, last weekend, Dublin-centred Bunsen, an upmarket burger chain opened in Cork’s French Church Street/Academy Street; that company also has three Dublin eateries, in South Anne Street, Essex Street East, and Wicklow Street.
Close by on French Church Street, a branch of Carluccio’s is due to open later in 2017, at the back of the old Moderne/SuperDry, while a Nando’s opened last year in the former Meadows & Byrne building by the Crawford Art Gallery and the well-trading JD Wetherspoon.
Many other premises in the city centre and suburbs have been snapped up by ethnic restaurants, chains and sole operators. Amongst the range on offer are burritos/Mexican, donuts, salads and Asian street food.
Flying the locally-initiated flag, meanwhile, will be Rachel’s, a large new multi-element restaurant fronted by Ballymaloe-associated Rachel and Isaac Allen on Washington Street, due to open on Monday in a venture involving Paul Montgomery of the adjacent Reardens monolith, and the Oliver Plunkett bar among other businesses.
Meanwhile, word on the street is that the new Oyster bar and restaurant venture, being refitted at a cost of €1m-€2m, will be run by a well-known, high-calibre experienced operator currently with a restaurant business base in Dublin.
The identity of the restaurateur hasn’t been publicly revealed yet in the deal understood to have been done with John Cleary of John Cleary Developments: nor have the names of the retailers, understood to be Lifestyle Sports and TK Maxx’s Homesense package, yet been confirmed by agents Savills.
The €50m Capitol building is now practically at completion, and is virtually fully-let as it comes to occupier fit-outs, with neat strip lighting visible on its parapets at night. Office occupiers will include a number of top names in digital media and IT.
The pivotal site was acquired by John Cleary Developments in 2015 for just €6 million.
It had previously been assembled for a mixed retail/office scheme by developer Joe O’Donovan of Padlake at a reported cost of €60-70 million, and which included up to €6m being paid in 2006 for the Oyster site alone on Market Lane, while a similar sum was paid for the former Vineyard bar, now demolished.