The English Market is certainly the jewel in the crown of any foodie’s visit to Cork. Trading as a market since 1788, it feels and looks very much like Barcelona’s famous Boqueria market which it in fact pre-dates by almost 80 years. The hustle, bustle, colour and smells of the English market are truly unique. The English Market is the culinary crossroads of the city making it a tour de force of some of the best food produce in Ireland. The market is packed with artisan butchers, cheese sellers, vegetable stalls and fresh fish much of it from Ballycotton and west Cork. Chefs from many of the hotels and restaurants in Cork can be spotted choosing delicacies for the evening menu over the course of a day. The Observer newspaper has listed the English Market as one of the top 10 food markets in Europe, but Corkonians reckon that it is the best.
A very striking sight at the English market is the sheer abundance of quality and fresh sea food something of a rarity in other parts of Ireland. Again this is where the modern English market competes well with its Barcelona twin. Kay O’Connells stand is worth a visit for the sheer theatre of the stall and also see Pat O’Connell the man the made the Queen laugh so famously.
The English market is home to On the Pigs back one of the finest cheese stalls in the country with a large variety of Irish cheeses and French cheeses.
Isabelle Sheridan is the driving force behind this wonderful stall, and one of the people who have made the English market what it is today. Twenty years ago the English market was very nearly turned into a multi-storey car park but thanks to founder members of the modern-day market such as Isabelle it wasn`t. This cheese stall alone is worth a visit if not only to see how many quality Irish farmhouse cheeses are available in 2012.
Other stalls of note are Frank Hedermans smoked salmon, The good olive company (which always offers a free tasting of their olives, excellent for the very peckish passing foodie photographer, just don`t sample too many, they will notice the free lunch brigade!).
There are a myriad of beef, pork poultry butchers specialising in French and polish cuts of meat and for lovers of game pheasants and quail can be bought easily enough. A favourite of mine also is a particular Asian shop which stocks every kind of spice you could ever want. All in all the English market is a foodie heaven, one I unfortunately took for granted while I was living in the rebel county (how I miss you English market).