For many, myself included, Skibbereen is a West Cork hub. The ideal Saturday begins with a visit to the ever-growing farmers’ market for a coffee and to gather local ingredients for a picnic, before heading out of town to hike, kayak or swim.
For those inevitable wet days, when a cosy corner is preferable to a damp trudge, Skibbereen holds the key to whiling away an afternoon.
Carmel Somers, Paris and London-trained chef and owner of Good Things, saw an opening for her award-winning café and cookery school, relocating from the village of Durrus on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula to the site of the former Tsar bar, at a crossroads in the centre of Skibbereen. Her arrival at Dillon’s Corner in 2016 was welcomed by locals and visitors alike.
Fittingly, we reserved a table for lunch on what turned out to be a rainy day. By the time our meals arrived, the ground-floor café had filled up and there was a nice bustle about the place.
Despite the grey day, the interior was well-lit and the curved corner table is clearly the best seat in the house. Service was efficient and attentive, and it was good to see Carmel roaming around, ensuring that her empire was running smoothly.
At Good Things, the emphasis is on local, seasonal and, where possible, organic food. By cooking it as simply as possible, the flavour and freshness is retained and goes a long way towards Good Things being named one of the best restaurants in Ireland.
A good chef can do anything with good ingredients, so Carmel gives plenty of credit to her excellent suppliers, a list that has been honed and developed over her 14 years in West Cork.
We opted to share the Munster Cheese Platter as a starter (also available on the dessert menu). Gubbeen was a natural star, but everyone loved the crumbly oatcakes and the date and apple chutney.
We ordered two main courses from the menu and two of the day’s specials. The Steamed Hake on Sushi Rice was tender and unexpectedly light, but the dressing, served on the side, was the highlight.
Composed of sesame, ginger, dillisk, turmeric, lemon and cucumber, it gave a delicious edge to what could have been an easy dish.
The Lamb Burger, accompanied by a mint dressing and tomato and chilli jam, didn’t last long on the plate. This appeared to be the most traditional meal on the menu, but the roasted aubergine around the burger was a twist, adding to the tenderness of the meat.
Served in a blue pottery bowl, the sugar-cured Beef Sirloin, Potato and Green Bean Salad was well- proportioned. The beef was thinly sliced and complemented by a wholegrain mustard dressing.
A similar bowl arrived for me, overflowing with Juicy Langoustines. It seemed a shame to use the finger bowl, but in less-distinguished surroundings (i.e. at home, alone), I would have licked my fingers with relish.
Instead, I turned to dessert. Elizabeth David would have appreciated the simple appearance of the St.-Emilion au Chocolat, a simplicity that masked the punch of this rich chocolate mousse with its hidden Brandy-Soaked Macaroon. The warm chocolate and banana cake was nicely offset by the scoop of creamy ice-cream.
When we entered the café, I noticed boxes of Brown Sugar Meringues for purchase on the counter, so there was no doubt in my mind when I saw them on the menu. Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside and filled with cream and sour cherry sauce, my only regret is that I didn’t buy a box before I left.
All in all, our visit to Good Things left a craving for more, whether to return for the dinner menu, to attend the cookery school or just to taste the famous fish soup.
But all good things must come to an end eventually, so we left the restaurant and parted ways to cycle and walk the afternoon away. Because that’s what we do on holidays in West Cork, come rain or come shine.
A shared starter and main courses, desserts, teas, coffees for four came to €130.
68 Bridge Street,
T: (01) 536 9640
She makes wholehearted attempts at documenting her travels on social media, but would sometimes just like to settle down with a good book.
Originally supposed to stay in Brussels for 3 months, Sylvia still resides in the Belgian capital and has completely fallen in love with the city. In her words, she is “never likely to return to Ireland”.
Follow Sylvia’s blog: www.goingtobrussels.wordpress.ie.