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A week in Kinsale - report back (mainly restaurants)

north west england
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A week in Kinsale - report back (mainly restaurants)

Just back from a week staying in town and wanted to report back. A summary might be that we enjoyed it (in spite of the rain) but wouldn’t be in a rush to go back.

Kinsale is very much a tourist town. And particularly popular with American tourists. There were so many that it was, almost, a surprise to walk past someone on the street and hear an Irish accent. As with any tourist place, it isn’t “real”. For real Irish towns, you need to get in the car and drive a few miles north to Macroom or west to Clonakilty. Here you are almost as likely to hear Irish not English being spoken.

It’s also an expensive place. I know it’s always invidious to make comparisons between different countries but by any European reckonings, Kinsale is pricy. Property is pricy. Eating out is pricy. Booze is pricy. And, as with any tourist place, you need to watch out for the tourist traps. The same two drinks (pint of lime & soda and a half of Murphy’s) varied from just over €4 in the non-touristy Armada bar, through just over €6 in the Blue Haven, to an eye-watering €8.20 in the very touristy An Seanachai bar.

Kinsale is also the self-styled “gourmet capital of Ireland”. The important bit to remember here is “self-styled”. It might have a high number of restaurants for a large village. And it may well have been the gourmet capital in the 1980s, when the term was first coined, and indeed it may still be the case (which, unfortunately, would say a lot about food in Ireland). However, it will be very fair to stay that for many of its restaurants, dining in Kinsale has barely progressed in the last 25 years. Chicken liver pate and deep fried Brie still feature as starters on many menus, as do such main courses as steak with pepper, or other “classic, sauce.

But this is not to say that we did not generally eat well. Generally we did. We generally ate good quality ingredients, cooked simply and cooked reasonably well. This is a brief summary of the meals we had (I’ve posted much more detailed reviews at www.menupages.ie):

BLUE HAVEN: A restaurant with pretensions in the town’s “boutique” hotel. It clearly targets the Americans and they would find familiar touches uncommon in most European places – jugs of iced water being brought without being asked, soup available in “cups” as well as bowls – that sort of thing. But it was sloppy uncaring cooking that delivered the two of us very little pleasure for the €108 charged.

FISHY FISHY CAFÉ: Café” is a misnomer. The name and it’s location on the pier road suggested that this was going to be an upmarket chippy like the Magpie in Whitby. Not so. This is a serious seafood restaurant (in the recent past holding a Michelin Bib Gourmand). It’s open at lunch (although on a couple of days of the week it stays open long enough to get an early dinner). Reservations are not taken but there was only a few minutes wait for a table. It wasn’t bad and one main course was excellent. However, it just isn’t as good as it likes to think it is and isn’t going to get its Bib Gourmand back based on our lunch experience.

JIM EDWARDS: A long standing restaurant mainly serving steaks and seafood. And has probably served the same dishes for the last 25 years. Steaks were fine but nothing there with a “wow” factor.

LITTLE SKILLET: Small restaurant on Main Street. And another where almost all the customers were American. And another where their claim to be part of the “gourmet capital” just doesn’t live up to the hype. Nothing was good here. Starters were very poor. One main was a smoked salmon platter which is hard to mess up – but they tried by serving tartare sauce with it! The other main of port and porter casserole was bland and boring.

MAN FRIDAY: At last! A restaurant worthy of “gourmet” claim, even if some of its dishes were in a 1980s timewarp. “Classic” steak in pepper sauce. Fabulous mixed seafood platter. Excellent accompaniments. Good dessert. And under €100 for the two of us. This is the place to come if you can’t get a reservation at the next place mentioned.

MAX’s: Michelin mentioned and rightly so. It’s a “stand out” from the rest offering an interesting menu and several specials (mainly seafood). We hadn’t booked but, arriving at 8pm, got the last remaining table. One starter of chicken livers on potato cake. The other, three scallops each with a different sauce. One main of oxtail pie (on the bone). The other of lobster in garlic cream sauce. Most expensive meal of the week at €109, including drinks,coffee. If you only have chance for one dinner in Kinsale, make it here.

TODDIES: Modern restaurant above the Kinsale Brewery. Good main courses – lobster risotto and chicken. Desserts were just nasty. Not at all good value at €78.

If you’re self-catering or just need good food for a picnic, then the small Farmers’ Market on Tuesday morning is excellent. It’s held on Short Quay – and there’s also a good deli further down the road, with a great selection of local cheeses.

As an aside, probably the best meal we had was lunch down the coast at Castletownshed in a pub called Mary Ann’s. Fabulous fresh local seafood.

I hope this is useful to someone and, as I mentioned, there are full reviews on all the places mentioned on www.menupages.ie

Michigan
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1. Re: A week in Kinsale - report back (mainly restaurants)

Thanks for the review of so many Kinsale eateries. This will be of help to many travelers. In light of recent conversations here on TA about the quality of food in Kinsale, your feed back is appreciated.

