Opening in October 1993, Cafe Paradiso set out to take vegetarian cooking out of the healthfood industry and away from the perception of meat-free cooking being somewhat penitential. Dishes were created with a focus on vegetables rather than lentils, and with no agenda other than sharing the pleasure of real food prepared with skill and passion.
Groundbreaking in it’s early years, Paradiso has now become something of an iconic institution in the Cork dining scene and the wider and Irish food culture.
The cooking has evolved into a unique, mature and personal style, resulting in the publication of four celebrated cookbooks. This style has been strongly influenced by the producers of local vegetables and cheeses, with whom the restaurant works to maintain the supply and quality of raw ingredients. In particular, the restaurant has developed a working relationship with Ultan Walsh of Gort-Na-Nain Farm near Nohoval, south of the city.
The early cafe-style dining room design was intended to emphasise the effect of serving top-class food in a casual atmosphere, The restaurant has been refurbished – not once, but twice – in 2009. While retaining the relaxed atmosphere, the room is now a more elegant, intimate and comfortable space, and more in keeping with the qualities of the food coming from the kitchen.
The first refurbishment was done with this in mind, the second was forced on Cafe Paradiso when it was a victim of the massive floods in Cork city in November 2009. There must be a relatively small sub-group of people out there who have eaten in all three versions of the Cafe Paradiso dining room.
Over the restaurant, there is spacious and luxurious guest accomodation, for people coming from out of town to experience Cafe Paradiso. In a city as rainy as Cork, you simply can’t exaggerate the pleasure of skipping upstairs to bed after dinner over traipsing off down the street.
Cafe Paradiso has won many accolades and awards over the years. It was listed in the Bridgestone Guides 100 Best Restaurants from its first year and holds the highest ‘icon’ status in that guide book. It was voted ‘Best Restaurant in Munster’ by the readers of ‘Food & Wine’ magazine in 2001, and Denis Cotter was voted ‘Chef of the Year ’ by the same magazine in 2005. The restaurant was also voted ‘Restaurant of the Year’ by Les Routiers Ireland in 2004.