23 Oliver Plunkett Street
Phone: 021 427 7387
In essence, quite simply one of the best places to eat in Cork. Jacques does not stand on ceremony; it is all about the food (always confident, sometimes classic, sometimes inventive) and a wine list born of knowledge and enthusiasm. Oh, and there’s sherry.
Jacques - which is pronounced Jack's, not in the French manner - is one of those restaurants that has been around for quite a while, always reinventing itself and adapting to the times in which we live.
It’s a place to which I return, again and again, Indeed, after I had abandoned lunch in another Cork restaurant (because the food was awful and the service worse) I repaired to Jacques because I knew exactly how it would perform.
Jacques, in a a sense, is as constant as the Northern star. And I mean in terms of the warmth of the welcome, the cosetting, the quality of the food, the always changing wine list that shows genuine interest.
The food is simple. And when I say something like that I always run the risk of people assuming that this means, in some strange way, that it amounts solely to the dreaded meat and three veg. No, not at all. When I say simple I mean stripped down, uncomplicated, wthout the fussy frills and bells and whistles which seem to impress some people (the kind of people who get excited about eating kangaroo and crocodile while ignoring the brilliant local produce that is happening on their own doorsteps).
There is a vast gulf between "simple" and "bog standard", which is something that is readily understood by so many of our European neighbours but not so easily in this little land of milk and honey of ours.
Jacques has moved with the times without embracing every passing fad and fashion. Remember when no savoury dish was complete without a slice of kiwi or, later, star fruit? And when nouvelle cuisine dictated that every main course should fit comfortably on to the average postage stamp? And when Le Piat d'Or had to be on the wine list in Patrick Guilbaud's because.... well, because a lot of the customers had not ventured any further in those days.
I like the fact that the food at Jacques is subtly informed by pan-Asian influences without diving in to the surprisingly still, relatively fashionable notions of so-called fusion cuisine, which would be so much more aptly dubbed confusion.
I love the vast salads at lunchtime, the tranches of proper ham cut from the bone, the homemade piccallili, the excellent bread. I love the tapas (some of them with a clever Irish twist) of an evening, served with proper sherry
Jack McCarthy’s black pudding combined with mustard and apples and a few slivers of cornichon is fusion, Jacques style.
Lamb's liver is not seen often enough on Irish menus. Here it is simply pan-fried. The pan de-glazed with a little white wine, I think, and the resulting juices seasoned with pepper, salt and a little fresh thyme.
Jacques is run by people (Jacqueline and Eithne Barry) who understand food, who have long embraced Escoffier’s principle of faites simple and who have the sensitivity and judgement to draw from many influences to produce menus that are very much their own.