Our second city, which Corkonians insist is the “real capital”, is far from void of delicious reasons to visit. A day eating your way around the English Market, sublime fine dining in gems like Greene’s and new kid Ichigo Ichie or caffeinating in stylish spots like Soma all make a trip south tempting, but all that exploring certainly makes for thirsty work.
The rebel city isn’t short of celebrated watering holes either, with the talented mixologists at Cask shaking up something very exciting on the North side. Along the banks of the Lee a stone’s throw from City Hall, tucked away and unassuming, is L’Atitude 51.
A wine café where a caffeinated rather than grape-based beverage would be a missed opportunity to say the least, L’Atitude 51 opened in 2011 when French woman Emmanuelle Legrand teamed up with Beverly Matthews to create a Gallic gem in the city.
With high stools and hanging glasses, cosy corners and windowsill counters, there’s no bad seat here, only different vantage points from which to admire the continental charm of this unique little spot. The background music is French grunge (the couple at the table next to me are singing along) harmonised by accents from various French regions – a ringing endorsement of L’Atitude’s authenticity before I even take my first sip.
Those less inclined towards the pleasures of the grape will be pleased to hear that there is an extensive gin offering, from Dingle to Drumshanbo, as well as an array of aperitifs such as my beloved Aperol Spritz and a Kir crafted with the often underrated Cremant D’Alsace in place of Champagne.
A study of the wine list reveals rare finds without the pretension and plenty of pocket friendly options too. I love how the menu is divided into helpful sections, for someone like me eager to learn and quite aware of which styles tend to float my boat, it allows for easy learning and easy ordering.
I, somewhat reluctant to commit, love the idea of taster glasses of 125ml, allowing me to flirt with numerous styles and my eye immediately fixes on Did Someone Say Honey? with a little caricature of Winnie the Pooh. Keen to venture outside my safe zone, I instead jump to “Crisp with Attitude” for my first taste.
Badenhorst Wines “Secateurs” Chenin Blanc is racy indeed and gets the tastebuds flooding, crisp as the breeze dancing in the door from Cork harbour, Swartland sunshine with tempting toffee apple notes.
Spotting Txakoli in the Quenchers section I couldn’t resit, and Bodegas De Ameztoi (€6 per 125ml/€33.50 per bottle) was like my own little vinous vacation in a glass. With temperatures in the mid 20’s, L’Atitude 51 felt like a little Basque enclave, more Bay of Biscay than banks of the Lee.
There’s whispers behind the counter of the Prince of Wales visiting, but you can indulge in a catalogue of sips without being royally over charged or spending a princely sum. Interestingly, each is available for takeaway, so if you find the one, you needn’t go home without it.
The Take a Walk on the Wild Side section, dotted with wines which “rank higher on the rock and roll scale” was too tempting to resist. My choice, Coulange La Vineuse “Vini Viti Vinci“, (€8 for €125ml/€47 per bottle) natural Pinot Noir from Burgundy was pleasingly fruit driven, almost like sour cherry candy and mouth wateringly fresh. This was a treat delivered by Ireland’s biggest importer of natural wine, Paschal Rossignol of Le Caveau in Kilkenny, likely the beginning of my new love affair with natural wines.
Not something you usually come across (I believe my last sighting was in Etto), Orange or Skin Contact wine encouraged me to embrace my rebellious side. Not as mouth-dryingly tannic as one would expect from (numerous) caveats and surprisingly drinkable, a pleasant easing in to the world of this oft derided varietal came in the form of Sicilian Cantina Rallo Baglio Bianca (€6 for €125ml/€33.50 per bottle) richly textured and Trumpian orange, but far less bellicose on the palate.
My waiter friend writes up Ummera Warm Duck Salad on the specials board just as I settle the bill and head for dinner, leaving me devastated – it just hammers home that it is all about sourcing here and had me scheming up reasons to make a return visit tout suite.
As I sipped and savoured my way through my tasters, I realised L’Atitude 51 is the perfect date spot – there’s no fear you’ll fall into the second cheapest bottle trap, and with so many offierings by the glass you can have your own private tasting of sorts and feel transported to the City of Love. The money you save on flights can always be wisely redirected towards Cremant D’Alsace or even a dedicated wine flight to explore a specific region.
The team at L’Atitude 51 want to make wine more accessible to all, and this alone makes it worth a visit. Learn from my mistakes and clear your diary in favour of a drawn out evening in Cork’s little Gallic gem.
1 Union Quay
T: 021 2390219
REVIEW BY DARINA COFFEY