Wednesday 4 January 2012

O Conaill Chocolate Bakery Cafe - Cork

Most cafes I visit are most likely to be in Dublin where I live. Some of my favourites are listed in the sidebar. Occasionally I get to visit cafes and coffeehouses elsewhere, some of which I blog about, but most of which I don't. This one is worth taking the time to write a few words of personal recommendation (for what that's worth, right?).

A couple of days away with the family to County Cork this week provided the longed for opportunity to walk around Cork City. I've become very found of Cork very quickly. For a start I like how the main shopping area has developed between the River Lee and a southern channel of the same river thereby forming a shopping island. The gloriously wide avenue of St Patrick's Street attempts to cut the island in two before it sweeps around and asks Grand Parade to complete the task. The tributaries of this main route provide some fascinating small streets and laneways where you will find independent clothes shops, art and craft stores, bakeries, chic restaurants, bookshops and a couple of fantastic traditional toy shops where batteries are not included because they are not needed! The English Market also offers some fine fare with fruit and veg, cheeses, breads and olives, fish so fresh you think they're still breathing (and lobsters which are), meat of every variety, and a chocolatier who provided sweet treats for Queen Elizabeth's recent historic visit.

But I'm not writing a piece for the Cork Tourist Board. I want to tell you about O Conaill Chocolate Bakery Cafe. It's located on French Church Street, one of those alluring passageways off St Patrick's St. On a cold, gray January afternoon the warmth from within the cafe seemed to be silently suggesting that to walk past would be foolish, forever leaving you wondering what it might have been like. Now here's the thing: For most people the choice of whether or not to enter would be easy, but when you have four children in tow, one of whom is still in a buggy and by the sound of things needing a nap, you think twice before entering. But in we went, such was the attractive power of the place.

Clearly this is a popular spot in Cork as all seats downstairs were taken, while upstairs at tables and couches another crowd sat, sans enfants, with only the company of other adults or a book. I will admit that I was more than a little jealous. There was even a queue for take away coffee and hot chocolate! But then a vacancy became available and it was perfect: a hightop table, surrounded by stools, which was large enough for all of us with room for four more children - should we have desired!

As is clear by this blog, if I'm going to write about a cafe it's because I have a coffee there. This was no exception and the regular latte served to me was most acceptable. No doubt countless other people go to O Conaill's for the coffee (and huge cookies for just 1euro! Nice), but with certainty people go for the hot chocolate. Not because it's served up in a huge mug with mountains of marshmallows, capped with too much whipped cream and drowned in sprinkles - far from it. This is hot chocolate for the more discerning palette. My wife enjoyed a dark chocolate, cinnamon and orange drink decorated with a small tricolour of mini chocolate buttons on the side. It was most agreeable and my wife gave it the rating of the second best hot chocolate she has ever had. (You'll have to ask her about the first.)

To top off the experience three delicious drinks were served to my older children. Then when the chocolate barista noticed our youngest was a little more than unsettled he provided a complimentary warm milk with just a drop of vanilla essence. It did the trick in seconds.

I've gone out of my way to Cork for coffee in the past, but I wouldn't recommend that cafe now. (Anyway, I don't think it's still there). However, if you are ever in the Cork region it would be well worth your while visiting the O'Conaill Chocolate Bakery Cafe on French Church Street.

An added bonus is that they also have a bakery down another one of those lovely side streets!


Snot Head said...

So sweet that the littlest one got something too. Yet again you painted a dreamy picture of coffee in Ireland for me. :)

PonderingDave said...

cosmo, excellent post. I went so far as to google map it and took a virtual down St. Patricks street to the entrance to the Bakery Cafe street. Loved the bit about the "complimentary warm milk with just a drop of vanilla essence." Brought a smile to my face. I remembered my own little ones being in that mood. thank you for sharing. I must get back to blogging on my own. Thanks for being there.

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