During a busy period, Cork restaurateurs sometimes allocate time slots to diners. If you book a table for 7:30pm, it is not unusual for the restaurant to tell you that they will require the table again for 9pm.  The reason they do this is that many of the restaurants are small and to maximise the use of their tables they try and double up. (Unlike our lucky European neighbours in warmer climes where excess tables can spill out onto the footpaths and terraces).

Now, while this might suit some diners, it might not suit everyone depending on the circumstances.   For example a couple out for a romantic meal will not need as much eating time as a larger group who are ‘out for the night’. If this concerns you, you should ask.

You can ask for the second sitting (if there is one), and hope that this will be near enough to 8:30pm which is not too late for eating.   This strategy (!!) means you can stay at the table until the restaurant closes if you really want to.

Other than that you can arrive as early as possible, relax and later move somewhere nearby for a relaxing drink or two.

PRE-BOOKING: Many visitors are surprised to find that they cannot eat at certain restaurants because there are no available tables. 

In general Friday and Saturday nights will always be fully booked at least one week ahead (sometimes more). Tables in December for example have to be booked months ahead !!!!  If you are disappointed that you cannot get a table in a restaurant that you were looking forward to, try and book a non-weekend evening.   However the best atmosphere is at a weekend when the restaurants are full, so book ahead if you can.

TIPPING/GRATUITY:   In general, there is a service charge added to the bill by the restaurant, which you are expected to pay. If there is not, and if you liked the food and the service, then 10% of the total bill is the norm and rightly so.

COST: As at June 2009 be prepared to pay just over €100 for two at any of the nicer Bistros.   This will include a 3 course meal and bottle of wine. It probably won’t cover the tip.  
Expect to pay a lot more at the  more exclusive restaurants including hotel restaurants.

In these recessionary times most restaurants are now offering 'Early Bird' menus which can be great value if you are prepared to eat from a limited menu.

SMOKING:   Is not permitted in pubs or restaurants or in fact in any workplace.   Some pubs have smoking rooms but most do not, and you must go outside to smoke.   Unfortunate for smokers but great for non.   

SMIRTING:      The word is a combination of SMoking and flIRTING .   It involves the practise of having a smoke and a flirt outside the door of your favourite pub/restaurant/office.    Rumor is: it’s the only way to socialise nowadays !

You can get  very good idea of the variety of restaurants that are avaialble in Cork by looking at www.menupages.ie