Saginaw, Michigan
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2. Re: A week in Kinsale - report back (mainly restaurants)

Terrific job, harters. Thanks for your time and thoroughness. I imagine those prices would put the fear of God into most Americans, certainly here in the mid-west, especially given that they are in Euros. (Euro 100 = US $157 at today's conversion rate).

Will check out the menupages.ie too.

Thanks a lot!

Ireland
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3. Re: A week in Kinsale - report back (mainly restaurants)

Harters

Congratulations on a constructive balanced review of your time in Kinsale. Food pretenciousness (?sp) is alive and well and living not only in Kinsale but in this land of ours.

Maybe now that we are (allegedly) hitting recession times restauranteurs may sit up and take note and offer better quality and value for money.

My only criticism Harters is that you have only 5 postings since March 2005...!! With such an informative posting you should have a couple of zero's at least beside your profile!

Ireland
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4. Re: A week in Kinsale - report back (mainly restaurants)

.... "a couple of zero's" ..... I mean after the '5'. Get in there and start posting...!!

wirral
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5. Re: A week in Kinsale - report back (mainly restaurants)

This was a most welcome posting. I have talked my cousin and her partner into joining us for 5 days in Kinsale in September.I read 5 years ago about Kinsale's reputation for food and have always wanted to visit. So we have booked into Desmond House. She is going to be staggered at the cost of eating out and I had no idea before I booked flights,accommodation etc that it is so expensive. 100 euros for a meal for 2! Naturally we will try Maxs on the strength of the very comprehensive review of all the places harters tried.

Now I have heard that the pubgrub evening scene is good and maybe it is more reasonably priced. If there is live music so much the better. Where I live it is not cheap but I can get a 3 course meal for the 2 of us plus aperitifs a bottle of Chilean wine and coffees at our favourite restaurant in Parkgate for £70 ie 90 euros all-in.And I wouldn't want to partake every night of 5.So could some local Kinsale TA members recommend some suitable pubs please?

Thanks again Harters. One to be printed off.

north west england
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6. Re: A week in Kinsale - report back (mainly restaurants)

LP

Don't understand the comment re lack of postings. Maybe on TA forums but I have loads of posts on US hotel/restaurant reviews from our trip last autumn.

I don't get to do many TA European reviews as holidays tend to be self catering rather than hotels

Eating out is a hobby of ours and I'm pleased to have been able to write some "proper" reviews for your excellent menupages. We don't really have a similar national food review site over our side of the Irish Sea.

But ta for the encouragement.

John

Ireland
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7. Re: A week in Kinsale - report back (mainly restaurants)

Harters

What I meant was that your post was so good that more postings from you would be welcommed on TA - It NEEDS more people like you...!!

cork
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8. Re: A week in Kinsale - report back (mainly restaurants)

Wirral, there are, thankfully, some other places in Kinsale that are reasonable in price and still offer good food. A hefty bill at the end of a meal can cloud what would have been enjoyable up until then! But when you expect to pay more for what you get, it's great. If you like pasta/pizza and Asian food, there are two place that are excellent:

E. Kirby 66 on Main Street - the street is parallel with the pier road and behind Actons Hotel. The pasta is all home made. Prices vary from about 9 Euro to 16 Euro for mains. The starters are around 5 to 7 Euro - chilli & garlic squid; antipasto; bruschetta; etc. Bottle of house wine under 15 Euro (unusual for anywhere in the country!). Huge pizzas. It doesnt have plush surroundings but it's kind of funky and few care when they've seen the prices and tasted the food!

Further down the same street, there is Shanghai Express. This is an Asian tapas bar. Two tapas a head a generally sufficient which would set you back a mere 14 Euro at the most. But you can order more if it hasnt been enough. The wine prices here are a lot cheaper than elsewhere too and the food is fantastic.

north west england
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9. Re: A week in Kinsale - report back (mainly restaurants)

Wirral

Somewhat off-topic but we've got reservations at Fraiche in Oxton for Mrs H's birthday in acouple of weeks - please tell me she's not going to be disappointed.

I see you're also a regular TA Pollensa poster - I'll see you on that forum in a week or so (we're going in September). Do you also use the forum at puertopollensa.com? As you might have gathered as one holiday finishes, I start planning restaurants for the next...

Cork, Ireland
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10. Re: A week in Kinsale - report back (mainly restaurants)

"drive a few miles north to Macroom or west to Clonakilty. Here you are almost as likely to hear Irish not English being spoken"

Harters i HAVE to take issue with your above comment - c'mon, were you actually in Clon or Macroom?? It's a long long long long time since Irish was spoken on the streets of either town. Maybe they were having an 'oirish' day there, the day you were visiting - haw haw.

I'm off to read the rest of your report now, but alas that mis informed comment has me sceptical already. I'll be back.

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