Restaurant review

Here’s why the Oliver Plunkett has some of the best “pub grub”

In all honesty, I didn’t expect to write anything remotely resembling the following: As I walked into The Oliver Plunkett on a Sunday evening in March for dinner….

In the 1980s, the same premises housed Zoe’s, a nightclub and a concert hall. The music policy was reasonably decent, including a few cracking live bands, but you measured how inebriated a body was by whether or not the chicken supper, included in the price of admission, was consumed. And, no matter how drunk you were, you only ever tried it once in a lifetime.

In the 90s, Zoe’s got really cool with the advent of a pop-up party Mór Disco, hosted by the dynamic duo of Joe Kelly and Denis O’Mullane (now co-owners of Liberty Grill) which quickly outgrew. . After that I completely lost interest for a few years until I realized it had become a “traditional” giant pub offering visitors, especially tourists, that existential Oirish party spirit known to all as the name “craic”.

Although I can party with the best of them, I have never been very ‘craic’ myself and when I met an old friend there for lunch several years ago, the place he had chosen, it was against my better judgment. I reluctantly joined him in a meal, and the best I can say is not to say anything at all.

Olivier Plunkett

So why am I back? One reason: Chef Fred Desormeaux. Regular readers of this column will have seen reviews of Desormeaux’s cuisine at other establishments over the years and I’ve been a lifelong fan of his classic French cuisine, hibernated by more than two decades in Cork.

When we arrive, a lone troubadour on stage with an acoustic guitar, drags The Cranberries Zombie climb the mountain by his hind leg and come down the other side. Each in their own way, but it wouldn’t be my favorite dining vibe and I almost balk at the first hurdle – but an area bounded by an open fire reduces the volume to a background hum that gradually fades from consciousness.

Surrounded by other young families, there is a marked togetherness as we peruse menus and watch on one of the many televisions local hero keeper Caoimhín Kelleher become a new hero for Liverpool in the Champions League final. English League.

The Daughter loves her juicy and tender chicken wings, while we start with a balanced dish of Crispy Goat Cheese Bonbon, with roasted beet mousse, candied walnuts, salad leaves, mango and sweet chili-lime yoghurt. A brazenly deconstructed vol au vent with pan-fried chicken fillets, wild porcini mushrooms and small triangles of puff pastry. Again, the execution won’t surprise the horses, but the flavors and texture are spot on. Crispy Southern Spice Squid with Basil Lime Mayonnaise is incredibly addictive, tender, flavorful and defeated in minutes.

Current Wife orders a superior version of old-fashioned fish and chips, beer-battered monkfish goujons, pea and mint puree and authentic tartar sauce, while No 2 Son braves a beast of a burger at double bacon, potato brioche, good well-seasoned meat, melting cheese, smoked ketchup, hand-cut fries.

But in the end, what brings me to the TOP is the promise of one of the classics of the traditional French bistro of Desormeaux. Boeuf Bourguignon features superb Irish ingredients cooked with love and care. Beef cheeks braised for hours, then carrots, leeks and turnips braised in the same meat liquor, then reduced to a sweet and savory demi-glace that shines like jade. The vegetables are then pan-fried in garlic butter just before serving, all in all a healer for body and soul. It demands a much better bottle than is available on TOP’s wine list, but the bitter chocolate notes of a plain pint are a worthy substitute.

The Restaurant Review Oliver Plunkett Joe McNamee
The Restaurant Review Oliver Plunkett Joe McNamee

Although Desormeaux has in the past cooked dishes of a much higher order, particularly sublime takes on Irish seafood, here he refuses to let his ego interfere with his job description: delivering pub grub, where no main course exceeds €20; all extraordinarily good value.

Desormeaux can cook to Michelin star level, but it’s “pub grub”, pure and simple – but it’s better than some of the more upscale “gastro-pub” food I’ve endured elsewhere, and that Boeuf Bourguignon is a dish for the ages, French bistro with an Irish accent.

Wouldn’t have it high on my list for a romantic candlelight dinner and dinner, but the service is friendly, efficient and laid back and it’s a good shout out for watching a game while lining your stomach for the session which often follows.

Also, the next time I meet a young tourist or a cash-strapped student who needs a good diet followed by a great transmission of the ‘craic’, TOP will be a solid recommendation.

The verdict

Food: 8

Service: 7.5

Assess: ten

Atmosphere: 7 (higher if you are particularly sensitive to “craic”)

Tongue: 140 € (wines, drinks and mocktail included, excluding tip)

  • The Oliver Plunkett 116 Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork
  • (021) 422 2779;
  • Opening hours: Breakfast, from 9 am; lunch, 12 p.m.-4 p.m.; evening dinner, 4-9:30 p.m.