Everyone knows Cork's City's English Market is the best market in the world! Every ingredient is from local shores and some from further afield all abound under this one historical roof. Fish is no exception and the flagship fish stall is Kay O'Connell's. It takes up the whole of one wall of the market fish section and the fish here looks fresh enough to jump right off the fishmonger's slab and into a bag!
O'Connell's was started by Kay O'Connell almost 50 years ago. This lady was ahead of her time starting up a fish stall in the market in a small space and with just a slab from an old fish shop in the city. Her commitment to supplying quality fish extended to daily trips to Castletownbere on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork, a good three hour drive away from the city centre. Often she took her then two small sons Pat and Paul with her - and they learned just as much about fish as their mother. These days the stall is in their good hands and with Pat's daughter also now working behind the counter and Paul's son helping out, the business looks set to continue well into the next generation.Shoppers don't just come to O'Connell's to buy great fish, they come to watch the floor show too. This is food theatre at its best. Stand back and be amazed by any of the counter staff here as they fillet, skin and wash any fish in about two seconds flat, right in front of your eyes. Soak up the tales of the one that got away whilst they do it! You might get a few cookery tips too. There is a great emphasis placed on educating the ordinary housewife or househusband on the benefits of fresh fish and best ways to cook it, hence the invaluable advice that comes flying over the counter along with the bags of freshly filleted fish. Pat and Paul see it as duty to pass on their vast knowledge to anyone who steps up and asks. Both know there is a world of difference in taste and quality in buying fish straight from a fishmonger rather than picking it up in a plastic tray from the supermarket - and of course we wouldn't argue with them there!
The O'Connell brothers still follow their mother's tradition of travelling to Castletownbere Fisherman's Co-Op to get the best of the catch from local waters. You will find organic farmed salmon from Murphy's in Bantry Bay, oysters from Haven Shellfish in Crosshaven and local lobsters and crabs caught by small boat fishermen. Also O'Connell's smoked salmon is prepared to a special recipe from Irish fish and many a side gets bought as a gourmet gift. You'll also find Cod, Hake, Plaice, Lemon Sole, Black Sole, Turbot, Skate (Ray-Wing), Sea-Bass, Sea-Bream, Haddock, Monk Fish, Tuna, Sword-Fish, Halibut, Whiting, White Sole, Chowder-mix, Smoked Coley/Haddock, fresh Prawns and their famous Battle-board (Salted-Ling). And catches from further afield - snapper, tuna, mullet and others which satisfy the tastes of those who want a touch of exotic on their plates. One thing all the fish have in common here is supreme freshness. The O'Connell ethos is to bring consistent quality to their customers, they are known for this which is why many chefs in the city choose them to supply for their menus. In recent times the stall has extended to incorporate a deli section. Plenty of fishy delights and accompaniments to compliment the fresh fish range.