We are now taking bookings for small groups and parties during the coming Christmas period, Our three course seasonal menu, detailed here, is priced at €45 per person.
To book, call the restaurant on 021 4277939.
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For three years now we’ve been getting an amazing supply of chanterelles from said Mary. Mushrooms isn’t her real surname…
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For anyone who loves artichokes this is a window of opportunity to eat something truly rare – the fruit of a labour of love of an extraordinarily brilliant grower.
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Just in time for asparagus season, the one night special offer returns in May.
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Two months into our new opening hours, I’m happy to say that the 5.30pm start for dinner is proving to be a success, with a very positive response to our pre-theatre menus. I’m even happier to be able to say that we are about to re-open our Friday lunch service.
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Dinner and accomodation for €100, available until the end of March
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From the 20th January, there will be a couple of major changes to the opening hours in Cafe Paradiso.
For some time, there has been a demand for an earlier dinner sitting, which we simply haven’t been able to offer due to the pressure on the kitchen in the short time between the end of lunch and start of dinner. It takes two teams of chefs and floor staff to operate both lunch and dinner and the turnaround time is very tight.
Now, at the beginning of a new year that promises to be a tough one for the restaurant trade, we feel it is best to concentrate more on dinner, not only by opening earlier but also offering a pre-theatre menu. This menu will offer two and three course options at very reasonable prices.
To do this, we will be streamlining the operation of the business, effectively working with one team instead of two, and serving lunch only on Saturdays. Lunch in Paradiso down the years has become something of a Cork institution, and it has been a great pleasure for us as much as for you, the customers who kept it buzzing. It is with a fair amount of sadness that we are taking this decision. However, we are confident that it is the right path to take and that the service we offer will, if anything, be improved by a tighter focus and a wider range of options in the evening.
We hope that those of you who have been regular customers at lunch time will find the new dinner hours, menus and prices attractive and useful, and that we will be seeing you at the end of your day’s work instead of the middle. Saturday lunch will continue as before, in all its bustling, chatty glory.
So, from Tuesday 20th January, the new opening hours will be as follows –
Lunch, Saturday 12 noon – 3pm.
Dinner, Tuesday to Saturday, 5.30 – 10pm
Cafe Paradiso will be closing for a short break over christmas, after lunch service on Wednesday 24th, re-opening on Tuesday 30th. We will also be closed on Thursday 1st January 2009.
We would like to wish a very happy christmas to everyone who supped and dined – and stayed over and breakfasted too – with us in 2008. Despite the awful summer weather, it was a great year full of the sounds of people sharing a great time over lovely food. We look forward to doing it all again in 2009.
It’s October, the miserable summer is behind us and the pumpkin harvest is impressive, a fine collection of squash that should see us through the winter. Thank god, or more correctly Ultan, for that. As much as he loves Crowns, he’s experimented heavily with Hubbards this year, hoping they will give the same quality of dense pumpkin flesh with a better adaptation to the Irish climate. The man is never happy unless he’s pushing the possibilities a little harder.
But right now, and I don’t think it’s unconnected, my mind is buzzing coming home from an amazing gig that somehow made me think of kitchens, food and possibilities. Juana Molina, an Argentinian musician and singer, played to a small but enraptured audience in Cypress Avenue tonight. She was here two years ago, playing on her own, but this time she brought two musicians, a drummer and bass player, though those tags hardly describe their roles in augmenting her peculiar and deeply idiosyncratic approach to music-making.
Her ‘schtick’, as I read it described recently, is to build up loops of sounds from her guitar, keyboards and voice to create a complex pop music grounded in the Spanish/Latin tradition. Her recorded cds are impressive but you could mistake them for the work of a studio whizz. But to see her do it on stage is to witness a very brave soul who prepares only as little as possible beforehand and forces herself to create the magic of her art in front of her audience. Rarely relaxed and always working hard to make the connections, she communicates the thing she loves, making her art in public, the hard but incredibly rewarding way.
I’m making no analogy with Cafe P, we’re not that out there, though we do push it as far as we are able. But watching her create her weird, personal, but incredibly beautiful music on a stage 6,000 miles from home in front of 80 people, made me think about food and cooking dinner in a restaurant. As much as it might seem practical to be over-prepared, the magic is in the almost-chaotic cooking to order. Don’t pre-record that guitar riff, don’t plate up the starters and don’t blanch the greens. Both will come off with your own signature when you do it live. Yeah, it wrecks your head a bit at the time but you know too that you couldn’t do it as well under easier conditions. Maybe that’s why cooks often make good music and vice versa.
