Ten years on – and eating around Cork: The Castle, L’Atitude 51° and Gort na Nain

Slow cooked ham salad at The Castle cafe and restaurant, Blackrock Cafe, Cork

Slow cooked ham salad at The Castle

Early morning, 31 December 2001.

That was the moment when I made a decision that set my life on a totally new path.

Rather than go home, as planned, to hang out with the Small Sister and Brother for New Years Eve, I made a spur of the moment phone call and headed for Cork to stay with the Sports Editor. As it turned out, he was also expecting a few more visitors: an Englishman, a Scotsman – and a Kiwi.

Ten years later, that impromptu trip has had many consequences.

What may have started as a brief fling – he lived in Cambridge at the time and was planning a five-month overland trip home to New Zealand – resulted in a Boyfriend, who subsequently became the Husband. We left our city lives for a country cottage, complete with hens, cats and a half-acre garden. Along the way, we acquired two gorgeous girls, an engineer became a brewer – and we’ve eaten a hell of a lot of good food.

On Friday, with Little Missy on holidays at her grandparents’ place and the Small Girl packed in the Eight Degrees van with us, we embarked on a food-orientated anniversary trip, in and around the city where it all started.

Badger and Dodo coffee at L’Atitude51° wine bar, Cork

Time for coffee and newspaper

Lunch was at The Castle, a buzzy café and restaurant located at Cork’s Blackrock Castle. Shreds of the sweetest, twice-cooked ham hock lifted my salad above the ordinary but the Husband’s (jealously guarded) fish and chips won the most-enviable-dish award in our corner, inspiring a neighbouring table to call for the lunch menu.

I postponed my caffeine fix until we got to L’Atitude 51°, a new wine bar in the old Lobby Bar/An Cruibin location. Badger & Dodo is the coffee on offer, the unusual sweet somethings on the counter come from their own French-orientated kitchen (I couldn’t justify a chocolate madeleine – but oh, how I wanted to!) and there are always plenty of newspapers during feeding time for the Small Girl.

Gnocchi with brussels sprouts and broccoli at Gort na Nain

Tender little gnocchi with Gort na Nain-grown vegetables

Rather than stress about juggling a Small Girl and restaurant dinner, we took the easy option and headed to our favourite guesthouse. We’re unashamed fans of Gort na Nain, returning year after year for the restaurant-standard food in an informal setting, comfortable rooms and, always, great company and conversation. Pick of our three course meal? The starter of juicy, delicate scorzonera – a new vegetable for me – which was served with beetroot and salad leaves, drizzled with a delicious creamy dressing.

After a relaxed breakfast of Lucy’s unbeatable chestnut sausages (recipe in Denis Cotter’s latest cookbook, For The Love of Food, although always best eaten at Gort na Nain), pots of coffee, homemade jams and honey from the farm, it was time for a walk.

We headed, in reminiscent mode, to Garretstown Beach where we had walked together for the first time on 1 January 2002. It might have been a day early, but it felt like we had come full circle. Ten years on, and we’re just getting started.



Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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17 Responses

  1. Joanne says:

    Absolutely love your story about your Kiwi man. I think that you’ve both had amazing success (through hard work!) and I wish you even more for the future.

    • Caroline Caroline says:

      You’re right about the hard work, Joanne. 2011 had plenty of that but we’ve come out at the end with the Small Girl, more space at the cottage for us all – and a brewery. Phew! Not a bad result all round.

  2. I can’t believe we already have 2012. Somehow I still think is 2000. It seems like you had good 10 years, I hope the next 10 years will be even better.

    • Caroline Caroline says:

      It gave me a bit of a shock when I realised that we were together 10 years! Time flies when you’re spending time in NZ/getting married/moving from the big smoke/getting stuck into cottage life/going to Ballymaloe/having two kids/setting up a brewery. Phew…hope the next 10 years aren’t quite so madly busy.

  3. Mary Littlefoot says:

    Aw I remember it like it was yesterday! Reading it again brought a tear to my eye. Very sweet post. Happy anniversary you guys! Xx

    • Caroline Caroline says:

      And weren’t you there on the walks to work when the story all started? You heard plenty about the Kiwi! Glad to see that you still remember your Indian name too. Caroline Wronghead

  4. What a lovely story, full of romantic (and foodie) memories!

  5. Catherine says:

    Ahhh, the romance!

    Looks like I’ll have to pay another visit to Cork city very soon, too – great to see the Lobby/Cruibin space in use again.

    • Caroline Caroline says:

      At least the fact that it was NYE makes it easy to remember!

      It’s lovely to have the Lobby/Cruibin corner being used again. L’Atitude 51° is a very chilled out spot and, when I was in there, I saw some lovely looking leek soup being eaten. Worth checking out for lunch sometime soon.

  6. Caroline! We went to the Blackrock Castle Observatory this weekend for the first time and afterwards nipped into the Castle Cafe which looks lovely for dinner as well….really lovely, warm ambience!! Even spied a case of 8 Degrees sitting on a chair. Looking forward to returning. Happy New Year to you all! xx

    • Caroline Caroline says:

      It seems to draw lots of people in. Bumped into one of my former Urru Mallow customers there – food-lovers always gravitate to something good! May 2012 be good to you, Imen. Lots of fun in store!

  7. Lovely memories for you both! Here’s to the next 10!

    Happy New Year to you both and the girls!


    • Caroline Caroline says:

      If we managed to survived the last year, I think we’ll be able for anything. Will be interesting to look back in 2022!

  8. Catherine says:

    This post has the tingle factor. Amor omnia vincit…love conquers everything.

    What ever you’re doing right, keep doing it!

  9. Martin says:

    Just missed you again! We had lunch in the Castle on Saturday ! And I had the fish and chips, best cod ever,

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