Monday, March 5, 2012

Cafe Paradiso got a new menu

It is no secret to anyone who has ever met me that Cafe Paradiso is my favourite restaurant in Cork - if not even Ireland. I got all cookbooks ever written by Denis Cotter and I still draw inspiration from his books. So I was very happy when I was invited to test the new menu which was launched last Friday.

The new menu
The restaurant itself has seen some changes. It was revamped by Interior Living before the big floods and than updated again after the floods. Gone is the funky and quirky style and welcome to the slick and lean. The chef himself has seen some changes - spending a lot of time in Canada (you can read all about that in his latest book For the Love of Food). But what stayed the same is the relaxed atmosphere where everyone is welcome to sit back and enjoy the company as much as the food. And of course the food - I was a bit worried that the absence of Denis Cotter would be noticeable - I didn't need to worry. The quality and creativity is still as outstanding as it always was. Ger was promoted a while back to Restaurant Manager and she fills the shoes perfectly. She has her eyes on everything and you can be ensured that nothing escapes her. She got a smooth running ship thanks to her hard work.

The new menu is designed to cater for lunch - small and bigger appetites. You are invited to share the food - communal eating at its best. I came in at 2pm and the restaurant was buzzing. Most tables occupied couples but a few bigger tables did exactly what was written on the tin - they enjoyed themselves with the food and spoke about it.

The Dips
Changes are always a danger - some people welcome it, some fear or even hate it. I live by 'don't fix that ain't broken' but I make an exception here - although the old style menu worked just fine - the new one is outstanding. I couldn't decide, I wanted to eat everything but as I was on my own, I needed to choose. What a challenge. I opted in the end for Baba Ganoush, Spiced Carrot Dip and Ciabatta as my first starter dish, Black Bean, chocolate & chilli soup served with avocado salsa & croutons as my second starter and Fresh taglioline, lemon cream, leek, sprouting broccoli, walnut crumb and Gabriel Cheese for my main.

I was very quiet during my meal as I wanted to enjoy every single bite - an explosion of the senses. The carrot dip was one of the best dips I have ever ever eaten. Smooth, silky, sweet with a hint of spice - the colour reminding me of Summer days to come. The baba ganoush was a bit different from what I know about baba ganoush - I loved the smoothly consistency of it - but it had a hard job to stand up to its carrot partner on the dish. I am definitely either going to beg for the recipe of the carrot dip or will try to re-create it myself. It would be worth the effort.
Black Bean Soup

The soup - oh my God the soup. It came in a white soup bowl and the dark brown - almost black colour of the soup didn't really look that exciting - but that thought disappeared after the first spoonful. Thick, chunky and spicy soup. The beans still partly intact and not overcooked - the chocolate lifting it into a new dimension and the avocado and sour cream cooling the taste buds after the first heatwave swifted away. I loved that soup. It isn't a soup I would serve in Summer but it is a comforting, all warming and loving soup that was perfect.

The pasta dish was a simple combination of wonderful flavours. The lemon cream formed a perfect base for the pasta, the broccoli was perfectly cooked and had a good bite, the leeks were lovely (although I prefer mine less cooked) and the walnut crumb was a great added bonus - a great combination. Will definitely keep the walnut crumb in mind for my next pasta dish.

Dessert was totally out of the question - although my eyes wanted to order everything on the menu but my very happy tummy said no more. But if you go, you have to try the polenta cake with blood orange - I had it for my birthday dinner and it is delicious.

As I had to drive I chose a half glass of Domaine Des Corbilliers which had a bit of trouble standing up to the soup but perfectly paired with the dips and pasta dish. The introduction of different sized glasses is a great idea and makes it easy to adhere to the driving limit. 

The starter dishes (or small plates) start at €3 while the bigger plates start at €11. Dessert are all priced at €7. That makes a regular lunch very affordable.Will I be back for lunch - You Bet :-)

Just part of the crew
I watched the team in the kitchen - as relaxed as the food and the whole atmosphere - it was a pleasure to see them work. I tried to snatch a photo of them but they weren't too eager to pose for me. A pity as I think they should be celebrated in their own right. A wonderful job wonderfully down. Thank you to the entire Paradiso team - you made a lady very happy on Friday.

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