The English Market in Cork’s city centre has always been a special place. It has been going strong for over 200 years and is a Cork institution. It is a unique place where many Corkonians visit as part of their everyday business and yet remains utterly loved and special. It is never seen as merely a shopping destination but more of an experience….a ritual if you will.
As a child, it was a rare enough occasion where we would all travel into the market. We lived quite a bit away from the centre of town and for all the logistical reasons associated with children, it was a rare enough day we would make the trip in. However, when I turned 13, I started at one of Corks city centre schools. This opened up a whole new world for me, particularly because I had attended a small local primary school and as previously mentioned, had not often gone to the city. The greatest advantage of our prime city location came when school ended. I loved nothing more than taking a wander down the hill onto Pana (that’s St Patrick’s Street!) towards the Market.If you would like to read more about St Patricks Street, a new book was published last Christmas discussing the history of this iconic walkway.
It truly is an epicurean delight for all of the senses. The building itself is a victorian covered market similar to those that can be seen in various London locations. It has been through its own trials with fire and other incidents but that is for another story! Once you enter the large gates on Princes street and your eyes adjust to the light, a feast of aromas and colours awaits you. From breads and cakes, cheeses and charcuterie, pasta, wines, fish, meat and vegetables, it is a gourmet experience that is not to be missed. Below I have written a small inventory of some of my favourite stalls in the market but there are many more, each as exciting as the next.
Kay O’Connells Fishmonger:
This stand is one of the oldest in the market and is worth a visit, if even just to gawp at the vast array of fish. They always have a monkfish head on display and the ugliness of the creature is usually a source of entertainment to tourists! They have recently introduced a selection of sushi but the old favourites are a safe bet. Huge langoustines and juicy crab claws are all on offer as well as a great selection of white fish that are great for fish pies and curries.
Frank Hedermans Smokehouse
This is by far one of my favourites. My family have always been big seafood eaters and good quality smoked salmon is the only way to go. Frank smokes all kinds of fish in his Cobh Smokehouse. My favourite product is the fish pates he does. I love the mackerel one but the one to die for is a smoked salmon with chilli and dill. I dream about it but Im pretty sure its one I wont be able to recreate
The Olive Stand
All good quality markets tend to have an olive stand or two these days and the English market has one of the best. The array of flavours of juicy olives is staggering whilst you can also find great parmagianno regiano, feta and buffalo mozzarella. They also have a huge selection of olive oil from all over the world and olive oil soaps to match. Certainly worth a visit.
On the Pigs Back
This stall has grown vastly in popularity since it first brought is French style deli products to Cork. From wonderful meats such as the wonderful Merguez sausages, to a cornucopia of cheeses, this place has it all. The cheese section is my favorite. The stall operators are very knowledgeable about the origins of each cheese and they champion small-scale cheese producers from across Europe. They often have very special seasonal cheeses and occasionally one or two that are only available once every few years! It is always worth requesting the advice of these experts, you are bound to find a gem or two!
The Alternative Bread Company brings a great variety of breads, pastries and cakes to the market. From traditional skull loaves, ciabattas and sourdough to more flavoured Focaccia’s, they really have a lovely selection. They have pretty fresh fruit pastries, which make a tasty breakfast and a cake or two thrown in for good measure.
The Chocolate Shop
Easily one of my favorite stalls, for obvious reasons! There are many charms to this place. The owner is a really friendly guy who is always happy to chat but is serious about his chocolate. He knows his stuff and he chooses a wide variety of chocolates and products from cocoa producers all over the world. He has chocolate that can be used purely as a cooking ingredient but also lovely novelty chocolate gifts. During the summer he also has Maud’s ice cream. I have two favorite things about this place. The milk chocolate and chili chocolate truffles are to die for, they have a crisp shell but a creamy melting centre! In the winter, you can get a hot chocolate shot for €1 which is literally a small cup of molten hot creamy chocolate….decadence in a cup!