November 29, 2010 by Evin
We hear right and left that four out of five office Christmas parties will not take place and news of fiscal cutbacks in the government and our own budgets, so now more than ever we need to be able to embrace a bit of fun. This is where Denis O’Mullane comes in with his latest restaurant venture. Electric is bringing back the evening out, in spite of the Irish economy’s best efforts.
Arriving on a crisp evening at the bright building at 41 South Mall in Cork City Centre, I was struck by the life-size gold figures adorning the building’s facade. With the grace of a ballerina and the strength of an Oscar statue, these ladies foreshadowed the unique architectural history and innovative design of the restaurant and bar within. We stepped into the ground-level bar area, which boasted the start of a few mingling friends Saturday night. The room felt young and vibrant with the soft buzz of lively chatter and the unmistakable sound of great craic being had. And it was only seven o’clock. The cocktail menu boasted a few of my American favorites, including a Grasshopper and an Appletini. Ooh la la, a drink was in my future! I opted for the Appletini and my partner ordered a Paulaner. Having a cocktail before dinner felt so right. That bit of time to relax from the day before beginning to refuel with food. Why not make the apéritif a regular treat!
Climbing the stairs to the upstairs dining room, we knew this was no ordinary building. We later learned that it was one of [if not the] first building in Cork to have solid steel construction. Influenced by American architecture in the early 20th century, two Irish brothers returned to Cork to build an electric business and chose to mould the building of their dreams. The fact that it is still standing is a testament to the care and passion they put into their work. Electric carries on that same care and passion with how it has repurposed the structure as you can see by the Art Deco-influenced interior. Circular impressions take a regular acoustic ceiling tile to a celestial level while scattered tables give the feeling of space without losing intimacy.
We were seated and given opalescent menus with options on two sides. Though we were there as part of their trial weekend and we were guests of the restaurant, our interest carried over to future visits and were delighted that the prices were reasonable and the menu options varied. It was explained that one side of the menu will be a prix fixe menu of changing market-inspired dishes allowing a choice from each column for a special price. The other side, mainstays, such as steak. A blend of fresh and classic to keep diners satisfied and take advantage of the mind-boggling assortment of fresh ingredients available in Cork.
The meal was as memorable as the evening itself. I started with the oak smoked salmon from West Cork which was paired with brown bread that I could best describe as resembling a starched feather pillow – slight crunch on the outside and all softness inside. The salmon was not at all fishy and perfectly smoked with a good texture and no bones. There was a crème fraiche with a tint of horseradish, a bundle of fresh spinach leaves, and tangy ribbons of gently pickled cucumber (€9). My partner enjoyed the pan-fried brie with sage, Serrano ham, and a mint/tomato chutney (€7). Other starter options on the menu that night were: Home smoked suck served at room temperature with rainbow beetroot, port & dried raisins (€8); Sea food chowder (€10); Classic Caesar salad (€10/€15); Sauté Linguini with feta, olives, marinated tomatoes, rocket & parmesan (€8/€12).
Between courses, I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. O’Mullane about his involvement in Electric and his philosophy of dining being a ‘personal experience’. He spoke with conviction on his belief in the corner restaurant that breeds familiarity and comfort for the diner. With his words, I recognized that it is true for each of us that not only does the menu determine our favorite places to eat, but also the personality of an establishment. After all, many pubs carry the exact same drinks, but what makes you gravitate towards one and not another? Find the restaurant or pub that makes you feel at-ease, content, and a dash exhilarated and you’ve found your spot. He explained his desire to make Electric a destination for a night out on the town, referring to the innovative approaches to dining and entertainment employed during the Great Depression. A tall order, but if anyone can do it, he can.
Our main courses arrived and the portion size was a delight. I feasted on the eight-ounce beef filet with shitake mushrooms, spinach, caramelized onions, and a side of pepper sauce (€27). A generous portion of chips in a paper cone kept the filet company on the plate – until both were devoured. The meal was perfection! I initially paused with concern that I was not given a steak knife then I thought I should try cutting the meat with my table knife before becoming alarmed. It sliced easily and a delicate pink center showed itself. Exactly as I requested all the way through. The flavor was earthy with the help of the assorted mushrooms and onions. The dish reminded me of haute cuisine with campfire comfort. My partner ordered the pork belly with herb mash, cracklin which came with herb potatoes and apple sauce (€16.50). All the parts were in symphony like a jazz band. It was pure fusion. The menu made the decision of what to order truly challenging. Other items from the main course section of the menu: Stuffed aubergine with roast peppers, Ardsallagh, couscous with pine nuts & pesto (€17); Beer batter fish & chips with tartar sauce and salad (€18); Roast free-range chicken with carrots, parsnips, goose fat roasties, and onion gravy (€18); Eight-ounce burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, bacon, chips & relish (€14); Caramelised shoulder of lamb with couscous Provençal & tapenade (€17); Pumpkin blini with mushrooms, truffle crème fraiche & local herbs (€15); Pan-fried cod with spinach & basil vinaigrette (€20).
The evening drew to a close with our contentedly full stomachs begging to try the desserts. I opted for the lavender brulée (€6) out of sheer curiosity and wanting something light. My partner chose the stick toffee pudding (€6). A sweet ending, but honestly nothing could hold a candle to the starters and main courses at that point. A popular dessert item that night was the Lemon Tart.
When we walked back down the stairs to the bar, a packed room of lively chatter welcomed us. Perhaps another drink before heading home? Electric certainly has done its best to foster a sense of community without being at all stodgy. Kudos! Now, Leesiders, when we’re all dolled up, we have someplace to go!
41, South Mall, Cork City, County Cork, Ireland
Telephone: +353 (0)21-4222990
Follow Electric on Twitter: @ElectricCork
Like Electric on Facebook
• Bar is open seven days a week from 10:30 a.m., serving lunch from 12 Noon until 5:00 p.m., and Pinchos from 5:00 p.m. onwards
• Restaurant open Wednesday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.