Paul Williams has moved his restaurant, Canteen, around the corner from its original home on Mallow Street, in Limerick city. Many of us will miss the little shoebox space in which Mr Williams first weaved his magic, for the disconnect between the fantastic food, served in a box on a plastic tray, and the bedsit-land chic of the wee room, was one of the most fun experiences in Irish food. But what won’t change is Mr Williams’ self-critical and unerring focus on his ingredients, and the assured completeness of his finished dishes: sublime fish taco; felafel wrap with parsley hummus; chickpea stew with honey and pomegranate; gobi chicken curry with brown rice; green eggs and ham for brunch. Canteen is a pivotal and important restaurant, and Mr Williams is one of the best.
Farmgate Café, English Market, Cork
Most restaurants look forwards for inspiration, trying to divine the desires of the public for what will be the next big thing. But Cork’s Farmgate Café doesn’t do that. Instead, Farmgate behaves like an Italian restaurant: respecting the tradition, acknowledging the past, learning from the ancestors, continuing the tradition. More than twenty years ago, Kay Harte established the template whereby the menu at the Farmgate would be directed by the foods sold downstairs in Cork’s English Market, the tripe, the fish and shellfish, the corned beef, the mutton, the spuds and cabbage. Today, Ms Harte’s daughter, Rebecca, and Mirco Fondrini, who runs the room, continue that proud tradition of culinary curatorship. And that’s why, for many Cork food lovers, Farmgate Café is not just a Cork city treasure, it’s a national treasure.