Savour the essence of a city that has something for everyone’s taste
“WHAt are you writing about this week, Mammy,” our 13-year-old daughter Sarah asked last Tuesday. “Don’t know yet,” I answered. “Well, maybe you could drum me up a bit of business,” she urged.
She will be selling (hopefully!) home-made savoury pretzels during the Savour Kilkenny food festival over the October Bank Holiday weekend.
For the past few weeks, we have been guinea pigs.
The event runs over lunchtime and, as others are doing sweet stuff, Sarah decided she would do something savoury; hence, the pretzels.
She has been trying out various recipes. One was too salty, one too sweet, one too crumbly, one too tough.
Sensing our desire to be encouraging, she got great pleasure from watching us eat them up, long after she had herself recognised their shortcomings. They are getting there.
As for Kilkenny City, it is a lovely place to visit. It exudes a timeless sense of class.
Drivers might curse its irregular layout and narrow winding streets but they are a joy for tourists. There’s something new to be discovered around every bend, while its famous alleyways are reminiscent of Dickensian times.
There must have been times when people wanted to raze all this old stuff away and replace it with something bright and new.
You’ll find antiques and ladies boutiques, crafts and cathedrals, museums and atmospheric drinking emporia, energy, attitude and colour.
Tourism is big and it’s almost like there are two sets of visitors; families and the middleaged by day, younger couples and singles by night.
Kilkenny once had quite a reputation as a venue for stag and hen parties. A lesser place might have floundered but somehow Kilkenny has retained its essence, combining the charm of an old-fashioned village with the luxuries of a modern urban centre.
Unlike other towns, that have become ‘donuts’, Kilkenny still has a beating heart, radiating out from The Parade.
Walk a few steps up Patrick Street, past the quirky art deco shop Yesterdays, there’s the zany restaurant Zuni and on to Butler House. Its modest street face opens into a magnificent Georgian residence and a renowned walled garden.
Back down Rose Inn Street (what a lovely name!), you pass the new Murphy’s ice cream shop, the very good Tourist Information office in Shee Alms House (1582) and on towards the (now cleaned-up) Nore.
Stepping on to High Street quickly brings you to Allens’ homeware shop, Pauls’ department store, Goods’ ladieswear and The Book Centre, which is everything a bookshop should be.
Like many of the city’s businesses, its traditional shopfront has been retained. Inside, atmospheric lighting falls on packed shelves,with the rambling layout eventually coming to a calm reading oasis. The books feel alive and loved.
Back on The Parade is Rinuccini, where tuxedoed waiters serve homemade pasta, the Kilkenny Design Centre and Kilkenny Castle (1195), the jewel in the city’s crown, which also has extensive gardens and rolling parkland. Kilkenny is a gem. Given the region’s burgeoning artisan food sector and the presence of so many fine eateries in the city — including the Michelin-starred Campagne on Gas House Lane (which does a very affordable Early Bird) — a food festival is a perfect fit.
Just across the road is the MacDonagh Junction Shopping Centre, location of Sarah’s enterprise.
Along with a couple of pals from Kilkenny College, she will be on a stall at the Young Foodies market for Second Level students next Saturday (1-4pm) at Workhouse Square. She’ll be the shy, pretty, browneyed, girl selling a variety of savoury pretzels.
For more information, check out savourkilkenny.com.