Showing posts with label Blacks Kinsale. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blacks Kinsale. Show all posts

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Twenty Four Hours in Kinsale

Twenty Four Hours in Kinsale
Forts, Food, Craft Beer!
It was Friday the 13th but we weren't staying at home. We were on the road to Kinsale for an overnight stay.


First call was to Charlesfort, this time, not to visit the early 17th century fort but to take the harbourside walk that begins with a stroll down the left hand side of the sprawling complex.  There are good views of Charlesfort and the town as you start off and later the Old Head comes into view.
Charlesfort (above) and James Fort
The path, with the waters of the harbour on your right, is not the smoothest and, at one point, you have to make a short walk across a stony beach. You pass through a boatyard on your way to Lower Cove. This was where we turned back. The way forward is not clear but apparently you can reach the point with views across to the Old Head and out to sea where the Sovereign Islands lie.

We had a date with Sam and Maudeline Black at their brewery in Farm Lane. They were working their way through a busy afternoon but found time to give us a tour and tasting. After that, we checked into our hotel, the Old Bank. Though this is right smack bang in the middle of the town, I must admit I'd never heard of it.

Kinsale evening
It is part of the Blue Haven holdings here and it proved a very good base indeed. It has no parking but the public car park is quite close. We got a warm welcome and indeed spent a pleasant night here and the breakfast was very good indeed. They had some decent choices and the toast was cut from a proper loaf (Cuthbert’s), not your usual sliced pan. Good value too.

Time now for a walk down the Pier Road as the sun began to set. Got a few photos in before heading back to the hotel. Our next port of call was the relatively new restaurant, Bastion (they have Prosecco on tap!), where we enjoyed an excellent meal.
Evening in Kinsale
 Afterwards, just a few yards away, I sampled some craft beers, Black’s (of course) and Metalman, in the Malt Lane. They had quite a selection here and an even bigger selection of whiskeys.

Old Bank

We visited another fort in the morning. This is James Fort, across the water from Charlesfort which it pre-dates. Nowadays, it is stoutly defended by the OPW (no interior access) but there are fine views and also some excellent walks in the surrounding fields.


Back down to the car then and away to Garretstown where we expected to find the surfers. But they were outnumbered by canoeists from a city club who were getting some much needed practice in. Needless to say, the camera was out of the bag again.

Stayed with the coast roads until we came to another beach, this Harbour View near Kilbrittain. This looks safer, certainly calmer, than Garretstown but not as well equipped with parking facilities. Still, a lovely place to stroll around in the sun and we weren't the only ones taking advantage of the beach and the dunes.
Harbour View
 We had a late lunch pencilled in at another relatively new restaurant, this the Monk’s Lane in the middle of the village of Timoleague, famous for its ruined abbey. But before all that the camera, with fast lens attached, was put into action again in an attempt to get a few shots of cars taking part on the West Cork Rally. They were driving (though not racing at this point) along the road by the abbey.

 The meal in Monk’s Lane was superb and great to see local craft beer on sale there as well. The rally cars had vanished at that stage and we headed up towards Bandon on the way home after a lovely twenty four hours, well maybe 26, in the area.


See also: My Kinsale Guide



Part of a walk-on circle of plaques depicting local people and
connections in the grounds of Timoleague church

Monday, March 23, 2015

Beer Versus Wine

Beer Versus Wine
Colm v Caroline.
Scrumptious Blackpudding from Jack McCarthy.
Great flavours from the L'Atitude kitchen.

Lots of good humour and great drinks at the Beer v Wine Smackdown in L’Atitude last Thursday night where the protagonists were Caroline Hennessy and Colm McCan.


Caroline, co-author of the Irish beer bible Sláinte, made it clear at the outset that she was making the case for craft beer saying “the other beers have no flavours”. Her first beer, Black’s Kinsale Pale Ale, was a perfect example. “Hops are the spice of beer,” she said.


“Beer is just to wash away the dust”, joked Colm as he introduced his heavy hitting first, the Decanter Gold winning Wiston Rosé, an English Sparkling Wine, made in the South Downs by Limerick’s Dermot Sugrue. Both were matched with Hederman Smoked Mackerel with Rhubarb Compote from the L’Atitude kitchens.


