“ Cafe - Bar - Club. Caroline Street, Cork Tel: (+353) (0)21 4222779. „
This is my absolute favourite place in Cork. By its own definition a “Café-Bar-Club”, it is the kind of place that I would come to even if the food was awful and the service lousy; neither of these things are true, so imagine how fantastic it must be! So why do I love it as I do? I only ever come here on a Saturday afternoon in mid-shop, complete with pushchair and restless baby, and those bustling streets and howling gales have, so far, never followed me in. As soon as I walk through those doors, I feel a sense of calm pervade my soul. Over the top? Not at all, at all. To unravel the secret of this oasis of serenity, we must look to the person who designed the interior. Did I say ‘person’? I should have said ‘genius’. One word. Simple. Modern. Two words! Simple. Modern. Stylish. THREE words! I will try to be brief in my description, but it is the most important part and so cannot be rushed. The walls and ceiling are painted cream, the floor is dark wood, as are the tables on the ground floor. Carefully placed lamps provide gentle, soothing light, while tiny spotlights on the ceiling provide subtle variations of colour that are barely noticeable yet all add to the atmosphere. On the ground floor, the tables are surrounded by modern yet comfortable sofas and chairs of varying designs and colours on the same theme. There is also an area where you can perch on high chairs (not baby high chairs, obviously, more like bar stools with a back) in front of a counter, again in dark wood. The bar itself is at one side of the room, and the ceiling here has been opened out so that the wall behind the bar reaches right up to the top of the building, which is glass. The middle part of this huge wall is covered with glass shelves filled with bottles, and on each side of this are two huge mirrors that create the illusion of even greater space. They’ve even managed to get exactly the right volume and sty le of music to complete the ambience. But the key feature is the spaciousness. There is a very comfortable distance between each table, especially in the main area of the ground floor room, and the walkway through to the bar is wide enough to drive a large car (obviously, I haven’t tested this, but I believe it would be possible if ever it became necessary). This is excellent for several reasons. Firstly, for myself, there is no problem with entering with and parking a pushchair. Secondly, you can chat away to your companion about all your most intimate secrets with very little danger of being overheard. Thirdly, in a town where most places cram the tables and chairs into every last inch of space in an attempt to maximise the possible number of paying customers, it is just NICE to be able to spread out and relax in your own private space. That is why I love it. The food itself is good, although admittedly there is nothing so striking about it as to mark it out from many other similar establishments. It is a little on the expensive side, in my opinion, at least compared to other places in Cork – but then you’re paying for the ambience! What is on offer varies depending on the time of day. At lunchtime, there is either a cold or a hot buffet. At the cold buffet, you can either pile your plate high with a selection of cold meats and salads, or ask for them to make you up a doorstep sandwich with your choice of fillings. The hot buffet offers a variety of soups, roasts, fish and vegetable dishes. The prices range from about £5.95 to £7.95. This afternoon, we arrived just after 2.30, and were told that we now had to choose from the Evening Menu. There were about ten choices: to give you an idea, those that I recall were the Warm Cajun Chicken Baguette, Chicken Stirfry, 10oz Burger, Sirloin Steak and Bacon, Tomato and Mozzarella Ciabatta (we both chose the latter, in case you were wondering). Served on huge, round, whi te plates, the ciabatta was accompanied by fresh lettuce, slivers of cucumber, juicy tomatoes, and a little dish of golden wedges. Generous and delicious, and all for £6.35 each (that’s Irish pounds, by the way, which must be around £5.25 sterling with the current exchange rate). In fact, everything was priced between £5.95 and £6.95, apart from the steak, which was a whopping £10.95. The service is satisfactory: the servers all seem to be young, female and friendly, with good intentions but a certain lack of professionalism. In other words, much the same as any other café in Cork. There’s also another bar on the first floor; I only know this because I had to come up here to go to the toilet. And what stylish toilets they are! Seems like a funny thing to mention, I know, but I simply have to comment on the fabulous design. Chrome crazy! Chrome toilets and doors, dim blue lights in the walls, Ikea-type wood partitions, chrome sinks all in a row, round mirrors in alcoves lit from behind – wonderful! The only downside to chrome sinks is that they show up all the water marks and give the impression that they are dirty, when in fact they are not. In short, they are the nicest ladies’ I have seen in a long while. Maybe you didn’t want to know that. I love this place more than any other place I know in Ireland. What more do you want me to say?!