Budget-friendly Valentine’s Day eats in Cork city

Ahead of February 14, KATE RYAN shares some budget-friendly brunch, lunch, early bird and home-kits people can enjoy this Valentine’s Day in Cork city
Budget-friendly Valentine’s Day eats in Cork city

Kate Ryan has rounded up some Valentine's Day brunch, lunch and early bird options.

A TABLE for two on Valentine’s Night can be like hens’ teeth. It can also be very expensive. This year, everyone is watching the pennies extra carefully. Nevertheless, many still equate a memorable Valentine’s Day celebration with a delicious experience.

Make those hard-earned Euros stretch a bit further this February 14th and start with brunch or lunch, grab an early bird, or arrange for a restaurant quality meal at home.

Falling on a Tuesday this year, if you can take time from work, brunch or lunch gifts time to explore the city, visit an art exhibition, or grab an old fashioned matinee performance at a cinema.

An earlier dinner clears the night ahead for enjoying a gig, going to the theatre, or meeting up with friends for cocktails. Or cosy up at home with delicious things to eat, a great bottle of wine, and whatever else you’re having yourself… Here are my favourite places for brunch, lunch, early dinner and at home offerings from around the city. Have fun, lovebirds!

General Manager Bastien Peyraud and staff member Leah Prendergast at Sketch in the Imperial Hotel. Picture: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
General Manager Bastien Peyraud and staff member Leah Prendergast at Sketch in the Imperial Hotel. Picture: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Best for Brunch…

A decent brunch can come in at less than €15 per person leaving you well fed with change to spare!

Sketch at The Imperial Hotel is the new home of Executive Head Chef Ali Honour, and her famous French Toasts available as either sweet or savoury. The Cork Monsieur is a wonderfully cheesy delight of melted cheese and local baked ham, and many delicious ways with eggs – and all in one of Cork’s most Instagrammable spaces.

The River Club, River Lee. Cork.
The River Club, River Lee. Cork.

The River Club invites you settle into its beautiful surroundings and start your day of romance with a life-affirming mood-boosting juice, and crack on with Belgian waffles, a Mediterranean-inspired red pepper tartine, or a mango and turmeric smoothie bowl.

Liberty Grill, Washington Street, Cork. Picture: Larry Cummins
Liberty Grill, Washington Street, Cork. Picture: Larry Cummins

Liberty Grill continues to be a popular spot for brunch in the city. Show you care by sidestepping the walk-ins only policy by downloading their Virtual Queue app and scooting in ahead. Johnny Cakes made with cornmeal instead of flour is a delicious gluten-free option, the indulgent poached pear French toast, or Romanesco hash for full on flavour.

Salt is one of the city’s hidden gems and always ready with a generous offering. Salade d’oeuf Poché features candied beetroot with green beans, bacon and free range poached eggs, or go with the less than subtly named Starving of poached eggs, garlic country potatoes, king oyster mushroom, smoked salmon and chipotle hollandaise sauce. Strut in, roll out.

Spitjack is where to go for everything rotisserie, including their Sweet Potato Toast, the Huevos Rancheros with rotisserie pork belly, or Belgian waffles with pulled rotisserie chicken. Plenty of vegan and vegetarian dishes, and great coffee.

 Spitjack, Washington Street, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Spitjack, Washington Street, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Best for Lunch 

Lunch will be big this year for those looking for their eating out fix but with a firm eye on the purse strings. The city has always done lunch really well; well-priced, delicious and generous, too.

An Orso lunch is always a good idea. Be captivated by the warm aromas of sugar, spice and all things nice, then take the menu by the horns and go big with a mix and match of plates perfect for sharing. Bijoux it may be, but its flavours and creative flair come in hot and heavy and leave you wanting more. Add a cocktail – you can thank me later!

The relentless hustle and bustle of the Farmgate Café might not be an obvious choice for a romantic lunch, but it sings of life and delivers some of the most honest and fresh food the city can possibly serve up. Come here to feel vital.

Market Lane is a by-word for dependability in the city and a firm favourite with many. With its high ceilings, bustling lunchtime service, ever-changing market specials and local produce jumping from the menu, stop and ask yourself: are we in Cork, or Paris?

Every time I stop into Good Day Deli, I’m taken d by the serenity of its setting. Just off the beating heart of a busy city centre but surrounded by nature and bird song, Good Day Deli make the most of this natural setting with its kind to nature menus.

Who says you must pay five-star prices to enjoy a five-star setting? Overlooking the regal courtyard of Cork’s historic Hayfield Manor is Perrott’s Garden Bistro. Experience all the trappings of a high-end restaurant at a very reasonable price point. A three-course meal comes at a snip under €50 (without drinks).

Best for Early Birds 

Open from 5pm and offering great value for money.

Few of Cork’s restaurants have a setting as romantic as Greene’s with its waterfall and crisp white linens. Up until 6pm, highlights of the Greene’s main a la carte menu is available as an Early Bird offering for less than €40 per person for three courses.

Restaurants don’t last for four decades unless they’re doing something right. Jacques does everything right, and with great flair. This time of year, I heartily recommend the Gort na Nain Asparagus spears with blood orange hollandaise and almonds – très romantique!

There’s no early bird menu on offer at Goldie, but there is such flexibility built into their menu it’s easy to work to a budget. If you’re not fussy (and have no allergens), tell your server what your budget is and ask to be surprised. Get there early and nab a seat in the window.

If your date likes food with a conscience as well as delicious, head to Sonflour. Cork’s Italian gem serves seasonal flavours on exceptional house made pastas and breads. It’s got a cult following, so getting in early is ideal.

Paradiso on Lancaster Quay, Cork. - Picture; David Creedon
Paradiso on Lancaster Quay, Cork. - Picture; David Creedon

Paradiso has been serving up innovative vegetarian food for thirty years, and has recently changed head chef, with Alicante-born Miguel Frutos at the helm. Expect a bit of Spanish passion with your side order of (checks notes) braised turnip chestnut galette, beetroot port gravy, sprouts... A six-course tasting menu will set you back €65, but the memories will last forever!

Best for At Home 

Kids with runny noses, needy pets, or just plain can’t be bothered – reasons abound why sometimes the best option is to stay at home. That doesn’t have to mean cooking, but tasty food is just a moment away! Isaacs Restaurant is still running its Click and Collect service via its website www.isaacsrestaurant.ie. Order up a full three-course meal with sides and a bottle (or two) of wine, collect and speed homeward bound with your bounty.

Our local, friendly, neighbourhood Palestinian restaurant, Izz Café, has online ordering for their Manoosh, pickles, fresh breads, vibrant dips and sweet cakes so you can take it all home with you. www.izz.ie 

The Elm Tree in Glounthane offers an @home service. Visit the website, choose from an extensive menu (I’m super curious about their vegan pulled oats burger), phone in your order and collect. Available seven days a week, 4pm – 8pm. www.elmtree.ie/at-home-evening-menu-1 

Hederman Smokehouse at the English Market has an extensive array of heat at home dishes for sale at their stall. Best known for their high-quality smoked wild salmon, expect the same commitment to quality in dishes such as fishcakes and pates.

If you can find someone who loves pies as much as you do, head to The Pie Guys at The Black Market making the best handmade, deep-filled pies I’ve had in years, and now available to order online. Everything comes with buttery mash, hand cut slaw and pickles as standard, but there’s nothing standard about these beauties. www.thepieguys.ie

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