Colm did admit he was a big fan of craft beer as he put a call, on speaker-phone, through to Dermot in the UK and they chatted about the huge honour received by Wiston when their wine, a twenty-bottle bottle of it, was chosen, instead of the traditional champagne, to launch the mega cruise liner Britannia.”Twenty minutes later the Queen was still saying wow”, referring to the pop (explosion!) when the Nebuchadnezzar made contact with the ship. See it here on video.


Ireland is fast becoming a big producer of all kinds of drinks, including spirits, and so Caroline decided to include cider as her second round choice. And the local cider she picked was the Stonewell medium dry, a great match with Jack McCarthy’s black-pudding and apples.

Colm said cider, in the way it is made, is the closest thing in Ireland to wine, “at the moment!” as he introduced his biodynamic 2012 Vinsobres from the Southern Rhone, “a winter-warming wine..with a natural acidity that should cut through the black pudding”.  It sure did and even won the round with “victory” in round one going to the Pale Ale.

And then we were on to round three where Double Chocolate Porter Brownies were paired with Knockmealdown Stout and Taylor’s 2008 LBV. The stout, with its traditional flavours, is by Eight Degrees where Caroline can't help but be involved considering that husband Scott is one of the two founders. The brewery, set up in 2011, has been going well ever since. She said the current craft beer wave is well underway thanks largely “to a tax break in 2005 by then finance minister Brian Cowan”. Eight Degrees are just about to start a “massive expansion”.

Chris Forbes of Taylor's was next the next speaker on Colm’s phone and he explained some of the terms used in the port industry including LBV (late bottled vintage, all from one year). “Slow aging,” he said, “helps maintain the flavours and the tannins. The beauty of Port is that it cannot be made anywhere else in the world, only in the Douro. “We use all kinds of traditional grape varieties here”. He mentioned the various Tourigas and Tintos but he said the really important thing for Taylors was not the individual varieties but the blend itself.
Contestants in round 2,
paired with the pudding.

That attention to detail was evident in the LBV as it held its own with the brownies. The Stout was an excellent match, not surprising since a generous amount went into the Brownie mix! Then we had the voting, via murmurs of approval. Caroline and Colm had a round each to their credit and the final matching ended in a draw and that meant honours were even overall.


The point of all this is that there are very good wines out there and, increasingly, very good Irish beers and ciders. And now, the Irish is taking its place alongside wine at the dinner table and in the restaurant.

Here's my recent example. I spent 24 hours in Kinsale on the weekend before last and enjoyed craft beer Malt Lane and in Monk’s Lane in Timoleague. Last Friday and Saturday, I was in Bantry and sampled craft beer in the Fish Kitchen, across the road in Ma Murphy’s, in the Maritime Hotel and, on the way home, they had a selection in Church Lane in Macroom. Don’t think that would have happened 12 months ago. Point made!

The next “match” between Caroline and Colm is likely to be at Savour Kilkenny in the autumn.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Come Join The Cheerful Chorus at Monk’s Lane

Come Join The Cheerful Chorus at Monk’s Lane
There is almost an monastic silence as we stroll towards Monk’s Lane in the centre of Timoleague. But, open the door, and there is the happy sound of people dining. Our table is ready and soon we join the cheerful chorus.

The menu is full of promise. The sandwich section uses the best of local produce: Toons Bridge, Gubbeen, Ummera. And so it continues. In the mains and salads you see O'Neill's sausages, Crozier blue cheese and Clonakilty black and white pudding.

I spotted an Eight Degrees tap on the bar and that was just the start of the craft beers as a separate menu lists over a dozen of the best including the local Black’s of Kinsale. And the wine list is good too, quite a few available by the convenient (it was midday!) 100ml glass.

Service is excellent, knowledgeable, chatty. The furniture has touches of the ecclesiastical and there are lovely bunches of wild flowers on the tables.

It is a cold day so we start with the soups. They are very simply titled: Roast Vegetable Soup (4.50) and Spanish Fish Soup (6.50). Both are excellent but that Spanish dish is a gem, packed with fish, mussels, vegetables too, and warming spice. We get real bread and butter on the side. Great start.

