48 MacCurtain Street
Cork City
Phone: 021 455 2279

Easy to miss, Greenes has been reborn as a very sophisticated restaurant, rooted in a sense of place and with the added bonus of a genuine waterfall outside its door in the city centre.

There was a time when Greenes was rather dowdy and down-at-heel, but that all changed with the arrival of chef Bryan MacCarthy. The first I knew about his arrival was when he organised a foraging expedition followed by lunch for food writers. Now, that’s my kind of chef.

I didn’t make it to that event but news of Greenes’ renaissance continued to reach me in my outpost and I liked what I heard so much that I soon made plans to repair there, equipped with an appetite and a sense of interest (and a modest budget, because Greenes offers exceptional value for money).

Bryan MacCarthy’s cooking is elaborate, delicate, classical and it has something of a French accent. This is far from bistro food, indeed it comes under the heading of – and it’s not a phrase that I like, but what the hell – fine dining. It’s the very definition of what you don’t even attempt at home, there’s equal emphasis on provenance, preparation, cooking and presentation. It’s the kind of food that makes you order a dearer bottle of wine than usual, out of pure respect.

I wince, once again, to use the phrase, but where else do you get “fine dining” in Cork, Ireland’s most culinarily conservative city (and this despite being surrounded by an ocean of the finest fresh produce in the entire country)? Leaving aside a brief outbreak at the short-lived and now lamented Augustine’s, you have to delve back as far as the Arbutus Lodge, in the days before Declan Ryan decided to sell up and become a (fabulous) baker.

And it’s not just the food at Greenes that operates at this level; the style of the restaurant itself is quite formal and the crisp linen and excellent, attentive service has a pleasant, old-fashioned charm. The whole thing, from the cooking to the ambience is rooted in sound, well established values.

Yes, there are plenty of modern flourishes, but nothing silly. To reference Curnonksy, as I probably do more often that I should, Bryan MacCarthy’s way with food involves making the various elements taste more intensely of themselves than we normally have a right to expect. And there is more to this alchemy than merely sourcing, as he does, the best local produce, most of it organically produced. What exactly it is, I can’t say, and that’s the measure of a very serious chef.

A word of warning. Greenes is easy to miss. It’s tucked away just off one of the main thoroughfares of the northern city centre. It’s not the most fashionable part of town so you may not stumble upon it. Make a plan and make Greenes your destination.

There’s a waterfall – a genuine, real waterfall, not one powered by an electric pump – right outside and if the weather is sufficiently balmy you can eat beside it, or at least have an aperitif there. And there’s a regular supper club, which is well worth inquiring about.