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73 Grand Parade Cork. Tel: (021) 272711

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      02.12.2000 16:13
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      More of a café than a restaurant, Oz-Cork is a very small but extremely popular café-bistro situated on Grand Parade (just off Patrick Street, which is the main shopping street in Cork). It is owned and run by an Australian man (no! really?), and you’ll often see him and his wife talking to and serving the customers. I like places where the owners are hands-on; it means that they stay in-touch with their clientele as well as the actual daily operations, and the result is usually that they understand better the problems faced by their employees as well as the wants of their customers. This is probably one of the secrets of their success. The restaurant itself is very small, as I’ve said, and you’ll be lucky to get a seat on a Saturday without queuing up for ten minutes or so. The atmosphere is very informal. Part of the kitchen is in the same room as the diners, meaning you can size up the person who is grilling your bacon! The tables are small, as are the distances between them, and the chairs are those hard, wooden, modern ones that look nice but aren’t particularly comfortable. Going in there with a pushchair is nigh impossible, a problem often encountered in Cork’s many restaurants and coffee shops. I like the decoration; it looks as though it has been done by amateurs with imagination. The walls are a bright yellow-orange, creating an impression of warmth; the wall-lights are encased in rusty, medieval-looking metal shades (complete with cobwebs, hmmm, not sure whether they’re intentional or not), and there are a few mosaics strewn about the walls to provide more colour. All undoubtedly inexpensive designs, yet the end result is original and simple. So on to the menu. At a glance, you might think it resembles one of many modern American restaurants: soups, burgers, nachos, salads, doorstep sandwiches, bagels, ribs, all-day breakfasts, lasagne, etc., and all described in a way designed to make your m outh water. The prices range from £4 to £6 (Irish pounds, if you please – oh, all right then, that’s approximately £3 to £5 sterling). It is when your order arrives that you start to sit up and take notice. Now I am not fussy about presentation – it’s the taste and quantity that count for unsophisticated little me. But I have to admit that the way these dishes are served is impressive. Served on huge plates – and fortunately so, considering the generous portions - the presentation is refreshingly original. Imagine a burger, topped with layers of beetroot, grilled bacon, fresh lettuce, juicy tomato, melted cheese, crisp onion, topped with a crisply fried egg balancing precariously 10 cm from the plate; it’s a crime to destroy it by eating it. The same can be said for the other dishes. You won’t find any iceberg lettuce in these salads – instead a fresh mix of exotic and strangely-coloured foliage, intermingled with a tantalising variety of vegetables. Ask for a portion of golden wedges, and gasp with surprise as a miniature skyscraper of fried potatoes appears on your table. The words 'doorstep sandwich' will never have quite the same meaning for you again should you eat one here. No empty stomachs get down from these tables, believe me! But just in case you happen to be the Hungriest Person in the World, you may just have enough room to choose one of the many tempting homemade desserts and cakes in the display counter. The service is reasonable for what you would expect in a café like this: generally satisfactory, with the odd server who needs reminding three times about what you ordered before you get served. All that remains to be told is their opening hours. They are open seven days a week, from 8am Monday to Friday, and from 9am at the weekend, and they stay open until ‘late’ – put your own definition on that, bearing in mind that last order s are at 11pm. Apparently, after 7pm the bistro menu comes into play and you can bring your own wine (in true Ozzie fashion!). I like this place because it offers something different from the many other cafés in Cork, without being expensive or fancy. Try it next time you’re in Cork.

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