Connie McKenna says Cork city’s Orso is nothing less than a classy little kitchen that knows how to bring it all home.

Archive - all the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

This is a classy little kitchen. A classy kitchen with a truly excellent attitude towards Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Orso has brought an Ottolenghi influence to leafy Pembroke Street, in the centre of Cork, along with the perfect place for an escape and a little time for reflection.
On the Saturday afternoon I visited, the stone walls had been delicately embellished with un-clichéd Christmas decorations, Christine and The Queens were playing in the background, and I thought to myself; ‘These guys are really up to something here. Something unconventional and unique. And at the same time, down to earth and real.’
The most challenging thing about visiting Orso? You will want to order everything. There is not a single flop or flaw in the tiny world of this strong food ethic.
The breakfast, lunch and dinner menus all strike the same chord. The menu itself is a song in a certain key where the main musical feature is sweetness and richness. Their signature salads are the bridge, and the warmer dishes are the chorus. So, I ordered a warm dish, a salad and something sweet. The Manoushi –a flatbread topped with with slow cooked pork, harissa, fontina cheese and rocket – along with a salad of spiced chickpeas, toasted almonds and crispy kale, was a beautiful marriage of yin and yang. The smartest thing about these two dishes was how basic ingredients could sustain something so rustic, yet full of a palatable integrity.
The bar also offers pretty phenomenal sweet treats. The unusual thing about the dessert menu is that chocolate dominates the headlines, and everything is simple, in contrast to the spices which dominate the savoury section. The chocolate, praline and mousse cake arrived proudly onto the table, and it was as if a cloud danced on my tongue, exactly how a mousse should be.
The coffee is also excellent, and bear in mind that Orso now teach coffee making courses, so they work hard in this district. I was also impressed to see Bertha’s Revenge being advertised on a miniature blackboard. Whatever Orso undertake, they do it with brilliance and elegance. It’s a classy little kitchen.
8 Pembroke Street, Cork