Commercial property: Restaurant openings a sign of a 'full bellied' recovery?

Like any good army, the Irish economy is marching back to full-bellied recovery on its stomach with up to a half-dozen new restaurants flooding into one section of Cork city alone. 

They’re clustered around UCC, which seems to be the filling in the middle of this ‘sandwich’ of new offers dominated by convenience and ethnic offerings, plus a Rachel Allen-branded new ‘proper’ restaurant, Rachel’s, in Courthouse Chambers.

Opened just yesterday at Cork’s Dennehys Cross, west of the UCC campus, was the second Irish branch outlet of Mexican/burrito chain Zambrero, founded in 2005 in Australia and now expanding into Europe with 120 restaurant worldwide.

Zambrero Ireland is headed by former Leinster rugby player Darragh Fanning, who opened his first outlet in Dublin’s Hatch Street last March, and it follows a month or so after another chain with a Mexican theme, Boojum, opened on Cork city centre’s Winthrop Street, in the former Ginos pizzeria.

Zambrero has taken a unit in Orchard Gardens, next to the rapidly-expanded Asian street food chain Ramen’s two-storey restaurant which opened there in 2014.

Meanwhile, one of Ramen’s original three founders, the accomplished Malaysian chef Zuul Basir, opened a new business, Makan Absolute Asia on the city end of Washington Street by the Capitol complex late in 2016, and ‘The Wash’ is also due to host another large new Asian-inspired eaterie, The Flame, in a few weeks time.

Also due in spring 2017, opening at 34 Washington Street, is The Spitjack, a new rotisserie restaurant concept, currently at advanced fit-out stage.

Across the street, and facing the city’s historic Courthouse, fit-out is also advancing on the up-market 130-seat ‘Rachel’s’, a new restaurant being opened by celebrity chef Rachel Allen, her husband Isaac and other Ballymaloe family members.

Rachel’s will occupying the former Doran Interiors furniture store, vacant for a number of years and is next door to Washington Street’s bulwark ‘anchor’, Paul Montgomery’s Reardens complex, and its outdoor street ‘al fresco’ add-on. Rachel’s will include a 30-seat private dining section and reportedly will include a wood-fired oven, fire pits, drying chamber of ageing beef plus in-restaurant smoker.

Pitched more at legal eagles and UCC academics than student grazers (and near Washington Street stalwarts Cafe Paradiso and Liberty Grill), it’s Rachel Allen’s first named venture into the restaurant business, while her husband Isaac Allen previously managed the Ballymaloe Cafe at the Crawford Art Gallery, and opened other restaurants at Paul Street (Pizza) and Fr Mathew Street/The Bank.

The arrival of a wood-fired oven will recall the installation by Ivory Tower chef Seamus O’Connell of an enormous bespoke oven in his short-lived Pi restaurant/pizzeria, at the other corner of Courthouse Chambers, now the Chambers Bar.

And, finally, also with a Ballymaloe angle is OhMyDonut!/OMD!, set up by one of Ramen’s original founders the Ballymaloe-trained John Downey. OMD! is next door to the Kino building, in the former Shaw Gallery, and is a 24-seat sit-down and take-out, likely to be the launch-pad of the OMD! franchise.

Fitted out by master carpenter Brian Dinneen, OMD! is headed up by Sally Cross, who was up until very recently a teacher at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Her hospitality experience includes having spent four years working at the upper echelons of the superyacht world, tending to billionaires from around the world.

It’s not the only donut rolled out: OMD! follows in the footsteps of another franchise, Huckleberry’s Doughnuts and coffee which opened at 16 South Terrace late in 2015, near the College of Commerce, 100 yards away from another, mid-2016 opening, Casanova Gelato.

Meanwhile, eschewing fast offers and franchises, last week saw the opening of the very chic Cask, wine bar, gin bar and tapas eaterie, at MacCurtain Street opposite the Everyman Palace, and fronting Greens Restaurant.

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