CL then goes for the Lamb Quesadillas with salad and salsa fresca. You can have a small portion for eight euro and the larger one will cost 11.50. Well cooked and presented, the minced lamb was very tasty and not too spicy (no great need to use the cooling dip).
My choice was the Steak Salad and I hit the jackpot here: Seared steak salad with pecorino shavings, toasted pumpkin seeds and cherry tomatoes, all for 12.50. The steak, in strips, was plentiful and perfectly cooked and all the elements, including a robust salad, complemented each other in an explosion of flavours and textures. Compliments to the chef!

Dessert. The usual question: would we? The usual solution: we shared. And there was plenty to share when our generous slice of Apricot and Raspberry cake arrived, surrounded by some fresh fruit cubes, cream and ice-cream! Happy out, as we say around here.

We made a detour to get here. Well worth it. Very Highly Recommended.


(023) 884 6348

Friday, March 13, 2015

Commons Express Inn. Lovely Meal. Great Buzz

Commons Express Inn
Lovely Meal. Great Buzz
Enjoyed a terrific dinner at the Commons Express Inn at the weekend, the best of local produce washed down with some excellent local beer, including Kinsale Pale Ale by Blacks and the Stag Ban from 9 White Deer in Ballyvourney. Great buzz there too as we were guided to our table in the very comfortable dedicated dining area.

Had a look at the specials on the blackboard - you'll also see them on an insert in the main menu. The new chef here is from Canada so we decided to try out a couple of his specialities and I was soon tucking into the BBQ Slow-roasted Baby Back ribs with Bourbon sauce. Despite the messy fingers, I certainly enjoyed those “melt-in-your-mouth tender morsels of pork”, enhanced by that special sauce and also by the sweetcorn salsa.

It was a little less messy (just a little!) at the other side of the table where a quiet CL was enjoying her Spicy Buffalo Wings, “exactly like the Frank and Mary’s originals from Niagara Falls N.Y. right down to the special cheese dip and the carrot and celery sticks”. 
Brilliant starters then and the mains were on a par. I had been looking forward to the char-grilled lamb but that had run out so I picked the 8 oz fillet instead. All their steaks are aged to 35 days and this was char-grilled to perfection. I had requested Medium and that is what I got along with crispy onion rings, sautéed mushrooms and, on the side, there were fresh cut chips and a crispy salad.

CL had picked one of the specials: Pan-fried Cod Fillet with a herb crust and roasted vegetables and, on the side, she had mashed potatoes and vegetable selection, all very good and all for €15.95!

There was a bit of a debate about dessert before the decision to share their splendid Sherry Trifle and soon two happy customers were walking out into the misty evening, well fed and heading for the fire at home.

 New Food Offering at the Commons
They start early at the Commons Express Inn. Residents can have breakfast in the lovely Bailey Restaurant from 7.30am until 10.00am. But don’t worry if you sleep late. In a new departure, breakfast is now being served in the bar from 10.00 until noon and is open to residents and walk-ins alike.

The big bar has been the beating heart of the Commons for close on thirty years now but, under new chef Arthur Van Leeuwen, the food offering is becoming more and more important. Indeed, Arthur and his team will feed you all day long.
As soon as breakfast is over in the bar, the carvery lunch kicks in, as it has for the past 27 years! It is a very popular lunch with many customers coming from the nearby business parks. And you won't get bored with the menu; it has its regular favourites of course but do watch out for the variations, including tasty items not often seen in a carvery, such as ham hock, beef stroganoff, and braised lamb shoulder chops.

Later, the evening menu draws the customers to the dedicated dining area in the spacious lounge. Jason Sleator, Sales and Marketing Manager, tells me the menu is evolving under Arthur who describes himself as “a Canadian backyard boy”.
The chef uses local meats and is “very fussy on quality”. Using his experience, he often chooses the cheaper cuts, briskets and ribs for example, and loves marinating them and especially char-grilling. And the dishes, including Spicy Buffalo Wings (exactly like Frank and Mary’s from Niagara, New York) and Back Ribs with Bourbon Sauce, Char-grilled Rack of Lamb, and Char-grilled Burgers, are increasingly popular. 