Thanks to the forty or so souls who sat through my demo at the Electric Picnic, especially as it was on at 6pm on Saturday when there were at least two bands playing that I would have payed the ticket price to see, not to mention the legendary Fossett’s circus. I missed ‘That Petrol Emotion’ to do that demo and given that there were about a dozen stages everyone sitting on log benches and mouldy sofas paying attention to a cookery demo is a testimony to the wonderful diversity of the festival. It was one of the most enjoyable gigs I’ve done, relaxed and fun and intense at the same time. The theme of mushrooms, rolling and smoking isn’t one you could do in many settings. I only wish I had remembered that I was miked up when I bent over to demonstrate the eating technique for eating ricepaper parcels by sucking the dip through the rolls. By all accounts, the sound effect was something like a small herd of swine at teatime.
For my sins, I got two passes for the weekend and the chance to see some amazing acts, some low-key like Teitur’s set on Saturday afternoon, and some big names doing their festival thing – Sigur Ros, Grace Jones, Elbow etc. But for me there were three unforgettable highlights – Faust tearing the place up with chainsaws, drills and live painting; the unbelievably cool Congos, whose album ‘Heart of the Congo’ kept my soul alive in the late seventies/early eighties – Maureen and I met them after the gig and it felt like being in the presence of evolved beings; and this guy, a Canadian poet who will make you laugh and cry at the same time – Shane Koyzcan
It might have been the wettest summer in living memory, but down in Gortnanain, Ultan and Lucy’s farm, one new development has been a great success. Ultan got into bees earlier this year. And when this man gets into something, he gets in deep. After a period of thinking that this was hobby too far, curiosity got the better of me and I donned a beekeeper suit too and went down to the corner of the field now known as the apiary. They say that the first time you approach 40,000 bees you either become obsessed or run away screaming. My heart was beating too fast but from the second I held the first ‘super’ of bees clinging to their summer’s work I knew I wanted to know more, do more with them, and ultimately have my own hive of bees. That’s for another day and we’ll have to wait to see if it develops into full blown obsession.
But for now, this honey season is over, the bees are hunkering down trying to keep warm, the few that will survive the winter at least. Last Friday, Ultan delivered a five kilo tub of honey to Paradiso, a bucket of shimmering, golden syrupy liquid, fragrant with the subtle hint of the wild flowers of hedgerows and clover.
What to do with it? I have a lot to learn about cooking with honey, and the thought process is the same as with any precious local ingredient – figuring out how to do more than merely use it, to give it a prominent role. We’ll start by drizzling it over the breakfast yoghurt & fruits, making dressings for the grilled figs, leaves and beetroot, spooning it over the blue cheese on the dessert menu. Deeper into the autumn, it will make fantastic glazes and sauces for root vegetable tagines and roasts. And privately, I’ll be bringing it to bed. There’s nothing quite like a honey hot whiskey and a good book. Any other suggestions?
If you’re going to the Electric Picnic at the end of this month, take a little time out from the pleasures offered by the likes of Faust, Sex Pistols and Sigur Ros to wander over to the food and cookery area where some of the best chefs in the country will be trying to stimulate other parts of your brain and body. I’ll be there on Saturday afternoon doing a demo, though I’m not sure yet exactly what I will be cooking. The Electric Picnic website says it will be comfort food and late night snacks, which is the first thing that came to mind when I was asked to do the gig. Now I’m thinking I’d like to do something with wild food, like the amazing chanterelles and samphire we’ve got on the menu in Paradiso at the moment. Or spuds – they could do with a day in the sun, given the blight-ridden summer we’ve endured. I will definitely be demonstrating the unique way of eating ricepaper parcels invented by a good friend recently, a dish that requires the always handy skill of a good rolling technique.
Whatever it turns out to be, I promise to send you home with an idea for something to sink into the couch with after the weekend. It’s my first Electric Picnic and I’m really excited about the combination of a little bit of work and a lot of fun. See you there – Saturday 6-7pm – just follow your nose.
And for god’s sake don’t miss Faust, even if you have to go hungry to see them.
