In recent times, what with all the problems of rising costs and staff shortages, we’ve seen a number of restaurants deciding to fold their tents, and it really is a shame. These are all creative, hard-working people and hopefully they’ll reappear in due course. That said, it’s not all doom and gloom, because restaurants are also opening apace. Indeed, in the past few weeks, I’ve struggled to decide which new spot to review next.
This week’s offering involved a whip down the M8 to Cork, to Paladar, a Latin American-style cocktail bar and restaurant on Bridge Street. Being the little sibling of one of Cork’s best bars, it naturally piqued my interest. Its big brother, Cask, is just around the corner on MacCurtain Street and operates under the umbrella of Richard Evans’ Hotel Isaacs.
With a stunning setting, Cask hit the ground running back in 2017, with Andy Ferreira at the helm creating amazing cocktails and the then head chef, Bryan McCarthy, complementing them with spectacular small plates.
McCarthy, now based in London, is a terrific chef who should have had a Michelin star during his time in the hotel’s Greenes Restaurant — another omission by the rubber-tyre brigade — and which must’ve been disappointing for him, particularly when four other newcomers in the Rebel County over the course of those years got the coveted stars. The head chef in Greenes nowadays is Veronica Ozores and she is keeping the standard up.
McCarthy wasn’t the only star, however, with Ferreira’s cocktails proving so popular, he and Richard Evans have now opened Paladar.
We whizzed up in a taxi on what was its first Saturday opening, making it in by the skin of our teeth before the place was descended upon.
Cocktails were being shaken, a foot-tapping bossa nova was playing, and you could disappear into one of the snug side booths facing the bar and stay there forever. A delightful, smiling waiter arrived quickly to our table with an enticing cocktail list of ‘Classic’ and ‘House’ cocktails — all at €13.
Tropical Itch sounded great, with Dingle Vodka, Bacardi 4 Rum, Myers Rum, mango, lime and Angostura Bitters, as did Funky Kingston with Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum, Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum, Campari, strawberry and a house vermouth blend.
However, wanting to make it back to the fabulous Imperial Hotel, where we were staying, without falling on my face, I went for an old favourite, a great Caipirinha of Fuba Cachaca, with lime and sugar, while my friend Mary had a non-alcoholic Mojito (€8.50).
‘Snacks’ (€4.50-€8.50) and ‘Small Plates’ (€11-€16) were really snazzy, exactly what we want nowadays, and delivered promptly. Naturally, there was tequila-flavoured butter with your bread. What else? Pao de queijo was traditional Brazilian cheese bread with pulled pork, pickles and scallions; while anticuchos were smoked beef skewers with corn salsa and garlic oil.
Cerdo con papas – slow-cooked pork belly and potatoes — with molasses glaze and spiced avocado winked at us, as did moqueca — pan-fried fish with a rich moqueca spicy sauce.
Also on the menu was an old favourite, ceviche — citrus-marinated fish, with leche de tigre, sweet potato and spiced avocado.
In the end, Mary really fancied the deep-fried empanada (€8), a long, tasty roll filled with minced beef, olives and eggs, served with a Cuban salsa creola and jalapeno aioli, which we cut into pieces to share. We also had nuestra guacamole (€8.50) — mashed avocado served with sour cream, pico de gallo and fantastic light and crispy gluten-free cassava crackers.
Sides were available at €5-€5.50 — baked potatoes served with salsa verde; fries with jalapeno aioli; broccoli with dende farofa (cassava meal); or ajo blanco (white gazpacho).
We passed on desserts (€8-€8.50). There was pina colada — spiced pineapple, rum, coconut espuma and desiccated shaved coconut; or banana tart with dark chocolate, banana and white chocolate sauce. With service, our bill came to €42.50. Hasta la vista!
Paladar, 6 Bridge Street, Cork. Tel: (021) 229-0045, paladar.ie