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Kinsale’s Engaging Lemon Leaf Café Contender in this week's Burger Fest.
If you are in the Kinsale area and looking for great food in a relaxed atmosphere, serving local ingredients and the finest coffees, teas, breakfast, brunch, lunch and baked desserts, then the Lemon Leaf Café on the Main Street, just three minutes from the big central car park, is the place for you.
You’ll get a big welcome from Tracy Keoghan and from her staff. Tracy has owned and operated the Lemon Leaf since 2010. There are two big rooms here although many customers gravitate towards the glass roofed one, so bright and airy. And when the weather improves a bit, there is an outdoor area too. If you are a regular here, you’ll know all about their Loyalty Card.
A new menu is on the cards from Chef Gavin by the end of January but you can be sure that some old favourites will still be there. The Lemon Leaf had a series of Supper Nights in the run up to Christmas and so successful were these that another is planned for February 17th. Like the others, it will be a single theme (not Valentine’s, I’m told). It will be a set menu, cooked up for you by Claire O’Brien, well-known from her market stall.
The Lemon Leaf is an engaging café, always up to taking part in local promotions. For instance, they are one of Ruth Healy’s Cork Character Cafés (@cuisinecork on Twitter) that, during the past year, highlighted some typical Cork foods, such as Milleens Cheese (April) and Cork’s Summer Bounty (July).
And Tracy has also entered the Lemon Leaf into the national Burger Festival and the entry was on the board when we called so that was my choice for lunch! My Viking Beef Burger was topped with bacon, Jalapeños,Carrigaline Oak Cheese, Baby Gem, Mayo, Avocado, and Tomato, all in a Kaiser Bun served with hand-cut chips. A big one and a very good one. Will surely be a contender!
We had actually started by sharing another dish from the specials board: Flash-fried home-made Falafel on a bed of mixed leaves, pickled cucumber, grated carrot, pomegranate, and poppy seed yogurt. Hummus too. A delicious warming taste of the East on a cold wet day in Kinsale!
CL went for one of regulars on the menu, a regular that most likely to be on the new menu as well. This was the Warm (we were all looking for heat on the day) Spicy Chicken Wrap: Cajun chicken, roasted red peppers, pickled cucumbers, tomatoes & sweet chilli mayo dip, served with organic mixed leaves. Another delicious dish from the Lemon Leaf kitchen, another happy visitor.
And happier again after a shared dessert, a delicious apple crumble, and a large coffee. They do all the coffee styles here and lots of teas too including green and herbal.
Breakfast is 8.30am to 11.30am and you may have anything from Porridge (power porridge, that is) to scrambled eggs to Eggs Benedict. How about Eggs Royale? Two eggs, Ummera smoked salmon on Focaccia with a zesty Hollandaise sauce.Light bites and pastries too, including Sausage Rolls with black pudding. You’ll be set up nicely for the morning! By the way, Breakfast or lunch, you’ll find many vegetarian, gluten & dairy free options in this lovely bright café in the heart of Kinsale.
Lemon Leaf Café
70 Main Street,
Kinsale, County Cork,
Ireland, P17 PN28
Tel: +353 (0)21 470 9792
8:30a-4:30p Monday to Friday
He went to the kitchen, opened the fridge, and his heart sank. A little piece of caciocavallo cheese, four passu luna olives, five sardines in oil, and a sprig of celery. Well, at least Adelina had bought some fresh bread. He opened the oven. And howled like a wolf with joy. Aubergine parmigiana, done just right, enough for four!
from The Treasure Hunt (Inspector Montalbano) by Andrea Camilleri.
Cork suburb Mayfield has a lovely new meeting place. The Old Bank Café, that the O’Connor butcher family opened last month, is quickly becoming the place to eat and meet in the area.
It has the field to itself as, amazingly for a place of its size, there is no other café in the area. Why Old Bank, you might ask. Well because the new building stands on the Iona Road site occupied for many years by the Permanent TSB bank.
O’Connor family member Sinead manages the Old Bank and is open for business from 8.00am. We arrived much later than that to try out the lunch menu! The café was quite full about 12.45pm and, as the first wave of diners left, they were immediately replaced by others. And, as we ate our excellent and well-priced dishes, we could see why it has taken off.
We could have had their excellent Roast of the Day, the healthy House Salad, or their highly regarded honey glazed ham, but we had been tipped off on two dishes in particular.
