The Bula Bus
Billy Byrne’s 39 John Street Kilkenny billybyrnes.com
Billy Byrne’s is a family-run bar that has been trading since 1954. The front bar is simple and modern, with plenty of light wood tones, whereas the covered terrace and the beer garden are crammed with mismatched vintage furniture, creating an endearingly cobbled-together aesthetic. The gardens host intimate musical performances and parked in the corner is the Bula Bus, a grafitti-splattered double decker . Podge Mead is the Head Chef at Billy Byrne’s, which serves breakfast and lunch every day from 9.30am to 4pm, including brunch on a Sunday from 12pm to 4pm. The Bula Bus closes on Mondays, but is open from 6pm during the week, and from 4pm on the weekends. Bill Healey helps out in The Bula Bus too, and the vibe is street food with a multi-national flavour. I’m too late for the Spicy Korean Chicken Wings (¤5 as a starter portion, ¤7.50 as a main) which have run out before I rock up to order at the side of the bus, but the Chicken Pincuito’s (¤7.50) make up for my loss. Chunks of chicken are doused in a spicy dry-rub and fried until crispy. A tasty lemon aioli brings some moisture, and I really like the house-made flatbread, which reminds me texturally of the Moroccan msemmen crepe. My dinner dates enjoy their tofu and roast veg burrito (¤7), an enormous parcel of beans rice and salsa the size of a small baby, and a lamb kofta burger (¤7.50), a petite burger served on a housemade bun.
A plate of croquettes (¤3) is the only part of our street food supper that doesn’t blow us away. They are nicely crispy, and a good hunk of corned beef has been mixed with soft spuds to make up their filling, but they are lacking the characteristic comfort of a cheeky croquette, and the amount of spuds render them a little stodgy. It might seem like a lazy approach but perhaps the addition of some molten cheese could jazz up their impact? An accompanying blue cheese sauce is delicious in its own right, but it overpowers the croquettes, so perhaps a milder cheese is what’s needed here.
The sweet potato fries (¤3), on the other hand, are so good that we are compelled to order a second batch. They’re deliciously crispy without being at all oily. Perhaps they’re baked and then given a flash in the deep-fryer? I shall endeavour on my next visit to figure out their secret.
The Bula Bus hosts Taco Tuesdays weekly, and you can indulge in two tacos for ¤6 and three for ¤8. Previous incarnations of this night featured shredded pork with California coleslaw, Bula Bus’s pickles and their house-made habanero hot sauce. On Wednesday nights, they fire up their wood-fired pizza oven to make pizzas for the movie night hosted in the pub. The Bula Bus has been in the back garden for four years now, and this bus is showing no signs of going anywhere. Keep them in mind for an informal speedy supper on your next trip to Kilkenny. AMcE