Yes indeed, one of the most exciting musicians in the world has taken leave of us, suddenly, accidentally and way too soon. He may have been Swedish, he may have worked in the leftfield genre of European jazz piano, but he still managed to touch – no, not touch, he reached in, grabbed and shook up – the hearts of anyone who was lucky enough to see his live shows. The first time I saw him play with his trio was in the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork, to a tiny audience of the usual serious music heads nodding away, and he managed to make all of them smile, some of them tap their toes and a small few whoop uncontrollably. By the time he came back to the Cork Jazz Festival in the Everyman Palace, the audience was everything from tuned in classic fans to jazzheads to grungy youngsters in trousers twice their waist size, and the place was wired with the energy the band fired off the stage. That was Svensson’s gift – he played potentially obscure music with such ferocious passion that it burned into anyone in earshot. Or maybe he played a weird Scandinavian take on punk disguised as jazz. Who cares?
Now, this is a food blog, and I can’t say that Esbjorn inspired any particular dish or made me want to eat or cook. But the spirit of his music and the fiercely controlled passion of his playing were inspirational to the extent that you want to run out of the hall and somehow ‘become’ your potential. If that sounds daft, this is worse – his music has often been the closest thing to the sounds inside my head when I feel most comfortable with my self and my work. Listening to him, I can cook, love, drive and play hurling like I’m a minor god. In my world, that’s as good as music gets, and it always felt like he knew what he had and what he could do to you. By all accounts, he was a fine fellow too, and why wouldn’t you believe that?
If I knew how to make links of all the useful words in this blog, you would have noticed them by now. I did know, but I’ve forgotten. But go out and buy some Esbjorn Svensson Trio albums, aka EST. Start with ‘Seven ways of falling’ which has the only vocal track he ever did under his own name, hidden away at the end, words and vocal by one Josh Haden.
If we meet again
I´ll tell you how i feel
I´ll tell you from the start
I´ll tell you love is real
How everything we say
And everything we do
Has been preordained
To bring true love to you
Nothing else is pure
Nothing else is right
You will know for sure
Once you´ve seen the light
If we meet again
I´ll tell you how i feel
I´ll tell you love is real
Spring seems to take forever to arrive some years, or maybe that’s just an illusion of age. There have been teasing inklings for a while now – the sun battling harder against the north winds, and the daffodils around the Lough – but you can’t eat daffodils. it’s true we had an incredible crop of sprouting broccoli this year, both in quantity and quality. And I should really have written here to acknowledge the arrival of white, blanched seakale which Ultan grew and tended so carefully over the winter, and which we had on the menus for three weeks. Thankfully, someone else remarked on it by writing to Food & Wine magazine. It was a joy to be able to cook with it and, as the writer said, it would be great if more restaurants – and their suppliers – were to seek out this amazingly beautiful and subtle tasting gem of spring time.
Last week, however, we got our first delivery of Ultan’s asparagus. Three kilos to start with, then five more a few days later. This week, it will be more like 25kg so you’ll see it spread across the menus as they days and nights warm up. For me, asparagus is the most optimistic sign of spring and everything that will follow on from it. For anyone who only knows asparagus as a supermarket vegetable, the taste of the real thing, from a local source and freshly picked, is a revelation. It’s a pity that it’s not easy to find local asparagus as very few people produce it on a commercial scale. If you grow it at home, you’ll know how much tending and weeding an asparagus patch requires. Ultan keeps a quarter acre and both he and Lucy have spent many a day over the last nine months bent over in that patch to remove any competition that the plants might have from weeds. The result is the best asparagus I’ve ever tasted and it’s an honour to have it on the Paradiso menus.
From next week, all going well, we should also have enough to sell a few bunches from the small shop in the dining room, so you can take a bunch home after lunch or dinner and taste the difference in your own kitchen.
Regulars in Paradiso might be curious about the collection of old black and white photographs that have recently appeared on one wall of the dining room. It’s been a long time since there has been any change to those walls. In fact, the paint job is the original one, now almost fifteen years old, and is so multi-layered with different shades that we couldn’t re-do it even if we wanted to. And the decorative art boxes by Eoin Kelly that have been there almost as long suited the artist’s own wall-painting effort that the first exhibition became the last. Until last Sunday, the 27th April, that is. The photographs are of my mother, Kathleen Cotter, at various stages of her life, and they were put up to decorate the place for a very special dinner to celebrate her 80th birthday. Most of the shots are posed, and some are very formal, as was usually the case in a time when cameras were rare and film expensive. But they have a magic quality and a sense of a different era, which I hope resonates for more than immediate family.
