journeys magazine

11 delicious new arrivals to West Cork’s food trail - from vegan brunch spots to the best fish and chips

Local food writer Kate Ryan shares the places most tourists don’t know about yet.

WEST CORK IS famed for its exceptional produce. For years, it has been harnessed by a clutch of talented chefs carving out a reputation for exquisite plates of food year round.

Restaurants such as Deasy’s in Clonakilty, Mews in Baltimore and The Chestnut in Ballydehob have set the standard for exceptional food – and the latter two each earned a Michelin star last year.

There are established favourites and classics aplenty, but where are the new hidden gems on the West Cork food trail? More and more, dining in West Cork is combining high quality with a casual setting. This suits the general attitude of the area well – we are a laid back bunch, but won’t compromise on quality or flavour. 

Food here is all about exploring, so channel your inner adventurer and check out some of the brightest new arrivals on the local food scene, before everyone else gets wind of them. Starting in Innishannon and heading west, here’s where to check out…

Rohu’s Country Market, Innishannon

This brilliant little deli occupies a former mechanics yard stocking a vast array of West Cork produce and quality deli items. In crab season, stop in and chow down on their fresh West Cork crab sandwich made to order from a selection of Arbutus breads.

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The Seven Heads, Courtmacsherry and Garretstown

So new it’s barely taken the wrapper off, The Seven Heads is shaping up to be one of the big West Cork draws of the summer. Hugh Mullan, chef and founder, will fill bellies with his selection of slow-proved sourdough pizzas – meaty, veggie and vegan options – from his food truck in a tastefully restored horse box on Garretstown Beach every Friday and Saturday evening from 5 – 8pm from June onwards (though he’s already doing a few evenings here and there). On other days, you’ll find Hugh at his base in Courtmacsherry, where he mans an organic vegetable and lavender farm, and will be hosting pop-up dinners from July onward.

Monk’s Lane, Timoleague

Monk’s Lane has been open a few years now but its location in the quiet village of Timoleague makes it a true hidden gem. A warm welcome by owners Gavin Moore and Michelle O’Mahony, delectable plates of food flavoured to perfection and a cracking selection of wine, craft beers and spirits. In the summer, head into their beer garden – with Gav’s connections to the music industry, you wouldn’t know who could end up serenading you over your lamb quesadilla with zingy tomato salsa.

The Fish Basket, Long Strand, Clonakilty

Former fisherman Peter Shanahan and his wife Elaine opened The Fish Basket summer last year, taking over an old café right on the beach with an enviable ocean view. The team bang out some of the freshest and most delicious fish and chips in West Cork, whether catch of the day, fish tacos, scampi or curry all served with hand cut chips, slaw and pickles. Beware of queues.


Stone Valley Roasters, Clonakilty

Opened just recently, this micro-roastery and coffee shop barely has enough room to swing a cat, which is kind of the point. Run by two friends who are musicians by night and coffee fanatics by day, it’s all about the grab-a-coffee-and-go without compromising on quality. Excellent homemade cakes too.

Toons Bridge Dairy, just outside Macroom

On a crossroads in the middle of nowhere is Toonsbridge Dairy, making exceptional mozzarella, scamorza and burrata, and a wonderfully stocked deli. The onsite garden café is beloved for their stonebaked pizza with toppings to your taste from the deli.

EAT @ The Castle, Castletownshend, near Skibbereen

A beautiful little café situated within grounds of of the 17th century Castletownshend, EAT opened in April 2017, complete with outdoor kitchen, alfresco seating, and an uninterrupted view of the harbour. Think posh café food, using locally sourced ingredients, some grown in the onsite kitchen garden.

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Antiquity Vegan Café, Skibbereen

Situated inside The Time Traveller’s Bookshop selling rare and secondhand books is Skibbereen’s only vegan café. If you love books and great food served with soul – like Danish-style smorrebrod or hearty bean stew – this is the place for you.

Glebe @ Dillon’s Corner, Skibbereen

You’ve probably heard of the wonder that is Glebe Gardens in Baltimore, but last year the Perry Sisters (Tessa, Keziah, JoJo and Mia) took over the lease of Carmel Somers premises on Dillon’s Corner and installed Bob Cairns as head chef. Think honey-roasted granola, almond brioche, Gubbeen toasties and earthy smoked fish.

Eccles Hotel, Glengarriff

When Eddie Attwell said yes to the head chef role at the 200-year-old Eccles Hotel last year, it was a good day for West Cork. Eddie’s talent as a chef, mentor, forager and grower has rejuvenated the Eccles and put it squarely back on any foodie tourist’s checklist. From nothing he has established a kitchen garden at the rear of the hotel, making the most of homegrown ingredients. There’s a range of dining options here, from casual bar food to high-end fare.

Dzogchen Beara Buddhist Meditation Centre & Café, Beara Peninsula

Only in West Cork could you be directed to a Buddhist retreat on the edge of a cliff for a coffee stop. Dzogchen Beara is open to the public to browse its brilliant bookshop. Take some time out with a coffee and some seriously tasty vegetarian grub while you ogle the view from the picture windows.

More: ‘Leave the hordes in Dingle and head north’: 6 insider alternatives to crowded tourist spots>

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