March 3, 2012 by Evin
It all started with a recommendation by Greg Higgins in response to my post listing spots serving Brunch in Cork City. He Tweeted: “
@FreckledPast You should add Fresco’s in @glucksman (‘s) basement to that list.”
Fresco’s? The name rang a tiny bell in the back of my brain, dust stirred. You know when you miss a television show or a popular band when it first hits the airwaves then find the box set at the library and feel like you’ve just discovered a new joy in life? Well, it turns out that can happen with restaurants too! The name was familiar because I had seen a video by Neil Danton of an editorial photoshoot he did at Fresco a few months back. After a few Tweets back and forth between me and Greg, mentioning Fresco Bistro & Eaterie, it became clear that a visit was necessary. Fresco’s culinary imagination and business brains are Kash and Brian. When they heard I hadn’t experienced the joys of the Fresco Bistro menu, they invited me out to tour their menu. It took two visits to work my way through their most popular dishes but I can honestly say that all 13 courses were completely enjoyable.
Before I move on to talk about the food, I want to tell you a few other things that I found to be pleasant surprises.
- The prices are reasonable. Lunch for under a tenner? There is even a deal for students to have a full Irish Breakfast Monday through Friday for €5.
- Throughout their opening hours, you can pop in just for a cup of coffee to go. An ideal afternoon perk-up, especially if you’re not partial to the Starbucks served at the main coffee shop on campus.
- Their produce is sourced locally with an exclusive relationship with Convent Farms in County Cork. This is where their passion truly is. Fresh local ingredients.
- Though the restrooms are on the level below (accessible by stairs), there is a changing room and handicapped restroom on the same level as the Bistro.
- It’s on the #8 and #5 bus lines. So you can hop on the bus from city centre or Wilton or wherever and be whisked away to the Glucksman for lunch. Sounds so nice when you tell your friends, doesn’t it? “Oh, just popped into this great little bistro at the Glucksman Gallery for lunch.”
- Fresco doesn’t have a kid’s menu. They believe children have the right to eat good food just like the rest of us so children can opt for a half-portion of any of their menu items. This is something Kash said he’d love to see all restaurants do (this was actually discussed at a TweetMeetTues a while back).
- Their menu is in the top three best foods I’ve ever eaten in a museum. The other two? The cafés in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Crawford Gallery in Cork City.
Fresco Bistro has a modern design with timeless calm. You can go in, eat your meal, and enjoy some peace. Whether your day is filled with classes to teach, lessons to learn, paperwork to shuffle, or babies to nurture, you can enjoy an affordable meal made with care using local ingredients. Kash has cooked for the celebrity appetites of Bono, Van Morrison and Eddie Ervine and knows how to cook for us ordinary folks as well. Maybe we’re easier because we don’t wear sunglasses indoors?
Arriving at any museum with a baby in-buggy can be intimidating. This is the home of artwork and I have a tiny person who smiles at light fixtures. But my son is content and fairly quiet so I forged ahead with pretend confidence. Turns out that was not necessary since The Glucksman Gallery and Fresco Bistro love children. The Gallery hosts family activities and other events! I stepped into the oversized and industrial lift, feeling felt like I was heading to some hip underground soiree in a New York City loft. You know, with my infant son, big buggy and oversized diaper bag. What about that doesn’t just scream hip?! The ground level is where Fresco Bistro is located. An expanse of windows along its outer wall face a small field of grass that must look like a meadow to a child. The dining space is fairly intimate and stark in design. That is just one reminder that you’re in a house of art.
I have to tell you about the chairs! They are the most comfortable chairs I have ever sat in at a restaurant. They’re made of some kind of rubberized foam so your posterior is not met with a hard surface but one with just a tiny bit of give. I sat there for three hours and never had to shift my weight once! It may seem like a small thing to make me so happy but give these chairs a try and you will go away thinking, “I forgot to look at the chair that girl wrote about” because it isn’t that you are swallowed by them in comfort so much as you are not injured by them after a lengthy sit. Wish I had taken a picture of one.
Ok, now let’s relive my meals!
They cure their own salmon for the gravadlaks and the pancake with chive sour cream is a lovely neutral accompaniment. A taster portion is pictured below, the usual size would be larger if ordering off the menu:
When I lunched there, I was astounded by the selection. In my university days, I dreamed of such a place existing on campus and here UCC has a place with delectable food, locally-sourced ingredients, and invigorating natural light. Lucky! So, about that food. The specials that day were:
The Thai beef salad is delicately dressed with the natural flavors of the steak and gently grilled flavor coming through. Perfect thickness too. A taster portion is pictured below, the usual size would be larger if ordering off the menu:
A pleasant surprise was the teriyaki of duck salad which had that enchanting balance of sweetness (papaya), savory (salad), crunchy (pecans), and tender (duck). I’m in love with their house-made candied pecans. Mmm, pecans. A taster portion is pictured below, the usual size would be larger if ordering off the menu:
I then enjoyed the lamb harira soup. It is the traditional Berber soup of Morocco and one associated with being nourishing. Each spoonful of soup was infused with natural coriander flavors and the melt-in-your-mouth lamb was so tender. This dish was so good, I forgot to take a photo.
The teriyaki of salmon salad is a fresh and healthy dish. Excellent textures and flavors. Very light salad dressing. A taster portion is pictured below, the usual size would be larger if ordering off the menu:
Then I enjoyed their Cajun pasta with spinach. It was creamy with a nice kick. Sweet and spicy are in harmony with the charming sweetness of tomatoes. No photo as it was eaten too quickly.
Next was the Fresco curry with rice and poppadom. The poppadom is the only item on their menu they do not make themselves! The sauce itself was perfectly sweet and spicy as a combination and the chicken was tender and not overcooked. A taster portion is pictured below, the usual size would be larger if ordering off the menu:
And because six hearty taster courses just wasn’t enough, Brian and Kash wanted me to try their fresh Aki tuna salad. Now, this isn’t at all like the tuna salad I make at home. No, theirs is a fresh Aki tuna seared and served atop a bed of greens with a very light dressing on the salad and keeping the lettuce company are little potato bites and a hard-cooked egg. Neil Danton took an amazing photo of the full-size portion of this. A taster portion is pictured below, the usual size would be larger if ordering off the menu:
To complete the decadent and taste bud-pleasing afternoon, I enjoyed a small portion of their flourless chocolate cake. This is made with Callebaut! I cannot say enough good things about this dessert. The flavor is strong but the texture is light, making for a perfect combination as to not overwhelm the stomach but pleasing the senses. A taster portion is pictured below, the usual size would be larger if ordering off the menu:
For anyone visiting UCC, this is a must! For anyone wanting to get out of the city centre but still within walking distance for lunch, this is the place. Come, eat, and enjoy the locally-grown produce, innovative cuisine, and beautiful Glucksman Gallery.
If you want to see more [by that I mean if you want to see some mouth-watering professional] photos of Fresco Bistro and their food, check out this video of Neil Danton’s editorial photography. Neil is a whiz with the camera and I think his appetite for good food comes through in his food photography.
Disclosure: In accordance with the FTC guidelines for bloggers, I disclose that the taster plates were provided to me free of charge so I could be informed about their menu. This was in no way payment or compensation. The words written are completely my own, except for Greg’s Tweet, and true to my opinions and beliefs.