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About the Market

The epicenter of the city`s gourmet scene is the English Market, dating from 1788 and regularly lauded as one of the finest covered markets in Europe – TV chefs Rick Stein, Rachel Allen and the late Keith Floyd have all raved about it, and it was a high point of Queen Elizabeth`s 2011 visit to Ireland. The mix of traditional Cork fare and exciting new foods from afar along with long standing family run stalls contribute to the unique appeal of this market.

Get there by mid-morning to browse the colorful stalls that groan with the bounty of County Cork`s rich farmland and coastal waters. Fish merchant Kay O`Connell`s 80 foot-long marble counter glistens with more than 50 varieties of fish and seafood, from cod and ling freshly landed at the West Cork port of Castletownbere, to organic smoked salmon from Bantry Bay, 50 miles west of Cork, to tanks filled with live lobster and crab.

There are greengrocers` stalls piled high with cabbages, leeks and a dozen varieties of spud, and a whole range of butchers` shops, with their serried ranks of pork ribs, ham hocks and sides of bacon, dark red slabs of richly marbled sirloin, and neatly arranged trays of crubeens (pigs` trotters, cooked long and slow to gelatinous tenderness then crisped in the oven – a local specialty).

Look out for A O`Reilly`s display of tripe and drisheen, two of Cork`s traditional favorites. Drisheen is a variety of black pudding, made with beef and sheep`s blood and poached in milk. If you are feeling adventurous, try it at the market`s famous Farmgate Cafe.

Eating at the Market

Lunch at Cork`s English Market gives new meaning to the phrase "locally sourced food”. Tucking into a hearty bowl of Irish stew or a platter of sea-scented rock oysters at one of the market`s mezzanine Farmgate Cafe tables, you can look down on the stalls where the chefs sourced their produce that very morning. Founded in 1984, the ethos of Farmgate Cafe is simple – to promote top quality local produce and champion traditional Irish cuisine. At the top of the stairs near the market`s Princes Street entrance, turn left for the formal, table-service restaurant or right to order at the counter and grab a bar stool overlooking the market below. The menu ranges from scrambled eggs with smoked salmon to lamb`s liver and bacon to fish chowder, shepherd`s pie, and tripe and onions with drisheen - and all of the meat and fish comes from the market stalls below.

Farmgate closes at 5 pm, but English Market produce is also on the dinner menu at Market Lane, a few blocks to the east. Lively, informal and crammed with locals, this restaurant operates a walk-in policy (reservations only taken for parties of six or more), but waiting for a table is a pleasure. Order a Cork Dry Gin and tonic (distilled in the city since 1793 and possessing a distinctive citrusy nose) or a bottle of locally brewed Angel Stout, and strike up a conversation at the convivial bar. When it is time to take a seat, choose from a menu of honest Irish cuisine such as smoked haddock with bacon and cabbage potato cakes, or ham hock with cauliflower cheese.