This is a post long in the making. I’m not just talking about the three months it’s taken me to write this up, no. I’m talking about the fact that this restaurant has been on my radar for well over a year before I actually stepped into its foodie vista. Y’see, I attempted (and failed miserably) to be a vegetarian so when I was initially plotting out my trip to Cork (the city I knew I’d be making home base in) I was hunting for the best vegetarian fare.
People who haven’t been to Cork (let alone Ireland) mightn’t think to connect out of this world vegetarian cuisine with a traditionally meat and potatoes country, but let me be quick to dash any and all assumptions: Cafe Paradiso is not merely a vegetarian restaurant; it is a culinary experience that knows how to work the veg so deliciously it’s almost poetic and no meat is necessary.
I do not want you to think of Cafe Paradiso as a vegetarian only restaurant. It sounds limiting. Truthfully, the food at Cafe Paradiso breaks so many taste bud barriers I think meat would only mar the wonders that master chef and founder Denis Cotter has concocted. This is food for everyone; you do not have to be anything but open minded and ready to have your foodie world rocked to its core.
My first trip to Cafe Paradiso started on a Wednesday early evening. I made a reservation for one but had my friend Steffie guide me because for some reason Ireland really is where the streets have no feckin’ name and totally turns me all about. We parted ways after I spotted the steel blue exterior with foliage etched frosted glass windows. Inside was decorated in muted blues, hardwood floor and comfy seating. Their space is cozy but cleverly used.
I was served a snack of olives and flat crispbread with sesame and pumpkin seeds. Light and tasty – the olives were especially lovely with a bite of brine.
The peanut fluff and cools the chili, but it is the sweet potato and mushrooms that are the real stars, bursting with all of their natural flavor under the harmonious seasoning. The crisps are more for texture than anything else and are a nice contrast to the sea spinach.
The chili is a nice kick but you are not constantly reaching for your water.
“This is what Heaven tastes like,” I told the general manager when she came to check on me.
It was pretty but inviting – short of having EAT ME written all over it. The sauce was so enchanting I had to force myself to put down my fork and savor each bite. It was very difficult not just wolf this dish down. Everything was cooked to perfection: tender potatoes, sweet tomatoes, and asparagus grilled/roasted so flawlessly that I saved the tips for last. The cheese and sauce blend so well you can’t separate them and yet each individual ingredient stands out to my taste buds. The hazelnuts add a wonderful crunch and the herbs are insane; they’re so complimentary.
I ate every single bite…oh my goodness.
Their menu changes seasonally to use the freshest ingredients each season has to offer. They have a working relationship with local farm Gort-Na-Nain Farm.
My travel pal Steffie and I managed to make it back on Saturday afternoon to enjoy dessert.
Dessert One: Rhubarb Fool with orange shortbread.
Arriving in a brandy glass, the fool was light, fluffy and sweet (though not abundantly sugary) with a pinch of tartness from the natural flavors of rhubarb.
It was like eating a sweet cloud, not unlike taking a bite out of Care-a-Lot with its toasted meringue shell and fluff on the inside. My first pavlova has set the bar very high!
Some non-veggies don’t realize just how filling and satisfying vegetarian food can be. It’s time to step away from all of the meat and learn all of the wonderful ways our Earth’s fare can accomplish a full meal.
Browse around their website to learn more about Cafe Paradiso’s philosophy, shop, updates, and even some recipes! I can’t wait to purchase Denis Cotter’s cookbooks and be able to attempt these culinary escapades in my own kitchen.
16 Lancaster Quay
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