Café Paradiso – Om nom nom
By the end of this article you’ll probably think I’m paid by Café Paradiso to write this, as I genuinely haven’t had such a good experience in an eating establishment ever before. If you’d like a concise review that doesn’t rant and rave, you can skip to the end – I’ve provided a handy one sentence review. I’ve become a frequent visitor to the Cork City restaurant since I started fraternising with a vegetarian lady, but since I moved to the Big Schmoke it’s become that bit more of a trek to dine there. The 2nd last time I made the visit, we stayed in a hotel nearby as their accommodation was full, this time however, my lovely woman’s birthday was approaching so I had the foresight to book the room right above the restaurant, and book us in for dinner that evening
Now, I am what some might call “awkward” when it comes to dining. It’s not that I’m deliberately awkward – it’s simply that my body and tastebuds have a lifelong disagreement. I’m a coeliac, and have the wonderful misfortune of also being violently allergic to eggs-not exactly the ideal dining companion. However, I’m a good sport about it all, and will usually try and be nice through gritted teeth to ignorant wait-staff asking me if I can eat cream or offering me bread with my coeliac friendly soup (for the record, it’s just wheat, oats, barley and rye I can’t eat).
In Café Paradiso, no such long winded explanations are necessary. While some restaurants will simply point you in the direction of a dull mixed salad, and others will remove offending items, Denis Cotter and his team at Paradiso will go out of their way to provide alternatives, and adjust their dishes to suit those with special dietary needs
I ordered deep fried squash flowers with Knockalara sheep’s cheese and capers stuffing covered in a beautiful sauce. I’m unsure as to what sauce ended up on mine as they made a different one to the sauce on the menu, but whatever it was, it was DELISH. The squash flowers were fried in a special corn flour based batter for me, and I have never tasted batter so delightfully light and exquisitely tender. The cheese and caper filling was soft and perfectly cooked, with no unpleasant lumpiness or mismatch of flavours. My girlfriend ordered the roast baby aubergine with chilli, honey and cardamom marinade – I was lucky enough to be able to eat this also, so we mixed and matched our starters. The flavour of this dish was just right, with no overpowering sweetness weighing down the starter.
Our starter portions were perfect, with us left satisfied but still eagerly looking forward to our mains.
For our main course my partner ordered sweet chilli-glazed panfried tofu with asian greens in a coconut & lemongrass broth, soba noodles (just so I couldn’t steal any! – she told me I could leave that in) and a gingered aduki bean wonton, a dish I had enjoyed in a previous visit, for which they replaced the soba noodles with rice noodles and made an alternative wheat-free wonton.
The flavour and texture of the tofu in this dish is unlike anything I’ve ever eaten. I’m not a vegetarian, but if all veggie food tasted like that tofu I would gladly give up meat. It is succulent, and full of flavour. The trick is apparently all in the marinade, and I shall be experimenting myself at home with tofu to try and achieve it. The coconut broth provides a lovely soothing panacea for the searingly spicy tofu, the noodles give a wonderful chewiness and bulk to the dish and the pakchoi offer a freshness of flavour that round out the dish. This is a wonderful meal, and the next time we visit it’ll be my turn to get it!
I ordered the braised chard timbale of roast tomato, haloumi & puy lentils with new potatoes, saffron-hazelnut butter and green beans, after which I scraped the plate clean. The wonderful softness of the timbale and its precious treasure within combined wonderfully with the perfectly cooked potatoes and the gentle sauce drizzed over them. I will add that I usually would never eat puy lentils in a fit. The restaurant has a knack of making you eat food you ordinarily would never enjoy and making you LOVE it. I’ve tried so many vegetables and herbs and types of food in there because I trust them to make the adventure and the risk worth it. The quality and the tenderness shown towards food, and each customers’ needs is extra-ordinary.
For our final course, I was given a dessert not featured on the menu, specially made for my delicate digestive system. I was lucky enough to be given a greengate plum crumble with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. The perfect sweetness of the crumble balanced the slight bitterness of the plums, and once again I almost licked my plate clean. My dessert sceptic ladyfriend ordered a fig cheesecake, and the verdict was a huge thumbs up.
We stayed the night in the café paradiso accommodation just upstairs, and the fact that in previous visits the owners and staff have been very gay friendly and unobtrusive was a huge factor for me in deciding to stay there. The room was huge, with a double bed, couch, CD player and 3 huge wonderful windows facing out over Washington Street and looking towards the river. This is where one minor disadvantage comes into play. While I could sleep on a clothesline while World War 3 raged around me, my girlfriend found the noise from the street outside a bit of a disturbance. I was notified of this as I booked it, and I genuinely did not find this to be too much of a problem, however very light sleepers may have an issue with it. Free teas, coffees, water and some chocolates were provided with the only chargeable item in the mini fridge being the wine. We also received these amazing little spicy cashews nuts which I’m now obsessed with, I literally could eat plates of them. The bathroom was huge, with double sinks, and showerheads for an invigorating morning wake-up shower.
The breakfast provided for the next morning as part of the package consisted of bread, crackers, natural yoghurt mixed with sweet strawberries, some hot and sweet pepper jam, bluebell goats cheese and orange juice all presented in a picnic basket brought to the room while we were at dinner. Gluten and egg free alternatives were provided for the bread and crackers. The restaurant is closed on Sundays, so breakfast in the room is provided. Midweek and Saturdays the breakfast is in the restaurant dining area.
Overall the accommodation was comfortable, smartly decorated, very spacious and the staff working there were friendly and chatty while being respectful and allowing privacy both in the accommodation and at dinner.
The staff in the restaurant are well informed and seem to love the food in the restaurant also – when asked for recommendations, they were happy to give them. They’re attentive while not being invasive, and service is quick considering the complexity of the dishes and how full the restaurant always is, especially on weekends.
I simply cannot wait for our next trip there.
In terms of pricing, the restaurant is slightly expensive, but absolutely 100% worth the extra cost for the quality of food.
For the package we received, it was 100 euro each, for dinner, bed and breakfast for one night. There are other packages available and you can find out about these both on their website:
or by calling them on
021 – 427 7939
In summary: Om nom nom nom zzzzzzzzzz Om nom nom nom nom
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