One, my pick, is their take on Eggs Benedict. The Old Bank Café style Benedict poached eggs come on sourdough toast with hollandaise or with salsa verde and is further enhanced by a choice of slow roast tomatoes, sauté spinach and roast button mushrooms or home cured bacon and slow roasted tomatoes.
I went for the hollandaise, spinach and mushroom version. It is absolutely superb, terrific flavour and textures, well executed (eggs perfectly poached) and presented. And excellent value at €7.50. Both this and CL’s choice below are available all day (8.00am to 4.00pm).
CL meanwhile was tucking into her modestly named House Dish (again great value at eight euro). This includes crispy home-made potato hash, smoked ham hock, smokey baked beans, poached egg and salsa verde or hollandaise. That hash, the potato is done rosti style, is excellent and lots of flavour come through from the other ingredients.
We were feeling pretty satisfied after that - they are both large dishes - but were tempted by the pancakes, newly added to the menu. These are American style and are made in house and served with cream, maple syrup or lemon curd. Delicious, with a beautiful texture, and, with a cup of well made coffee, we had no bother in finishing them off. Happy out!
* In the same building as the café, the O’Connor family also have a butcher’s shop and a food hall. See more on the complex here.
From the heart of Tuscany comes this deep-ruby wine. Fragrant for sure, all the way through to the end. In between, you’ll find it well-balanced and satisfying on the palate, tannins assertive, spice much less so. A very pleasant amalgam indeed and Highly Recommended. They also make a lovely white Vernaccia.
The grapes in this blend of Sangiovese and Merlot are grown on the little hills around San Gimignano, well-known for its medieval towers, including the Torre Grossa. Well-known too for its ice-cream which is certainly very good. What I didn't fancy very much was the cappuccino I got in the lovely old Piazza della Cisterna. The wine spends 8 months in barriques, 10% new, andthey say it’s fine for meats and cheeses.
Late ripening and then the harvest is followed by a period of drying in trays. When the grapes are close to being raisins, the wine is made. This Appassimento process increases fruit concentration but leaves enough acidity to balance the rich fruit. Grapes used in this bottle are Negroamaro (60%),Merlot (25%) and Primitivo (15%).
Gold Release may refer to the fact that this mid-purple coloured wine from Puglia in the south of Italy (the heel) has won a few awards. The aromas, like the colour, are intense, mainly plum, hints of sweetness. And that fruit concentration, typical of appassimento, is immediately obvious on the palate, that sweetness too. But there is indeed enough acidity to balance; the tannins still grippy. Overall, a pleasant easy-drinking wine. Highly Recommended.
Chateau La Bastide L’Optimée Corbieres (AOP) 2012, 14%, €19.25 Karwig
This is a blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache and has spent some 12 months in Bordelaise barriques. Recommended serving temperature is 16-17 degrees.
It has a dark red colour, slightly lighter at the rim. Quite an intense red fruit aroma, plus a bit of spice. Intense too on the palate, dark fruit and spice again, ripe round tannins and a long lingering finish. A very pleasant wine indeed and, like earlier editions, Very Highly Recommended.
The Cookies of Character stand at the Mahon Point Farmers market every Thursday is well worth a call and it was there that I found these delicious Butter Shortbread, with Pistachio and Cardamom, our current taste of the week.
This is a fragrant and unusual combination of flavours in a chunky all-butter shortbread. It is outstanding, a different level entirely to most of the imported shortbread. The Cardamom is ground and provides a mild flavour and pleasant aroma. The little flakes of Pistachio also play a part in the overall experience as the buttery biscuit dissolves on the palate. Hugely enjoyable.
I got a box at the stall, and a welcome smile, in Mahon for €2.50. Great value. And they have even better value in the bargain corner of the stand. Here, you can get a variety of tempting flavours for just €1.50.
The Cookies are produced by the Régale Biscuit Company in Dunmanway and are widely available. Check for stockists here.
A change is as good as a rest. They say. And it worked well for us at Olivo, the Italian restaurant in the Cork Airport Hotel. I was impressed with their contribution to the Cork Gourmet Trail late last year and, armed with a “two main course for the price of one” from that event, we headed out there the week before last.
