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Uillinn, Skibbereen, County Cork

All the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

Siobhan O'Callaghan belongs to one of the most distinguished groups in culinary Ireland: the great female chefs of County Cork.

Like all those mighty mavens, she demonstrates intelligence and restraint in everything she does. And she works organically, slowly developing her petite restaurant, Kalbo's, from its single-room space into a Divine operation: Kalbo's is now Three-In-One, with the food cart at the Skibbereen market and the newest addition, the café at Skibb's Uillinn art centre.
The Uillinn shows Ms O'Callaghan's smarts, and her mettle. Consider, first, that she doesn't actually have a kitchen in this hip space. No problem for this mighty maven. Using the Kalbo's kitchen, she serves a daily soup, she makes superb sandwiches centered on Arbutus breads, and her sweet things are amongst the best sweet things you can eat. Pristine organic salad leaves are scattered on the wooden plates. The room and the courtyard space are terrific, as organically conceived as the leaves on your sandwich plate.
Look closely at what Ms O'Callaghan does and you can see the attention to detail: the mushroom and thyme soup is rich and herbaceous, but it is the cake-like style of her brown bread that makes her soup-and-brown-bread special: the bread is sweet and moist and rich, and thus the perfect foil to the soup: a bowl of one and a slice of the other and you have the simplest, and best, lunch.
Like all the best Cork cooks, Ms O'Callaghan doesn't make a big deal about what she does, and she works unbelieveably hard. She is the great culinary talent of Skibbereen, and one of the great culinary talents of West Cork. And Uillinn, part of her mighty trinity of Skibbereen destinations, is another winner.

John McKenna
Kalbos at Uillinn is on Facebook.

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