Forty of her closest friends, family, neighbours, cousins and card-playing buddies turned up to honour the day with a small feast, which was a bit of challenge given that most of them had never been to Paradiso before. But they came with open minds and warm hearts for the day that was in it, and it turned out to be the most special evening ever in that room, especially for those who stayed late enough to hear the beautiful singing in the small hours.
Afterwards, I couldn’t bring myself to take the photographs down. Just for a week or two, I told myself, at least until my mother gets to see them again in the normal routine of a Paradiso lunch. Which should be this week…after that, we’ll see…maybe just another week…
Well, not quite Bandon, but Hosford’s Garden Centre on the road out of Bandon towards Clonakilty, where John Hosford has built a handsome new emporium housing everything a gardener could possibly need, with a damn fine cafe to boot where they serve local food, some of it grown in their own gardens. He was hosting the West Cork Slow Food for Kids event and I was asked to launch it, which must mean I haven’t been barred from town after the Guerrilla Gourmet event in Bandon mart. Now, my child rearing days are pretty much behind me, what with my two boys being grown and just-about-nearly grown, as well as the recent intervention of the good Dr. Pillay. But the issue of what and how children eat is a very important element of our food culture and I was delighted to have the chance to make a contribution to a day that was designed to be a combination of fun and education.
One of the things that was on my mind on the drive out of Cork was the tendency that has developed to separate children’s meals from adult meals. The recent announcement of the hotel federation that they werre going to do away with the kid’s menu of chicken nuggets, sausages and chips was heartening, and I began to wonder if it wasn’t something we needed to do at home too. When I was a child, everyone ate the same -relatively simple – food, though allowances were made for things kids couldn’t face, like parsnips or the tongues of beasts of the field. Now, as we graze off the global menu, it seems we often assume the children won’t like it and feed them from the Delia Smith ABC book. Hang on, she hasn’t done that one yet, has she?
The day was bitterly cold but the bright sun was enough to encourage the stallholders, puppeteers and trad musicians to carry on, even through the single shower of hail that brought my meandering speech to a sudden halt. Phew, said the kids, and we ran inside one of the polytunnels to start a cookery demonstration. In a tiny space in front of about thirty adults, almost twenty kids crowded up the front close to the wooden table where I had a wok and a sandwich oven to work with. We made some fritters from celeriac, though when I held up the raw vegetable the adults admitted they wouldn’t expect their children to eat it and the kids said they wouldn’t want to. Nevertheless, they gobbled up the cooked fritters as fast as I could make them. Then we made what is unpretentiously known as the best cheese on toast in the world. When I told the kids that I was chopping the wild garlic, rocket and spinach so small so they couldn’t pick it out, they were intrigued as much as horrified. Yes, they gobbled it too. Then they made a sloppy mess of trying to eat the noodles with sprouting broccolli, carrot, coconut, lime and ginger with the few forks we had, and out of one serving bowl. I’d like to think it was the highlight of the afternoon but Peter Fitzgerald’s talk and demonstration of a functioning wormery stole the show for compulsive disgust, or disgusting compulsion. How many worms are in there? A couple of thousand? Uggghhh. Child heaven.
Before I left, I had a bowl of Olive Brennan’s fabulous lentil and roasted pepper soup. Then I caught the last few minutes of the puppet show, from off on the side where I could see the puppeteers. Isn’t that Mick Lynch with his hand up the big-nosed puppet, I thought, he of the legendary Cork band, Stump, the man who penned the immortal line ‘Charlton Heston put his vest on’? Indeed it was. Lucky kids. I got in my car and the radio came on, with the news that Charlton Heston had just died. Time for a Stump revival, maybe.
Some disappointing news just in from Loosehorse Productions, the tv company that made the Guerrilla Gourmet series – RTE, who are screening the series, have just informed the company today that they are moving the show from the original Friday night slot to Tuesday nights. That means that the show featuring our escapades at Bandon Mart will not be on tomorrow night but will be shown on Tuesday 29th January instead.
The reason given is that ITV / TV3 will be screening two episodes of the Manchester soap, Coronation Street, on Fridays and RTE are scared to put anything on at the same time. Maybe an old re-run of Magnum PI, but nothing they’ve paid money for. God help us, what’s the country come to?
