A tour across the changing culinary landscape of Ireland

Elbow Lane

Elbow Lane beer sampler
After our lovely morning in Midleton and Cobh, we wandered around the city of Cork. Cork is Dublin’s younger, slightly less cosmopolitan sister, which to me is the perfect compliment. Yes, it is diverse, with fantastic eateries, but the layout feels more like the Ireland I knew twenty years ago. Cork is absolutely one of my favorite places in Ireland.

We arrived a bit too late to eat at the English Market, so we had our dinner plans wide open. I had heard positive chatter online about a place called Elbow Lane, so we decided to give it a go. We arrived a few minutes before opening and were not alone in our desire for a table (popular joint, no reservations, so get there early). As we walked into Elbow Lane from the bright sunlight outside, we were greeted by the flames of the open grill, candlelit tables, and the smell of smoked meat. If you like steak, we highly recommend a visit. And if you like brews? They make their own upstairs on the premises.
The menu
For our meal, we each had the Grilled Ribeye Steak, along with the West Cork Seaweed and Potato Gratin. And since they made their own beer, a sampling was necessary. We chose four beers for our tray: a robust, yet smooth stout, a refreshing lager, a summer beer, and a pilsner. The stout was my second choice, but tops for me was the summer beer, which was light and crisp.

The entire meal felt and tasted like an embodiment of the four elements: from the blaze of the flame broiler, to the earthy steaks, to the fresh beers and seaweed infused gratin, to the airy Creme Catalan for dessert. After our meal, we eagerly let our server know how delicious it was and mentioned we were definitely going to spread the word on our food blog; they then offered us a tour of the upstairs brewery.
One of the best steaks I
The kitchen’s open grill is in full view of the dining area and it made for a succulent and smoky piece of ribeye steak — moist, tender and charred perfectly.
The taproom upstairs

The keg room is located above the restaurant.

Interviewing Jerry in Elbow Lane
Co-owner/Manager, Jerry O’Sullivan greeted us enthusiastically at our table. As we followed him through the small 25 seat restaurant, I felt a bit like a VIP. He opened a large, Willy Wonkaesque colorful door that led to a narrow staircase and up the secret stairs we went! On the way, he pointed out a few hop plants growing under a skylight and continued to demonstrate his passion for all things related to brewing. We then entered the brewing room, kept at a chilly 8 degrees Celsius; Jerry even put on a coat before our tour, where he proceeded to explain Elbow Lane’s brewing mission.

Jerry gave me so much information my head was spinning. My notes look like the ramblings of an excited child in class for the first time, so suffice it to say, the whole process is quite interesting, but rather involved, and all of it, of course, varies based on the type of the beer you make. As a craft brewer, Elbow Lane is small; Jerry described them as a nano-brewer, but they make a plethora of various beers, including lagers, ales, and stouts. Despite the complex process, the ingredients Elbow Lane uses in their beers is simple and based on years and years of tradition. We happened to be visiting Elbow Lane on the exact 500th anniversary of the German Beer Purity Law or Reinheitsgebot. The law, enacted on April 23, 1516, originally stated you could only use water, hops, and barley to make beer. Elbow Lane follows the law in its slightly more modernized form; they use only water, malt, yeast, and hops in their brews. I felt these deep traditions as I stood typing incoherent notes into my IPhone, in a cold microbrew room, above a fantastic eatery, in a city founded in the 6th century, pondering beer laws implemented about five centuries ago. Mind boggling, but a perfect illustration of why I love to travel.

Interviewing in the keg room
Next door to Elbow Lane is Market Lane and the large beer kegs upstairs feed both eateries. The left over mash from the entire process is fed to local pigs, which fits with the ethos of the new small producers movement in Ireland. Jerry stressed that all of the local brewers and farmers work together. I got the sense of a gracious food community in Cork. Actually, as we left, a delivery from the local meat purveyor, Tom Durcan, arrived straight from the English Market just a few steps up the street. As much as Cork has grown in both status as a tourist destination and food mecca, it still has the feel of a small village at times. In that spirit, we also met Head Chef and co-owner, Stephen Kehoe, at work in the kitchen. My first time meeting a head chef, to be honest! Perfect end to a perfect meal!
I get introduced to the fire that grills magic

Staff member Peter photobombs our grill pic.

Inside Elbow Lane

A broader view of the snug, but vibrant dining area.

Libby and Conor

Jerry was kind enough to snap a photo of me and Conor following our behind-the-scenes tour.