The day we visited Cork City we had many plans for outdoor adventures. Unfortunately the weather had other plans and surprised us with snow. While the weather deterred us from a walking tour of Cork City it did allow us more time to explore the market and have lunch.
Here in the states we call it a “farmer’s market” and it’s usually a weekly event. Cork’s English Market is open Monday thru Saturday 9am-5pm. Though the name is a hold-over from the days of English rule (to distinguish itself from the market for the Irish) the market is full Irish (with some great imports).
Finding the English Market
The English Market is a permanent indoor market and is surrounded by shops; I'm embarrassed to say that I missed every one of the four entrances (off Grand Parade, Oliver Plunkett St, St. Patrick’s St or Prince’s St; two of those streets are foot traffic only) as we circled the market, so be sure to look up. When you have your bearings I recommend entering from Prince's Street; in November 1862 the Cork Examiner described the new entrance with glowing praise…
The entrance to the new Prince's-street market… will henceforth rank amongst the principal buildings in our city. It is certainly as handsome a structure as exists in the three kingdoms having the same object, and reflects the greatest credit on our city Architect who designed it, and superintended its construction, and on Mr Walsh, the builder, who carried out the design.
Once you are inside the sights are astounding. Meats in every form, fresh fish, vegetables, fruits… Bakeries, chocolates and cheeses… One beside another the food spills forward and you can’t help but stop and marvel at things you’ve never seen before. Crubeens (pigs feet) and tripe (stomach), buttered eggs (a Cork delicacy) and drisheens (local blood sausage) sit along side stalls offering buckets of olives and Oriental spices.
Both the wide range of items available and the smells can be quite overwhelming so my humble suggestion is to wander about the stalls for a while, purchase local cheese and fresh bread for a light dinner, and then head upstairs to the Farmgate Cafe. Once upstairs take a minute and look down upon the central court; it's a great view for people watching.
Lunch at Farmgate Cafe
Even if the market isn’t overly busy you can count on the Farmgate Cafe to be doing a brisk business. One side is a self-service queue-to-order galley overlooking the central court and the other is a glassed-in more formal area with table service. (You may want to make a reservation if you plan to be there for lunch or high season 021/427-8134; they aren’t open for dinner).
Even in March we had a bit of a wait for a table and ate in the full service area. The daily specials depend entirely on what is available downstairs in the market. The food is so fresh and so fabulous, definately memorable. Doug enjoyed his Shepherd’s Pie, my mom raved about her Savory Tart and I wanted to bribe the chef for the Corned Beef with Mustard Parsley Sauce recipe. I have never had such tender corned beef and the sauce was so light… Absolutely wonderful.
The girls sampled bits of what we had and even with their help we were all too full to enjoy a dessert. We did, however, have enough room for a few chocolates from the shop at the bottom of the stairs.
Tip: The Farmgate Cafe is a member of GoodFoodIreland, which brings together Irish agriculture and tourism. The GoodFoodIreland website can lead you to great dining across the country.
When you gotta go: I only saw one public bathroom in the market and it was tucked back in a corner near a cheese vendor. If you enter through the center court go past the steps heading up to the Farmgate Cafe. Take a left and then a quick right. It’s not well marked. And have a 20 cent piece handy- it’ll cost you to open the door.
For your listening pleasure: This lovely documentary on RTE Radio 1 makes me not feel so bad about passing the entrances so many times- it seems it can be hard to find for many people!
Portions of this post were taken from the original post at my Family Rambling site.