Electric Bar and Restaurant, Cork
41 South Mall, Cork.
When The Electric opened its doors less than two years ago, there was a collective gasp and many raised eyebrows on Leeside at the neck it took to launch a new hospitality venture in times that were ‘economically challenging’ to say the least.
Hardly a year later, as The Electric headed off to Dublin as contenders for Best Casual Dining award at the 2011 Restaurant Association of Ireland Awards, the naysayers had their answer. But, by then there were plenty of converts who had no need of national nominations to start hymning the praises of the city’s hottest new eating establishment.
There are any number of ways to approach The Electric’s philosophy for success. To begin with, it is a devilishly professional operation right down to the dedicated reservation line including a unique code for each booking. Yet professional does not come at the exclusion of personality – staff are efficient, informed yet very friendly, a pattern that begins at the bar downstairs.
Housed in a beautifully renovated Art Deco building, alongside a little park next to the river Lee, it would be hard to ask more of a location. The bar downstairs is very pleasantly outfitted if not entirely original but it has been thoughtfully laid out. The lunchtime operation, serving lovely homemade soups and fine doorstep sandwiches, flows ever so smoothly around the central bar.
But what truly marks out The Electric as one of those particularly special venues is the upstairs room – open, spacious, airy, windows rising from the wooden floor all the way up to the high ceiling, letting in light and the ennervating hustle and bustle of the city outside. It’s a lovely room to be in and sets the scene before a menu is even produced.
The food itself is a bit of a balancing act – with the economic realities in mind, a degree of realism had to prevail – but it seems to have been very successfully achieved to date, judging by the hugely varied clientele alone. Chef Kevin O’Regan’s strong commitment to primarily using good, local produce is equally important. A burger may be old hat to some but if it is made, as it is here, with good quality beef with the right amount of seasoning and fat, then it’s an old school pleasure worth revisiting. And there is no dishonour in doing old school as long as it is done with the best of intentions.
But O’Regan’s heart plainly aches to visit new territories and the good thing about The Electric is he is given room to roam. Downstairs in the bar, tapas are available all day long, and that Spanish influence frequently rears its head upstairs as well. A recent visit uncovered a revalatory take on a Spanish classic, Callos, a stew of tripe, chorizo and chickpeas.
But O’Regan’s take is lighter, frying the strips of tripe in a crispy batter, along with some very spicy chorizo, some nutty chickpeas and fresh young kale. It’s an unshowy dish but so perfectly balanced, each ingredient wonderfully complementing the next. Some might long for this type of thing throughout the menu but it makes for a far broader church and a much livelier party if there’s ample choice for all manner of palates.
The wine list is uncomplicated but well-thought out and offers decent choices at equally decent prices. Neither is it a case of merely trotting out the usual suspects– a Pegos Claros Palmela 2008 from the less-favoured Portugal was a very nice wine, fruity, floral, warmly spiced and at just twenty euro, perfectly priced to encourage a bit of experimentation. Perfectly priced to encourage a bit of experimentation? That rather sums up The Electric itself!