Bringing a personal flavour and style to an existing restaurant can be a formidable challenge, but Executive Chef Nicky Foley has done just that with great success at the ingredient-focused yet classic Pembroke Restaurant in Cork’s Imperial Hotel. I was invited to check out their new menu, which emphasizes fresh, local, and comforting. Needless to say, I took many notes and photos.
About Nicky Foley
Nicky Foley, from Kilmeaden, Co. Waterford, comes from a family of ten, and food has always been a huge part of his family life. Before joining the Imperial, Nicky travelled extensively throughout Europe before spending five years with chef Richard Corrigan at Bentley’s in London. He also worked with the Aubaine Group and the D&D Group, as well as the Rotunda Bar & Restaurant in London which was famous for its farm to fork ethos, before eventually returning to Ireland to take up his current post. Some of the highlights of his career include cooking live on CNBC news, competing in the Taste of London Live Cook Off, and winning the Square Meal Canapé Cup, Critics Cup. He has cooked for the toast of London and is now bringing his own unique style of food to Cork.
About The Menu
Nicky is particularly mindful of using local produce and ingredients that are not forced, but have been allowed to grow and mature as nature intended. He says that’s the real secret ingredient to any great dish. About his Kilmeaden upbringing’s influence on his culinary creations, Chef Nicky says “My mother is a very good home cook and I was inspired by her love of food and also her attitude to using everything and wasting nothing. Every part of an animal, from nose to tail can be used in the most delicious ways and many of the dishes we serve are evocative of my own childhood and also show a respect to the animal or fish and the environment in which it lived.”
About My Dinner at Nicky Foley @ The Pembroke
But I know you really want to hear about my dinner out so I’ll go ahead with the delicious details! First, I must admit this was the first date my husband and I had after welcoming out new baby. Two weeks old, baby stayed home with family while we went out to eat a real meal. That in itself was decadent enough, but the menu… well, it was like a spa day for our palettes. Seriously, Nicky is creating some beautiful things at Pembroke Restaurant right now!
My husband started with Macroom Mozzarella with Grantstown Tomatoes and Grilled Focaccia. The dish was served warm and embodies comfort food. The Grantstown tomatoes were amazingly sweet with a softness that only comes from fresh produce handled with care. The Macroom mozzarella pearls were tender and the perfect flavour. The crisp grilled focaccia balanced textures wonderfully in this dish. I personally loved the nod to Chef Nicky’s home county of Waterford (home of Grantstown tomatoes) and his current home county of Cork (home of Macroom mozzarella). My husband just loved this starter and felt it was winter’s answer to caprese salad.
I started with Frank Hederman Smoked Irish Salmon served with Buttermilk Pancakes, Pickled Cucumber, and Horseradish. Local favorite smoked fish specialist Frank Lederman operates from Belvelly Smoke House near Fota. It is the oldest traditional smoke house in Ireland, smoking fish there for over 30 years. They also have a stall in the English Market. This is further reassurance that Chef Nicky and The Pembroke value local ingredients nurtured with passion, not profit, at-heart. The smoked salmon was perfection and the fluffy pancakes were the perfect mini size to not overpower the fish, pickled cucumber, and horseradish. The four worked in concert to create a unique burst of flavour in each bite. The horseradish cream had the ideal level of kick in the taste buds while the picked cucumber ribbons brought a tangy element to the dish. As you can see, it was beautifully plated.
For our mains, we each chose a steak. I initially wanted to try the fish because I heard wonderful things about what Chef Nicky is doing with the Castletownbere Hake and Kinsale Black Sole, but I craved a nice big steak. Nicky and The Pembroke extend their curation of ingredients to ever facet of the menu, including the 28-day aged Hereford beef, so I had to give it a try.
I chose wisely with Luke’s help because my 12-ounce Ribeye with Garlic Butter was bliss in each bite.
My husband chose the 12-ounce Sirloin Steak with the Pepper Sauce. The flavour was rich and, like mine, it was cooked to perfection. None of that asking for medium and getting well or rare. We both enjoyed our steaks completely.
Colcannon with Pulled Bacon that my husband raved about.
Braised Lettuce, Beans, and Peas for an idea comfort food with unique yet classic flavour. The light cream sauce did them justice.
Triple Cooked Chips that haven’t forgotten they originated from tasty potatoes.
Luke handed us the menus for dessert and we were stuck to choose. One of each? No space. But we managed to choose in the end.
My husband enjoyed Mrs Foley’s Baked Apple Sponge with Cinnamon Ice Cream. Chef Nicky’s mum must be proud her son is doing her sponge justice!
I loved the White Chocolate Mousse with Pistachio, Chocolate Soil, Berries, and Tuile.
As we dined at The Pembroke two weeks after I had given birth, I wasn’t yet permitted to drink (blame the Paracetamol). But Luke, who waited on our table, was very informed about the wine options and their ideal pairings. It was encouraging to know the care taken with ingredient selection and dish preparation carries over to The Pembroke’s wine list and beer selection. My husband enjoyed a classic pint of Murphy’s with his meal.
We went with the á la carte menu, so with two starters, two mains, two sides, two desserts, and a pint or two of Murphy’s the price came to €98.40. A reasonable treat for a special night out. For a budget-minded night out, The Pembroke also offers a brand new early bird menu. This is a three-course menu for €27.50 and is generously available Sunday through Thursday from 5:30 to 9:30pm and on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 to 6:30pm.
Seriously, pick up your phone right now and make a reservation for dinner. Nicky Foley @ The Pembroke is a new classic with comfort food flair and passionate focus on quality ingredients, prepared with care. Who isn’t a fan of that?! It is a perfect destination for a date night, a business dinner, or a special occasion.
Disclosure: Though we were guests of The Pembroke for this meal, the review reflects my true feelings about the food and what Nicky Foley brings to the new menu. And we left a tip based on the price of the meal we ate, even though we did not pay for the meal itself.
The Pembroke at The Imperial Hotel
South Mall, Cork, Co. Cork
(021) 427 4040