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With a cheery atmosphere and deliciously filling breakfasts, this Cork cafe is guaranteed to get any day off to a tasty start, writes Grub Spy Alan Kelly
When I was a lad back in the day, breakfast was nothing more than a compulsory act you did every weekday morning — like pulling on your trousers or pretending to be sick to dodge school.
It was a private family affair, consumed in irritable silence and regularly involved bowls of lumpy porridge made with water, or worse still, a bowl of god-awful Ready Brek.
12 TABLES Tramway House, Douglas East, Cork Four stars Food: €24; Drinks: €6.40
Either way, it was scarfed down your gullet and then you were out the door before 8.30am come hail, rain or sunshine.
Somehow, during the 80s, a new kind of breakfast crept into Ireland. All of a sudden, it started to get sexy. I reckon it was all that Dallasand Dynasty nonsense giving us strange notions about orange juice and fancy stuff like yoghurts, pop-tarts and cappuccinos, if you don’t mind. We’d been hoodwinked — in a good way.
Now here we are in the 2020s, escaping from the kitchen to meet up in cafes for working brekkies with cinnamon buns, huevos rancheros, bespoke granola and delectable French patisseries. Suddenly fantastic coffee shops are everywhere too, pretty much on every street corner. And who doesn’t love having a ball in a breakfast fantasy land?
Although that can change on a whim, most of us have our favourite breakfast venue. My latest favourite is 12 Tables in Douglas. It’s big, friendly and pleasantly filled with cheery, breakfasty chatter, aromas of freshly brewed coffee and calming music.
Today, the Boss goes for her favourite: the Sir Henry (named after an expired Cork nightclub). I mean, it’s a classic: two flawlessly poached free-range eggs, crushed avocado on a toasted muffin, dressed leaves and baby tomatoes.
Except for an isolated blip of ice-cold avocado, which almost ruins the warm eggs and warm muffin (watch that in future, guys), it is prettily presented and verging close to gorgeous.
My choice, called the Lionheart, is a proper start-the-day filler: another two flawlessly poached eggs, crispy grilled streaky rashers, a delish pork sausage, grilled black pudding and a bunch of fried wafer-thin sliced spuds. With sourdough toast and cherry tomatoes, it’s an outstanding feast.
OK, in some ways it resembles a good auld gut-buster fry-up. But where it matters — taste and quality — it is quite a distance away. On other visits, we’ve sampled pancakes and omelettes, and I’m happy to report that they too are worth making a fuss about.
Food fads may come and go, but I’m guessing our top-quality all-day breakfast gaffs are here to stay. Brunch and dinners too often require planning and shopping and bloody hard work. Whereas heading out for a brekkie means no starters, desserts, expensive wines or taxis to worry about.
12 Tables’ secret weapon is making the brekkie experience utterly relaxing and enjoyable — it’s like simplicity and calmness by the spoonful.
The Yanks and the Aussies may well have invented going out for kick-ass breakfasts, but as we’re sitting here in Douglas, happy and full, scanning our emails, and preparing for the Christmas shopping assault course, all is well with our little corner of the world. Let’s hope it stays that way.