El Vino Restaurant in the landmark Elysian tower in the centre of Cork. This classy restaurant serves a mixture of modern European dishes, and has a short but very good tapas menu, which is proving very popular with locals and visitors. Angie O’Brien’s place is very contemporary and busy, and the prices offer very good value for money.
The Elysian tower itself is a thoroughly modern creation, and so El Vino is likewise. The main dining and bar area extends upwards to double height, giving it an airy and spacious fell, and the décor is very impressive. On the wall facing the door is a very large painting by a renowned artist, who uses a finger paining style, and the resulting canvas is a riot of colour and texture. Around the corner is another modern piece inspired by the Lee swim, which depicts a gaggle of swimmers, not unlike a scene from a modern triathlon. This theme was chosen because the restaurant is just across from the old Baths, and of course, very close to the Lee.
There is some banquette seating running along the windows and tables and chairs are contemporary, but they have mixed this up with some antique pieces like an Oriental armoire and a art deco table at the bar area. It is obvious someone spent time and some money on the setting.
They open each day from breakfast serving food through lunch and into dinner service in the evening, when in addition to the main menus, there is also a tapas menu with a selection of hot and cold dishes available. For breakfast have an omelette or poached eggs and Clonakilty pudding, or if you are feeing healthy, there is a range of smoothies. Lunch offers a selection of light bites, sandwiches, salads and some mains like fish cakes or Thai red curry.
In the evening the lights go down and the culinary bar goes up, with the kitchen providing dishes such as Moules mariniere and Kenmare scallops with spicy mint pea puree to get you started. Main courses such as roast rack of Wexford lamb, pan seared duck breast or lemon and thyme roasted chicken feature and there are a selection of daily specials.
We were down for the launch of the new Dining in Cork magazine and stopped by for a light dinner. The tapas menu appealed and we enjoyed four of the plates between two of us. Bacon wrapped prawns stuffed with mozzarella cheese were delicious, and heartier than they sound. The Clonakilty pudding with chutney wrapped in filo pastry were large, and the flavours were great. Our one cold dish of blue cheese and walnut salad on leaves with a chilli dressing was light and tasty, and he goujons of lemon sole with a homemade tartar sauce were crispy and light. The portions are more like biggish starters than traditional tapas and you will easily have enough in two per person. Washed down with a glass of wine and shared with friends, they are perfect for a social bite.
El Vino is a very good modern restaurant that serves unfussy favourites in a very friendly setting. Service is relaxed and informal, but very prompt. The tapas menu will expand I think, they are probably onto a winner here. Next time you find yourself on the banks of the lovely Lee, look up, find the tower and make a beeline.