Midleton, so named because it is halfway between the seaside town of Youghal (pronounced Yawl) and Cork city, has a typical Irish high street running straight through and is the home of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey distillery and many fine restaurants.
It is also not far from Shanagarry and Ballymaloe House, family seat of the Allen dynasty and the Ballymaloe empire – hotel, restaurant, cookery school, shop, cafe, the Grain Store and Big Shed. And it’s where we spent last weekend at the Craft & Design Festival. Cattapilla Designs and over 100 other designer makers plied our wares to a remarkably unresponsive public. There were a lot of 3 P’s – pick up, put down, piss off – but we’re a hardy lot, us Cork crafters and despite a disappointing show, we had fun. I was between Annabel Langrish’s lovely animal prints and Helen O’Leary’s hand knitted tea cosies.
I had to have this, it’s just so silly and fun, but it might be kept for best!
And we all laughed at the - ‘Are they for sale? ‘ ‘Where do you get them from?’ ’You want to put velcro on those bags!’ and of course the ever popular ‘That’s a good idea,’ nudge to friend, ‘you could do that!’
Back to Midleton where we stayed at the monstrous concrete building at the end of town that is the Midleton Park Hotel.
But like book covers, hotel facades are often deceptive and we had a vast, quiet room where we could kick off the shoes, have a large drink or two and forget about the long day. And there’s a swimming pool in the basement so no excuse for not exercising!
And then food. For some reason Midleton has had a good reputation for food for many years and it’s well deserved. We only had three nights to sample the delights and boy, did we eat well. Sage has two dining rooms. The ’smart’ one was full so we ate in the Greenroom where we had Irish tapas. The chef promises that all the food served has been grown or produced within a 12 mile radius and the quality and freshness of the goat’s cheese, chicken, pickles and paté shows what a difference this ethos makes. We got a table in the restaurant another night and I had the most delicious slow cooked beef – what we used to call a pot roast!
Then to the Farmgate. Whenever we go to Cork city we try and eat at the Farmgate Café in the English Market and now we were in Midleton we had the opportunity to eat at the original. Again the place is divided into two and we ate in what is the shop / cafe but the menu was the same as in the restaurant. A lovely cosy room and surrounded by cakes and bread and with a plate of pheasant in front of me. Perfect. I now understand why this town has such a reputation. Excellent locally produced food, one good restaurant which breeds more, and quality that just gets better. Not sure if I’ll be doing the Ballymaloe Craft & Design Show again but I’ll certainly be back to Midleton for a comfy bed and more great food.