Before arriving, I had more or less settled on my mains: Pizza di Cork with tomato sauce, Clonakilty black pudding, crispy bacon, red onion and Ballymaloe relish (€16.00). And I wasn't at all disappointed. It was excellent, a perfect combination of tastes and flavours, amazing how well the black pudding and relish combined. The base was fine and the red onion also played a key sweetening role. Pizza di Cork was a star.
And across the table, the Nasello, oven baked fillet of hake with roasted courgettes, peperonata and basil pesto (18.00) also proved a winner, proving that you don't need a creamy sauce to get the best from fresh fish.
Olivo is a spacious comfortable casual restaurant for residents and walk-ins alike. There is a bar area, a couple of big screen TVs over the drinks selection (spotted a few bottles there from Torc Brewing in Killarney), a dining area, and an adjoining breakfast space, all sections nicely laid out and lit. The wine list by the way is already on your table - check out that bottle (back and front).
The menu, with a Specials insert, is laid out in typically Italian fashion. You have a good choice of Antipasti and Salads. Pizzas, of course, and also Contorni (sides) which range from a Fresh Garden salad to Hand Cut Fries. No shortage of Pasta dishes either - I was tempted by the Cannelloni. And then there’s meat and fish, including chicken dishes, hamburger, lamb shank and sirloin steak.
We started off with a couple of the Antipasti. CL’s Bruschetta al pomodoro was Tomato, garlic & basil, with rocket & parmesan (8.00). Quite a plateful but easy to eat and delicious.
My pick was theMelanzane ripiene: stuffed aubergine with mozzarella and sun dried tomato pesto (7.00). Another delicious and surprisingly moist plateful, another substantial starter.
Service was friendly, casual but efficient. Nice spot if you’re in the area and looking for “a change”! And if you want a rest, well then you can stay overnight! Parking, by the way, is free for restaurant customers.
It was a cold and wet Tuesday and crossing the city at rush-hour wasn't appealing. But there was ample reward at the end, picked from the Specials Board of Miyazaki. And to make it even better, we managed to get two of the famous six high-stools with a view of the rain-drops on the window and the remnants of rush-hour traffic outside.
That specials board keeps changing. Had I been in before Christmas, I might well have had Salmon Zuke Don, maybe Kisu Ten Don (fried whiting). Though I do think I would have started with the Bora Aria with Karashi Susimo (Grey mullet).
Looking out the window
at remnants of rush-hour
Tuesday's menu though was every bit as inviting. There is always the usual addition, on a separate board (watch out for it!), of Hot Soup Noodle (Soba or Udon) Dishes, all eat-in only. One, for example, is Beef Soba or Udon (thin beef dashi in warm broth with garnish).
My pick from the Specials was the very top one: Buta Yanagawa Don, thinly sliced pork belly with dashi broth, burdock, onion, shimeji mushrooms, simmered with egg and nori (14.50). A large bowl of deliciousness, a superb mix of flavours and textures, the oh so thinly spread egg, the pork, the greens, the little mushrooms and, of course, the broth. Not bothering too much with the view outside as I concentrated on that.
Ebi Curry Udon
And, to my left, CL, who had been reading all about Takashi Miyazaki in the current Food & Wine magazine, was now totally engaged with her Ebi Curry Udon (Udon noodles in Japanese curry,with prawn tempura, age tofu, ginger and sesame, also 14.50). She loves those plumb noodles and the dish was further enhanced with a little side bowl of pickled ginger while the heat in the curry was perfect for a girl that grew up nearby when this premises bore the name Yangtze River and was indeed a very popular venue for southsiders making their way home.
We could see a few customers gathering in the small space, some for takeaway, some waiting for a stool. So we moved on, but not before buying a box of the sushi. “Just a simple one,” our friendly server said. I think it may have been the last one also.
So we paid up and walked out into the cool night, the rain had stopped, and took the opportunity to check the location of Bau Boi (another soutside raid in the planning), picked up the car and headed home
The sushi immediately attracted the attention of the dog but, determined as he was, he would have to do without on this occasion. It may well have been a basic Miyazaki but it was well ahead of any other we’ve tried locally, outstanding flavour; ginger, wasabi and soya sauce were all included with the six rolls, all for a tenner.
We took our time with that and a bottle of Lustau Puerto Fino, a Fino sherry agedon the Atlantic Coast of southern Spain in a town calledEl Puerto de Santa Maria, bought in Bradley’s (Cork) and just the job for sushi!