I’ve had a sneaking fondness for the Crawford Art Gallery Café ever since I spent a Saturday working there while on the Ballymaloe Cookery Course and have returned several times since. The Husband and I were on a rare Saturday trip to Cork at the weekend, made all the hungrier for lunch by some cheese nibbling at our local Killavullen Farmers’ Market, courtesy of Gudrun at Fermoy Natural Cheese. Despite the crowds in the café, we got a table quickly, which was just as well as I had already spotted lamb’s liver on the menu.
Brought up in a house where liver and kidneys were a much-loved supper (I wouldn’t touch potatoes but put a plate of liver in front of me and there was no problem!), I’m always delighted to find it in a restaurant, especially as the Husband wouldn’t be an offal fan and we don’t have at home very often. Being more orientated towards seafood, he chose the Crab, Ginger and Coriander Tart (€10.95), which came accompanied with organic salad leaves, a couple of slices of tomato which actually tasted of tomato and some pickled cucumber. My beautifully seared liver, topped with a couple of crispy bacon slices and a rich, peppery gravy, came on two slices of buttered toast, accompanied by the same selection of salads (€12.95). It was a substantial plateful of food – perfectly cooked liver, still pink inside – the accompaniments ensuring a good contrast of texture and flavour and so good that the (liver-hating) Husband tried a piece and came back, several times, for more.
Despite the temptation of plates full of shortbread biscuits and orange cake on the counter, not to mention the homemade ice cream on the menu, there was only time for mains on this trip (our afternoon tea date was coming up soon in the Natural Foods Bakery) but, after a dish like that, I wasn’t left wanting too much more. When running at full speed, the Café can get noisy, especially if you’re sitting in the central area, but anyone familiar with the Ballymaloe ethos knows that you’re paying for what you’re getting – immaculately sourced, well-produced raw ingredients, cooked well. All that, and a whole gallery‘s worth of art to spend the afternoon exploring. Make sure you don’t miss the Harry Clarke room, right up at the top of the building.
Crawford Art Gallery Café, Emmet Place, Cork City. Ph: 021 4274415.