It’s disappointing news because of all the positive publicity about the Guerrilla Gourmet show in the past week, which was generated by a very effective Loosehorse campaign. There was quite a buzz of expectation and excitement around the show, with a lot of people who are not Corrie fans looking forward to some entertaining home-produced television. Oh well, at least it means my mother can go to her bridge tournament, the lads down in Bandon can get the milking done, and I can make that poker game…
Do try to catch the show when it goes out, it is a good story about a very rewarding and worthwhile event. And feel free to let me know what you think of it too.
Cafe Paradiso and Paradiso Rooms will be closed from Sunday 23rd December to Thursday 27th inclusive. We will then be open for lunch and dinner, as well as bed & breakfast, on Friday 28th and Saturday 29th.
Over the New Year, we will be closed Sunday 30th December to Tuesday 1st January inclusive, returning to normal service on Wednesday 2nd January.
Happy Christmas and New Year to everyone. Take it easy now.
Watch out for this short series starting on RTE television in early January 2008. It’s called ‘Guerrilla Gourmet’, and each programme involves a restaurant chef doing his/her thing in an unusual setting or simply doing something you might not expect them to do. I’ve just finished an exhausting but very rewarding week of filming. When I was first approached about it, an idea came out of my mouth before I had really thought it through. To be honest, I didn’t really think it would ever happen, another of those interesting projects that never get off the ground but are fun to talk about. Well, it did happen and it turned out to be an amazing experience for everyone involved. The idea was for me, a vegetarian chef, to cook a dinner in Bandon cattle mart and, what’s more, to convince some of the farmers and dealers who use the place to come and try the food. I don’t even own a television and I would have plenty of negative things to say about most of the stuff produced for tv, but you have to admire the sheer neck and fearlessness of people who listen to a proposal like that and then say, yeah, sure, we can make that happen.
We spent a couple of days at the mart sales, learning about what goes on there and talking to some of the men – and one woman – bringing stock to sell or hoping to take a few beasts home. I was impressed by their good humour when they might have told me to take a flying jump, as well as by their open-minded curiosity which was enough to get a crowd of 40 diners signed up for the event. I told them that the menu would be based on traditional ingredients, locally sourced, the stuff we’re all familiar with: cabbage, turnips, carrots, brussels sprouts, parsnips, apples and pears. And that it would be in a way that they wouldn’t recognise either in terms of flavour or appearance…and that there would be no meat. In fairness, most who said they wouldn’t be interested in such a daft meal said it with humour, sometimes with a little pity for the crazy man who would even imagine it was possible. The ones who came along did it in a very generous spirit of fun. Sure, what else would you be doing on a cold Monday night in Bandon?
This is in stark contrast to the reaction I got when I had earlier addressed a meeting of the IFA in Mallow in north Cork, hoping to drum up some business. Hostile and fearful would be a fair description of the mood in the room, and it left me quite taken aback until I began to think about the difference between the people north and south of the Cork-Macroom road. That could make a documentary in itself one day.
In one day, a restaurant was built inside an old disused building full of holding pens, and I mean a complete restaurant – kitchen and dining room, from stoves and ovens right down to tablecloths, candles and fine glassware. That evening, we – Johan, Glory and me – served up a four course meal to the forty brave souls. The room looked beautiful, the contrast between the formal table settings and the ivy-covered stone walls and the cattle pens giving the place a slightly surreal air that definitely added to the incredible buzz that everyone got from the evening. I swear, and this is not a boast because it’s not only a result of the food, that by the end people were high from the euphoria of the pleasure they had allowed themselves. In the sales ring afterwards, a one-man-band played a few Walls of Limerick or the like, finishing with a fine version of Mount Massey the Flower of Macroom, which had everyone waltzing around on the straw in a blissfully happy state.
I don’t know if this will make good television, but cameras or no cameras, it was a hugely worthwhile event that will be remembered for a long time by everyone there. It might not be enough to tempt me to get a tv again, but hats off to the people who made it possible. And a big thank you to Pat McCarthy of Bandon Mart for having the courage to see the potential good in it.
Thanks to everyone who turned up for the launch party of ‘wild garlic, gooseberries and me’ in Cafe Paradiso on Monday night. The place was electric, bordering on chaotic, as a decent party should be, and the sense of goodwill in the air was very moving. I hope everyone managed to get a few bites of food…I know you certainly got enough to drink. The afters in Reidy’s was a lovely, relaxing way to wind down. Credit too to the Paradiso staff who got up next day to do breakfast, lunch and dinner as though they’d been out for a spot of tea and biscuits the night before.