WHEN Aishling Moore was a child, her wish was to be an inventor — or an elf. Either way she knew she wanted to create and make things.
Now, at just 25, she is the head chef of Goldie Fish and Ale, Cork’s only restaurant dedicated to practicing gill-to-fin seacuterie using seasonal fish landed by day boats into Kinsale and Ballycotton.
This ‘whole catch, whole fish’ approach to her cookery means that every day she is creating something new, so in many ways her childhood wish is now a reality.
After learning to cook honest to god “Cork Irish dishes” at her mother’s side, like bacon and cabbage and skirts and kidneys, and a week’s work experience, aged 16, in the hallowed kitchens of Ballymaloe House, the magic of food cemented Aishling’s desire to be a chef.
After studying at CIT, she went on to work under the aegis of some great female Cork chefs: Kate Lawlor at the since-gone-but-not- forgotten Fenn’s Quay and Pamela Kelly at Market Lane.
Working alongside Stephen Kehoe, the Executive Head Chef at Elbow Lane, Aishling’s ambition and creativity was nurtured. Her hard work culminated in Stephen, and co-founder of the Market Lane Group of restaurants, Conrad Howard, offering Aishling the opportunity to be the head chef of her own restaurant on Oliver Plunkett Street.
Working with Stephen to develop the concept for Goldie Fish and Ale, the restaurant opened in September, 2019. Critics arrived, the plaudits rolled in and Aishling was awarded Chef of the Year by the McKenna’s Guides. No one could deny, Goldie was off to a strong start.
“When I knew I was going to be opening my own restaurant, it was like a dream come true,” says Aishling. “There wasn’t a seafood restaurant in Cork like Goldie — we’re untraditional yet traditional. We’re not doing chowder or fish and chips, but we are using seasonal fish, classic techniques and familiar flavour pairings.
“I would say we are cooking consciously, taking cues from zero waste restaurants like Silo in London or Amass in Copenhagen. But if you look back over the last 40 years of professional cookery, the great restaurants have always used all of the food. Myrtle Allen was definitely using all of the fish, and Gordon Ramsay was talking about dehydrating scallop roe and grating as a powder 20 years ago.
“If someone said that now in the kitchen, it would be this amazing idea, but great chefs were always cooking in this way, yet people weren’t talking about it because food had to be seen like this elitist thing. But all the best flavour comes from the bits so often thrown away.”
Goldie’s commitment to the ‘whole catch’ approach provides endless challenges. Most of the time, Aishling won’t know what’s going to be on the menu until the fish arrives at 11am every day.
“I’ve always thrived on limitation; I hate the freedom of doing whatever I want! I can’t control the fish, so whatever we get in, we have; and there are only so many vegetables I can use this time of year because of seasonality, but I think limitation breeds creativity and that has always worked really well for me.
“When I’m designing dishes, I always ask: is this Goldie, should this be on the menu? It’s challenging to change the menu every day, but even in the five months we have been open, our food has completely changed. That’s down to asking if a dish is right for Goldie; questioning who we are and what we’re doing.”
Using as much of the fish as possible means that dishes such as deep-fried fish bones, fish head terrine or seaweed dust are frequently on the menu.
“Every dish must be delicious and tasty. We’re not going to do something just because we don’t want to throw it in the bin. To me, our fish head terrine is no different to a pig’s head terrine.
“I love classic food and that’s what we do in Goldie. Every day we make two stocks to create baseline flavour across the board. Everything we do is based to some extent on either classic dishes or classic flavours. Nobody has an original idea anymore, it’s the execution that is unique.
“A lot of our food is a nod to tradition without it being too obvious: if you sat down and thought about it, you’d be like, oh yeah, that makes sense.
“We do a split green pea curry dish which is basically fish, peas and curry sauce! It is really simple food, maybe a bit tongue-in-cheek sometimes, but we’re not trying to be something we’re aren’t.
“The reviews since we’ve opened have been great for the team, but it’s someone coming in for their birthday, or coming here for three weekends in a row, that for me is special. Because all I really want to do is cook for people, so having people come here allows me to do that, for us to do what we do.
“People coming back to dine again and again makes me so happy — it’s the ultimate compliment. We have an open kitchen: and that’s not so people can see me, it’s so I can see my diners! I think watching someone eat is a joy. Being in the atmosphere of the restaurant: the noise of the cutlery, the sound of people laughing; and, because our menu changes daily, I know that when customers come back, the menu won’t be the same. That’s what I want Goldie to be: I want it to be here forever, but a place that is ever-changing!”
If you thought that Goldie was a fine dining, tasting menu kind of restaurant, you’d be wrong.
The food is indeed fine, but the ambience is casual, and customers are welcome to eat the menu or take a quick 10-minute snack and wine stop, because, as Aishling rightly says: “It’s fun to eat snacks!”
Whatever your proclivity, be assured she only has the best interests of your taste buds at heart.
“I’m cooking for the people who eat in the restaurant, not myself,” she says.
As with the food, look hard enough at the interior and you’ll recognise the literal oceanic nods: the fisheye lights; mermaid green walls and coral-like table lights; the galley kitchen and maritimesque brushed brass. It’s all there, if you’ll allow yourself to see it.
Aisling loves the “monotony of restaurants”: that every day is the same but different. She doesn’t do five-year plans, and she doesn’t want Goldie to take itself too seriously.
“I really don’t know where we’ll be in two years’ time,” she admits.
“I just know that when it feels right, it feels great; and what I know today is that I’m very happy to live in this building for a few years yet.”
AISHLING SHARES HER RECIPE:
Panko breaded Oysters, pictured right
10 oysters (shucked) — here I have used Oysterhaven oysters, from Kinsale
80g plain flour (seasoned with a pinch of salt)
100g panko breadcrumbs
- Heat oil in a deep fryer to 180 degrees or a deep heavy pan suitable for deep frying.
- Add the egg and milk to a bowl and beat until incorporated.
- Place the flour and panko breadcrumbs in two separate bowls
- Pass the oysters one by one first through the flour dusting off any excess, then through the egg and milk and lastly through the panko, making sure the oysters are well coated in the panko.
- Deep fry until golden brown — this roughly takes 1 minute depending on your fryer.
- Drain on kitchen paper, season with sea salt and serve with garlic mayonnaise.
150ml vegetable oil
70g egg yolk
4 cloves of garlic
juice of half a lemon
pinch of sea salt
- Place egg yolk, garlic and lemon juice in a blender.
- Blend until these are emulsified and then slowly begin to add the vegetable oil.
- Add the vegetable oil little by little to avoid splitting .
- Lastly add the water to thin out the mayonnaise.
- Season with Sea salt.