Certain places where we go to eat offer what we might call Magic Moments. Idaho Café in Cork, run by Richard and Mairead Jacob, is one of those places.
The room is so petite that you could get away with calling it a tabernacle. Many years ago we warned anyone coming here not to bring their cat. Everyone who comes here eats cheek-by-jowl, and everyone likes that. The building wraps around the corner of Maylor Street and Caroline Street, and the seating wraps around a central counter where Richard Jacob and his team enjoy a wide-screen view of everyone in the place.
People come to Idaho for those magic moments. I vividly recall an afternoon more than a decade ago when, judging a competition sponsored by the Barry’s tea company, I came here and had a cup of tea and a slice of warm chocolate cake. Time stopped. The tea and the cake were so perfect that they created a bubble of emotion that held me for about fifteen minutes. A magic moment, mid-afternoon.
But you can have that MM at breakfast time and you can have it at lunchtime, too. The menu changes slowly, which is – once again – how everyone likes it. And everyone likes the service, which is fleet and polite and perfectly judged: they know when to chat, and when to leave you alone with The Examiner.
In all the years we have been coming to Idaho, we have never been here when Mr Jacob wasn’t manning the counter, directing the room. Idaho may seem to run seamlessly, but that’s because the seams are kept watertight by sheer hard work.
Idaho perfectly expresses what may be the highest ideal in hospitality: it does what it does as well as it can do it, every day. It delivers the magic moments.
Idaho Café, corner of Maylor and Caroline Street, Cork city 021 427 6376
Thanks to Jude O'Leary and Lisa Coughlan, who we met in Idaho, and who allowed us to photograph. Jude, it turns out, writes a great blog at http://judesjuicybytes.wordpress.com, and makes an elegant Chicken Liver Paté, which we have been enjoying ever since.