The second-largest city in Ireland, Cork is a city steeped in history. It is impossible to discuss Ireland without bringing up Cork, and not to visit Cork if you are ever in Ireland. The city center is nestled between two channels and the old, imposing walls of the city are still visible. Whether you are in Cork to see the sights, do a little shopping in the city center, or just stopping by, you will want to visit at least one of the magnificent dining options available in the city. Cork is a city blessed with one of the biggest natural harbours in the world and a running theme on this list will be the commitment of each of the restaurants to put local produce on a pedestal and make a point of incorporating it as much into their dishes as is feasible. The same goes for restaurants serving up international cuisines as well.
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The diverse set of meal options on offer at this award-winning restaurant appeals to a broad range of customers but the quality of its food and service is what keeps customers returning to it over and over again. The flagship restaurant of the Market Lane Group (you will come across them later in this list), Market lane opened in 2007. It is a cozy restaurant with traditional decor, something that has become a rarity in Ireland. The restaurant is founded on the ideal of the iconic, bustling English Markets and uses fresh seasonal produce whenever possible. You will be hard-pressed to find someone that leaves Market Lane without a yearning to return whenever possible.
Remember when we told you that the Market Lane Group will be making another appearance on this list. Recognized among Ireland’s Top 100 Restaurants by McKenna’s Guide in the Sunday Times, this small seafood restaurant nestled in the heart of the bustling city is the second Market Lane Group inclusion in this list (yet more to come). You can often find the restaurant serving up the most delicious salmon, halibut, oysters, and other seafood but the most intriguing aspect of Goldie is that its menu changes based on the fresh fish available any given day. The quality of the food and service leads to reviews such as “… some of the best, most intriguing and dynamic Irish food” from the McKenna’s Guide. If you are looking for a family outing, kids eat for free on the first Wednesday of every month.
Liberty Grill serves up some of the best breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and brunches in Cork. Its calling card is definitely the New England-inspired all-day brunches that feature eggs Benedict and French Toast but the burgers, salads, and steaks you can find on the lunch and dinner menus are just as amazing. The small restaurant does tend to get busy at times but you can simply join the virtual queue that Liberty Grill offers and go about your day until you are informed that your table is ready. It will definitely be worth the wait. Costumers rave about their steak sandwiches, chicken wings, lamb burgers, and chicken burgers so you are definitely spoiled for choice at the Liberty Grill.
quinlan's seafood bar cork
Quinlan’s is a family-owned restaurant built on the legacy of the world-renowned seafood shop the family has been running since 1963. It now has seafood shops and bars all across Ireland but their restaurant in Cork may just be the best of the bunch. If you end up visiting Quinlans, make sure you try the incredible salmon on which the Quinlans reputation is based on. Add in their special batter and you are for some of the best seafood you ever tried. The dishes are topped off with mouthwateringly fresh chips with their potatoes peeled and chopped every day. Its customers also rave about their lemon tarts so it might be worth your while to check out what all the fuss is about.
This Michelin Plate innovative restaurant has a modern, creative air to it. The restaurant recognizes the uniqueness of locally sourced ingredients available in Cork and makes it a point to incorporate them into their dishes as much as possible. Committed to pursuing innovation while also paying homage to tradition, Greenes has become a staple of Cork. While the kitchen is preparing some of the most unique dishes you have ever tasted, a front of house with over 20 years of industry experience will work diligently to make sure that your dining experience is as pleasant as possible. Be sure to indulge in one of the wide selection of fine wines while you are there.
The glass curtain
Located at the site of one of the most historic bakeries in Cork, the Glass Curtain takes its name from the alleged nickname given to the famous bakery for its unique glass storefront. The restaurant works with farmers, butchers, cheesemakers, fishmongers, brewers, and distilleries in and around Cork to offer some of the freshest and best quality dishes you will ever taste. If you are looking for fine dining in Cork, there is no need to look further than the Glass Curtain. For the best experience, reserve a table at the window and watch the sun slowly set on the magnificent city. This is one of the pricier options on this list but it is well worth it.
The Michelin star Japanese restaurant is brought to you by Takashi Miyazaki, who decided to open the restaurant after three years of serving up the best Japanese takeaway in Cork. The chef uses his skills to prepare the most amazing Japanese dishes by combining fresh local products with techniques etched in Japanese tradition. The dark setting establishes an air of mystique and elegance to top off your experience. If you can, get hold of one of the seats on the counter that gives you a close-up at the miraculous preparation process. Everything is accompanied by the finest sake chosen by chef Miyazaki himself. As far as Japanese cuisine goes, no restaurant in Cork tops Ichigo Ichie.
elbow lane brew and smoke house
Run by the Market Lane group, the Elbow Lane received the prestigious TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award in 2020 and was rated as the best restaurant in Cork on TripAdvisor. Not convinced? It was also made the Top 100 Restaurants by McKenna’s Guide in the Sunday Times, and the 101 Great Irish Restaurants by the Sunday Business Post in 2018. Elbow Lane combines exciting food and drinks with an amazing atmosphere that will make your visit a memorable experience. One of the main reasons that Elbow Lane is held in such high esteem is the fact that the restaurant scours through the entirety of Ireland to find the freshest and best quality produce. Make sure you test out their in-house Elbow Lane Beers. If you want to try your hand at replicating the meal, be sure to grab their award-winning smokehouse sauce and the dry rub.
orso kitchen and bar
The fact that four of the five Market Lane Group restaurants in Cork are included in this list speaks to the commitment of the group to providing excellent dining. The final restaurant of the chain, the Castle Café could have easily been included in this list as well. Located near the General Post Office, Orso is one of the best places to take a break from shopping in the busy Cork City Center. It is a small Persian eatery fit for take-out and dining in. Start your day on the right side with a unique traditional Lebanese breakfast, enjoy a quick bite during lunch, or settle in for a nice dinner. If you are as obsessed with coffee as Orso is, make sure you sign up for one of the Barista classes.
This restaurant that brings Asian street food to Cork opened its doors in 2017 and has quickly become one of the most reputable restaurants in the city. Koto offers a wide range of your favorite Asian dishes from teriyaki chicken to Thai curry in the traditional manner. It also takes immense pride in only using locally sourced ingredients and the fact that its food is made to order means that the majority of the food can be prepared to meet any dietary needs. The quaint, relaxing atmosphere of the restaurant fits well with its mantra of “Good food with no fuss”. Simply order one of your favorite Asian dishes alongside a good glass of wine or beer, and let the Koto team take care of the rest for you. Another added advantage is that your trip to Koto will not break your wallet.
Lieze Neven is a globetrotting travel writer and expat currently based in Nepal. With a passion for exploration, she has lived in Dubai, the UK, and Belgium, alongside her international teacher husband. Her parents live in France and she tries to visit Paris at least once a year. Together, they travel the world looking for the best hotels, experiences and food locations have to offer!