Son of a Bun
29 MacCurtain Street
Phone: 021 450 8738

Irish Daily Mail
7 November 2015

I think a pattern is starting to emerge. Last week I wrote, in passing, about chicken wings and now, once again, they crop up in the course of a culinary adventure in Cork.

It’s just that when Buffalo wings (they were dreamed up in Buffalo, New York), appear on a menu, I feel obliged to try them. This is because the perfect wing is both delightful and elusive.

I’m happy to report that the wings at Son of a Bun are very good, crisp yet moist and tender, nicely spiced. This is Cork’s newest restaurant, a big brash one on MacCurtain Street that goes for the post-industrial chic look (bare bricks, recycled timber, that kind of thing).

When it opened a few weeks ago there was much talk of it being the first place in Ireland to be “approved” by the Food Safety Authority for serving burgers that are pink in the middle, i.e. somewhat underdone. It has since been pointed out that the Authority doesn’t “approve” anything of the kind but they worked closely with the restaurant in order to minimise the risk of eating such burgers.

This is a bit of a milestone. The FSAI, for all their good work on our behalf, have a track record of being rather doctrinaire and stories of the intransigence (and often ignorance) of environmental health officers are legion in the food industry. It’s good to see this kind of engagement.

I can’t think of anything in life that doesn’t involve some degree of risk and eating underdone burgers is one of them. Personally, I’m happy to do so, just as I’m happy to eat cheese from unpasteurised milk. I don’t object to being told of the risks (and of the flavour benefits) but I do object to being told that I’m not allowed to take such small risks.

If Son of a Bun opened in Dublin, it would be noticed. Just about. In Cork, it’s a game changer. At last the city has a big, casual restaurant where they do this kind of food well and with charm.

In the middle of a busy lunchtime the glass of the front door got a fresh polishing; it’s good to see care applied to small but important things, but the attention to detail wavers a bit when it comes to the food.

Nothing compares, for me, to the burgers of Bunsen in Dublin (in Wexford Street and now in Temple Bar) but the Bunsen deal is basic, with the focus on the burger and very little else. It’s an ascetic pursuit of burger perfection: there are four variations, fries and a couple of drinks. They are serious.

Son of a Bun, by the contrast, is a cornucopeia of options and you can have a cocktail or a craft beer. They even do desserts, for heaven’s sake.

I had a SOB burger and it was good. And it was big, even when its delightfully brioche-like bun was compressed, but not jaw-breakingly so. Full marks for that. What’s the point of a burger that has to taken apart in order to get it into your mouth?

The beef was, indeed, pink in the middle and, more importantly, moist and mature in flavour. There was a generous layer of crispy onions, rather too much tomato (which leads to sogginess), good smoked streaky bacon, cheddar and lettuce. A kind of barbcue sauce was a distraction; I would have preferred Heinz.

My better half had the cob salad, a godsend in this temple to burgers and fries, for anyone who wants to avoid the refined carbs. It was, in true American style, enormous, based on strips of grilled chicken breast, a lot of hardboiled eggs (properly cooked, not fashionably runny in the middle), a vast amount of shredded lettuce, plenty of crisp bacon, nuggets of Cashel Blue and a mayonnaise-like dressing.

Skinny fries – chips for heaven’s sake! – were floppy. There is simply no excuse. And “jalapeno poppers” tasted doughy and undercooked; they need to be re-designed.

With a glass of wine and lots of brilliantly filtered tap water (believe me, Cork tap is not be trifled with in its natural state) and espressos that were too hot, the bill came to €51.30.

Service, which was charming and efficient, is not included and I wish this had been more obvious because I would have left a tip – as these go to the staff (not the case everywhere).

It needs a few tweaks but Son of a Bun has its heart in the right place.