“We are still on a journey,” Jason told me as regards the regular menu and hints of where they are going can be gleaned from the weekly specials. One of this week’s mains sees Chicken Supreme served with chunky butternut squash and a Cajun jus, the jus a contribution from Arthur’s repertoire.

The Commons, now part of the Great National group, are lucky in the continuity of management and staff. Myles O’Neill is the General Manager while brother Greg is Food and Beverage Manager. That have been there since day one and quite a few of the staff also have impressive long serving records, all of which helps the Commons run smoothly.

They have many functions here, social and sporting celebrations, and all kind of family occasions. Many of these are held in the Bailey while the Roebuck Suite is an impressive ballroom style hall for the really big occasion, including weddings, although there is also a trend currently towards restaurant weddings. The Bailey too, by the way, comes into its own as an impressive Sunday lunch venue and is much demand for private dining. 

The Bailey



Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Cork's Coqbull On An Early Charge

Coqbull On An Early Charge
No cock and bull story here

Coqbull, Cork's latest city centre dining option, is just six weeks up and has hit the road running. Spanning a speakeasy kind of space, booths and all, not to mention galvanised iron and milking parlour lights, between Academy Street and French Church Street, the French quarter venue is already a hit.

They were so busy on Friday night I couldn't get in to taste that sweet tea chicken, but no bother this Tuesday at lunch-time, not that it was slack, far from it as a steady flow of punters streamed through the door, doors I should say, as it has entrances on both streets.

Chris is the manager here and he has an excellent staff. Great courtesy and efficiency out front and no lack of talent in the kitchen. Did you hear me say sweet tea chicken? You sure did. Like in your great grandmother’s day, the chicken here is marinated in sweet Barry's tea and is all the better for it as we found out when we sampled, delighted with its superb texture and flavour, not to mention the spot-on cooking.

But we were here for the bull!  Oh and the beer, of course. I’m quite a fan of Black’s Brewery (Kinsale) and of their ales in particular and so was immediately interested when I saw their Session on the list. Noted it was just 3.5% ABV. It might be a little shy on the alcohol but no lack of flavour and it is blessed with a well judged balancing bitterness. Quite a beer. One to note for a session for sure!

Burgers are made in house from prime cuts and 100% traceable from local Irish beef.There is quite a selection (most at €10.00) from Bacon Bull, Chilli Bull, Forest Bull, even Bunless Bull. My choice was the Supreme Bull (12.50). I had spotted my favourite Cashel Blue cheese in the mix here and the other ingredients were bone marrow and crisp onion. And fries of course!

CL picked the Bacon Bull (10.00), the bull here reinforced by bacon, cheddar, onion and Coqbull sauce and she had no bother in dispatching that tasty combination. Mine too was superb and, after the beer, I was beginning to feel full.

But we weren't leaving without dessert! They have a short but tempting list. And the sweet things that we finished with were the Coqbull Strawberry Crush (for me) and the Banana Split. Very enjoyable indeed.

It is not all coq and bull here. You may have various salads and also Slow Roasted Pork Ribs at lunch-time (12.00 to 2.30) and later, when the main menu kicks in, the choices increase.

Many craft beers and ciders are available by the bottle and some mainstream (Heineken and Tiger) available on draught. House wines start at a fiver a glass and they also carry a range of Fentimans soft drinks along with a  couple of Moqtails!

The Cornstore and Executive Chef Mike Ryan seem to be on a winner with this offshoot and I’ll be back soon to check out the evening menu and the atmosphere behind the galvanised iron and under the milking parlour lights, all rather appropriate considering the restaurant’s title!




Saturday, April 19, 2014

Franciscan Well Easter Beer Festival

Franciscan Well Easter Beer Festival

Made an early visit to the Franciscan Well Beer Festival this Saturday afternoon and took my chance to sample some of the newer brews before the crowds started to roll in on this sunny day.

Last year, the Lynch brothers from Mayfield’s Cotton Ball were on the outside of the ring; this time, Eoin and Humphrey were serving their own beers including their latest. This is called Indian Summer and is quite a lovely drink for the days ahead, a mix of lager ingredients and an ale yeast.

Not to be outdone, the now well established Eight Degrees also had new one on offer, the Full Irish, a strong 100 per cent Irish Malt ale. I've had a sneak preview of the publicity shots for this one. X is the letter that springs to mind! Think Full Monty!

