These days, people from around the world have heard about the town called Skibbereen – the place where those Olympic rower boys grew up eating steak and spuds. But there’s much more to this west Cork haven for the gastronomically inclined. Skibbereen is a thriving epicenter for local, sustainable, and organic food production and is quickly becoming known as a foodie’s paradise.
If you’re especially lucky, you may even get to visit the region during its annual A Taste of West Cork Food Festival held each year in September where local producers, chefs, restaurants, and venues will all be showcased. But if you can’t make it, don’t be discouraged. There are plenty of restaurants right in the Skibbereen area which will make your taste buds dance – festival or no festival. Here is our top five restaurants you need to try out when in town!
5. Kalbos Café
Kalbos is best known for its use of local ingredients. You can’t miss them – the names of the producers as well as what they’ve contributed to the meal are written on the blackboard beside the day’s menu. Meats, cheeses, sausages, vegetables, and seafood all originate in sunny West Cork and are used to prepare the most delightfully fresh meals. Or, if you’d prefer something lighter and sweeter, Kalbos always has an amazing array of desserts and freshly baked bread that will suit any dietary needs. While their main location is on North Street in Skibbereen, they also have a café located in the town’s Uillinn Art Center and they are to be seen weekly at the Skibbereen farmers’ market held on Saturdays in the market square.
4. The Riverside Café and Restaurant
At The Riverside on North Street in Skibbereen, you can choose to sit inside at one of the many cozy tables surrounded by exhibits from local artists or you can sit outside on their beautiful riverside terrace – watching the ducks slowly paddle along in the Ilen. But, as beautiful as the surroundings may be, what will really draw you to The Riverside is their eclectic array of dishes featuring local artisan producers. While the menu tends towards the Mediterranean, there’s a decidedly Irish flair to everything they create. And I do mean everything they create. At the Riverside, all of their sauces, soups, breads, dips, and desserts are homemade ensuring the best in fresh and seasonal fare. They are well known for their roasted rosemary Rustic Potatoes, but lads, if you can get a hold of their Sweet Potato Patty with homemade hummus, house slaw, and puy lentil salad – I’d highly recommend it.
3. Glebe Gardens
New to Skibbereen this past spring is a lovely little restaurant called Glebe Gardens. But, don’t be deceived, this Glebe is just a recent extension of the original which is located in the nearby town of Baltimore. While the chef may be unique to the Skibbereen Glebe, the ethos remains true to the original with nothing but the best on their unique, hand-crafted, seasonal menu. While some veg is sourced from local producers, most of it originates in the Glebe Gardens themselves and everything from the focaccia to the asparagus and ricotta tartlet is made from scratch. With hours running from Monday through Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm, its guaranteed to be a treat for breakfast, lunch, or afternoon tea. Be sure to also check their website as the Glebe Gardens in Baltimore are a well-known venue for concerts, comedians, weddings, and courses. It’s well worth a look!
2. The Mews
Having won the 2018 Best Chef and Best Restaurant awards from the Restaurants Association of Ireland – Cork, The Mews is not a place to be missed. Located down a quaint lane in the nearby harbor town of Baltimore, The Mews’ menu is packed with all of the freshness available in the region. The dishes are all made from 100% West Cork ingredients including fish brought in to Baltimore harbour, meats from Walshes Butcher (lovely lads located in Skibbereen – be sure to stop in when you’re in town), wild terrestrial and sea plants sustainably harvested by local foragers, and, of course, veg grown in the heart of West Cork. However, they’re only open for certain days during certain parts of the year, so be sure to plan your trip to the region accordingly. You wouldn’t want to miss this gastronomic nirvana.
1. EAT @ the Castle
Lastly, I would like to introduce you to EAT @ The Castle. EAT is the brain-child of head chef Andy Illsley and the Townshend family, owners of The Castle, a B&B, event venue, and café originally built circa 1650 in Castletownshend just down the road from Skibbereen. Located in the castle itself, the café is full of rustic charm. Or, should you prefer, there is also an outdoor covered terrace complete with bar, wood-fired oven, and smoker for guests and diners alike to enjoy.
At EAT, you’ll be able to sit back, relax, and look out over the bay as you dine from a truly inspired menu. Having long been known for his unique recipes offering artisan versions of classics, Andy is dedicated to offering visitors nothing but the best – meeting and knowing every producer personally to ensure that he’s sourced the highest quality animals and produce available. If you’re ready to have the best fish and chips of your life or to try a corn chowder that will make your toes curl, you simply must visit EAT @ the Castle and while you’re there, be sure to tell them we sent you!