Food and tourism
Joe McNamee looks at how innovations like the Kinsale Good Food Circle, outdoor markets and a commitment to quality have stood the test of time.
If you’ve decided to park the sun/sea/sangria option and opt for a food-friendly staycation in Ireland or are even just considering a night or two away, you’d be hard pressed to find a more attractive destination, so why not join us for a quick flit around Kinsale, one with an especial focus on the belly.
Whether on land or on the surrounding seas, Kinsale is a fine place to work up an appetite with myriad activities and amenities for all interests and tastes, including adventure sports, water sports, and a whole host of cultural, historical, and heritage sites and activities. (I’ll leave the in-depth exploration to others though an exception should be made for the recently opened Memorial Gardens at the magnificently scenic Old Head of Kinsale, a wonderful addition featuring The Wave, a 20m-long sculpture by Liam Lavery and Eithne Ring, commemorating the sinking of RMS Lusitania a mere handful of miles offshore.)
The only problem with accommodation in Kinsale is wading through the huge choice on offer, from cosy little B&Bs right up to fullblown hotels, such as elegant Acton’s or the sleek and serene Trident.
The Blue Haven has iconic status in Kinsale, and deservedly so, these days, presenting as a smart and shipshape boutique hotel, most appealing to the 21st century tourist, yet through all the modernising of recent years it has retained its original soul and erstwhile status as one of the community’s prime social hubs.
There is also the option of self-catering. Kinsale Holiday Village is one, a grouping of 16 purpose- built three- bedroomed holiday homes sleeping six, all within walking distance of the town centre.
Should you choose to act as your own chef for the weekend, you might want to begin with a self-assembled picnic or you’ll be wanting to stock up on provisions and SuperValu covers far more than just the basics, offering sterling support to many local producers as well, including the dynamic Kinsale Bay Food Company, which does a fine range of fresh seafood products, and local micro- roasters, Kinsale Coffee Roasters, currently introducing their new brand.
The local farmers market, held every Wednesday, may be a relatively small little gathering but is very well worth checking out especially when fine local pro- duce comes into season and if you’re seeking a good bottle to wash all this fine fare down, then the 1601 independent off- licence, on Pearse St, is one of the very best in Munster.
But i f morning has dawned and you’ve understandably decided to down tools entirely for your weekend away, with no intention of even filling a kettle, the town’s many little cafes and coffee houses are splendid for a bit of impromptu breaking of the fast.
Salvis Café is a good, old-fashioned caff offering a terrific old school toasted special and, commendably, does a traditional Irish breakfast until long after the usual cut-off point, very handy for late risers.
If you’re more of a brunch person, the bright and cheerful Cosy Café is another good casual dining option, offering an extensive range of bagels (fillings include Jamie’s smoked salmon or Ardsallagh Cheese, all served with homemade potato crisps) and some very tasty lunch options ( try monkfish burger with skinny fries). Bibliophiles will adore the book- lined Poet’s Corner while Una Crosbie’s FoodU, the local fishermen’s favourite coffee spot, is excellent for a plate of fresh crab claws. Vista offers a contemporary ‘ Euro- menu’ with splendid views from the second-floor balcony while The Lemon Leaf Café, another institution, offers always imaginative and wellexecuted takes on breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a whole load more besides, including some excellent deli options to take away, making it one of the most essential spots in town to while away an hour or two over a cuppa or something more substantial.
Come evening time, glad rags and glamour all in place, and presuming you haven’t ‘dined on the hoof’, traipsing and nibbling as you go around the town on one of the newly instituted Kinsale Food Tours, led by zoologist Susanne Burns, then it is time to commence thinking of a drink in one of the many excellent pubs around town and the serious business of strapping on the nosebag — and when it comes to choosing a restaurant for the evening, you’d be hard-pressed to find such a range of choice in any town of comparable size throughout the rest of Ireland.
We cover the Good Food Circle restaurants elsewhere — the original grouping of hospitality establishments responsible for turning Kinsale into a gourmet destination — but some of the town’s newer arrivals are also well worth checking out.
The wonderfully appointed Black Pig is a wine bar with a superb list, including a commendable selection of superb sherries, but also offers top taster plates.
Twisted is another of the funky newer arrivals, which has recently tightened up its menu but retains the Spanish inflections.
The Supper Club is an always intriguing offering of good food based on fine local produce and a fine line in cocktails while Bruno’s Italian-themed offering in a splendid old medieval building is especially distinguished by a superb and genuine commitment to using the very best of local produce.
Nine Market St’s elegant and simple dishes are executed with aplomb and it is a very popular spot with locals and visitors alike. Bastion occupies a deceptively simple premises considering the fine and accomplished food on offer and the wine list is equally appealing and as worthy holders of a Michelin Bib Gourmand, Paul McDonald and Helen Noonan’s bijou little establishment is a sure sign that Kinsale is continually evolving, never content to rest on laurels.
Sebastien Perey outside the Cosy Café in Kinsale, highly recommended by Joe MacNamee below.
Simon Coveney pictured during his Fine Gael leadership election campaign visit to Salvis Restaurant in Kinsale. He is pictured with Jack Musgrave and Marie O’Sullivan.
Atlantic Offshore Adventures, a popular service provider with people who like to get active in the Kinsale harbour area.
Food producers enjoy a busy day serving the crowds at the Kinsale Street Food Festival, above and below.