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Seamus O'Connell's Ivory Tower in Cork closed by food safety unit

Restaurant described by New York Times as a destination for “inventive dishes” is served with closure order – as are five other Irish eateries in November.

Ivory Tower owner Seamus O'Connell, left, serves up a fish dish to Andrew Maxwell in his Cork restaurant in a 2007 RTÉ show
Ivory Tower owner Seamus O'Connell, left, serves up a fish dish to Andrew Maxwell in his Cork restaurant in a 2007 RTÉ show
Image: RTÉ's Andrew Maxwell's Irish Tales via YouTube.com

THE FLAGSHIP CORK city restaurant of chef Seamus O’Connell has been served with a closure order by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

A list of the six closure orders served by the FSAI in the month of November lists The Ivory Tower, Exchange Buildings, Princes Street, Cork at the top. The order was served on Seamus O’Connell, according to the documentation.

The Ivory Tower is a longstanding food destination in Cork city and was opened by O’Connell in 1993. His website lists O’Connell’s extensive experience in Michelin-starred restaurants in France and top kitchens in New York and Arizona. The biography also claims that O’Connell opened “Ireland’s first gastro pub”, called 1601, in Kinsale in 1989. He presented the Soulfood TV series on RTÉ in 2004.

O’Connell also headed up the menu at the Shebeen Chic bar/restaurant on George’s Street in Dublin which entrepreneur Jay Bourke opened in 2008, although another head chef took over at a later date. Staff at the venue staged a sit-in protest against the threat of eviction from the premises by the building’s owner in a dispute over unpaid rent. Shebeen Chic has since left Bourke’s hands and reopened in the past week under new management.

The Ivory Tower has won many accolades for its cuisine over the years – O’Connell himself took the Chef of the Year 2004 title from the Restaurant Association of Ireland. The New York Times recommended it as a dinner destination with “inventive dishes like tongue with ladyfingers and gentleman’s relish, carpaccio of wood pigeon with beetroots and rocket, and magret of duck with blackberry balsamic jus and braised endives”. Frommer’s international travel guide said that “true foodies” would enjoy the work of “truly innovative chef” O’Connell. “This place is not for the faint of heart, but it has many devoted fans,” the guide concluded.

Dr Bernard Hegarty of the FSAI told TheJournal.ie today that while he could not comment on the details of individual closure orders, he said that a restaurant served with one would have to close with immediate effect. He said:

We do have a policy of not commenting on individual cases but as we have indicated in our guidelines, a closure order would indicate problems as are generally described in our guideline, related to issues from temperature control, cleanliness, keeping raw food separate from cooked, training of staff; these kind of issues.

A restaurant which addresses the issues outlined in its closure order can apply for a reinspection at a later date and, if found to have fulfilled the conditions, can have the order lifted. According to the FSAI, a closure order is only issued if an officer believes “there is or there is likely to be a grave and immediate danger to public health at/or in the food premises”.

TheJournal.ie has been unable to make contact with the Ivory Tower for comment on the closure.

Five other restaurants were served with closure orders in November. These were:

  • Gong Chinese Restaurant, 8 Lower Kilmacud Road, Stillorgan, Co Dublin
  • Orient Aroma Chinese Retaurant, 37 Bridge Street, Westport, Co Mayo
  • The Royal Hotel, Boyle, Co Roscommon
  • Papa Sorrento, Barry Avenue, Finglas, Dublin 11
  • Halal Favourite Fried Chicken, 3a Clanbrassil Street Upper, Dublin 8

The Ivory Tower featured in this Cork travel programme, hosted by Andrew Maxwell in 2007 (from about 8:06):
[embed id="embed_1"]
(Video via AndrewMaxwellIreland/Youtube.com)

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