Why, after flying from London, UK (where I incidentally live) to Dublin, Ireland, did I decide to visit The English Market in the city of Cork, I do not know! Oh, hang on.... of course, I do - it was because we were doing a fun jaunt 22 years after graduation - a girl's only thing. And, to my friends who had flown in from the Eastern side of the globe, an English market sounded so quaint! After having visited it, I sure am glad I did too!
Serving Cork for 231 years and counting !
So, this is essentially what it says - an indoor English market - its 'Englishness' derived from the fact it originated by the charter of King James I in 1610. Apparently, this was also to distinguish it from the Irish market which was set up in a different locality (sadly that seems to have shut down along the years.) The present building dates back from 1788 - just a good 231 years! So, yes, it is a must-do if you are visiting Cork.
Essentially, a food market, it has some rather unique foods for those wanting an Irish adventure of sorts. For starters, there's a whole load of Irish handmade chocolates, jams and marmalades (the Irish part of these foods being the infusion of Irish whiskey or Bailey's draught beer into aforementioned otherwise regular food items!).
Then, there are the meats - crubeen (pig's feet), drisheen (blood sausages), Celtic burgers (which have a layer of black pudding in addition to the meat pattie).
The seafood selection also has some rather unique items to offer - seaweed spaghetti (can be cooked like pasta) and finally, my weakness, cheeses (again, there are whiskey infused cheeses, seaweed cheese to name a few specials).
Apart from these products, there are also little cafes and sausage stands which turn out some amazing hot food. I breakfasted on French toast with bacon and maple syrup, topped by an edible nasturtium. Quite simply the best interpretation of this dish this side of France!
An Indian in Ireland having French toast in an English market !
My friends Shameen opted for traditional scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam while Mary tried breakfast bap with chilli jam (yes, its a thing!).
What I particularly liked about the place was the clearly comfortable camaraderie the shopkeepers seemed to share with each other. Most of them are family businesses passing from generation to generation. Another thing was that all the produce was indeed local. None of this business of - sold in the Western world but sourced from some other part of the East or wherever... You know what I'm talking about, right?
The goods were not too pricey and I came away with some Irish peculiars like lime and pepper chocolate, whiskey marmalade, seaweed spaghetti and seaweed cheese. They've gone down a treat!
So, if you do visit Cork, do put The English Market on your 'to-do' list. It's got a character of its own and its delicious too!