Blacks of Kinsale were promising a surprise for later in the afternoon when a special set-up will allow them to add fresh hops (a new one called Equinox) at the very last moment to Kinsale Pale Ale. Can't get fresher than that. Try that and don’t forget to sample their Beoir #1

Beers from new Connemara brewery available at Bradley's, North Main Street, Cork.
Great to meet up with Jamie from White Gypsy and his innovative beers. Tried his lovely refreshing Wheat beer, the beer you need after walking round, Bavarian in style but Irish “engineered”. The 5.2% Pilsner isn't half bad either. White Gypsy are growing their own hops this year and are also hoping that more and more restaurants will offer a craft beer as an alternative to wine.

The gregarious Mountain Man was another brewer I had not met before and he explained that his Hairy Goat was an English Style IPA with a lowish ABV. Nothing low though about the ABV of its American cousin, the 7.5% Crazy Horse. Well worth a try.

Micro-breweries just keep popping up around the country and next up was JJ's from County Limerick. This was their first outing and the 4.8% Pils lager promised much, especially as this is their very first beer.

aAnd another newcomer, the 9 White Deer Brewery from Ballyvourney, was also making its debut. Gordon Lucey tells me their hops, including Amarillo, Cascade and Fast Gold, comes from all over the world but the "mystical" water is local as is the yeast. This will soon be on sale in 500ml bottles and watch out for other beers, including a stout.

Nice to chat with Caroline of Eight Degrees and also with Claire from Dungarvan Brewing Company. I always enjoy the Dungarvan beers and tried a couple this time: their wheat beer and their Comeragh Challenge Irish Bitter. Had a preference for the former but isn't that what craft beer is all about. Great to have the choice. Long may the craft revolution continue!


The Franciscan Well Festival continues until late this Saturday evening and is on again tomorrow Sunday with soakage provided by the on site pizza maker! Enjoy.



Monday, February 24, 2014

Dinner From Just One Stall. Market Meal #7

One Stall Dinner
Market Meal #7
This is the latest in a series of Market Meals. The difference here is that the meal comes from just one stall and that is the relatively new Fresh from West Cork initiative in the English Market, just opposite the renowned Chicken Inn.

And another difference is that I’ve had a  bit of fun matching the four courses to beers. Since four beers is hardly enough for a growing boy, I’ve done it twice. Match One is with Cork beers while Match Two is with Porterhouse Beers.

Thanks to the ever patient Michael Creedon of Bradley's Off Licence for his knowledgeable help with selecting the beers but the final pick was mine! Don't want you  going into North Main Street and blaming Michael if your local favourite is not on the list.

Back now to Fresh from West Cork. Walter Ryan-Purcell is the face behind this “cooperative” effort from the west and close to forty producers are represented so it wasn't that difficult to get enough for a four course dinner. Indeed there were many options.

It just illustrates that you can do all your food shopping in the English Market. Maybe not all at Fresh from West Cork - they don't do fresh fish, for example - but you’ll be spoilt for choice if you wander around the wider market

Starter: Union Hall Smoked Salmon with Lemon Labneh by McCarthy’s Natural Dairies.
Cork Beer: Green Bullet Ale (Mountain Man).
Porterhouse: Hersbrucker Pilsner.

The smoked salmon, served with a little salad, was quite rich and the creamy Labneh added to the texture. Might have been better served on a Ryvita cracker or similar. Both beers worked well though in different ways. The Ale added more flavour while the Pilsner, not lacking in flavour, provided a nice cutting edge, a contrast against all the creaminess. One up to the Porterhouse team!
Mains: Gubben Traditional Dry Cured Smoked Bacon with vegetables from Peter Ross.
Cork Beer: Blacks Black IPA (Blacks, Kinsale).
Porterhouse: An Brain Blásta Strong Ale.

The Gubbeen bacon, smoked and lightly peppered, was sensational, the star of the night. With its fantastic texture and flavour, it was out on its own. The beers were both good matches; the Black perhaps best taken with bacon on the palate, the PH between bites! An Brain Blásta (even at 7%abv) doesn't mean brain blaster. It is Irish for The Tasty Drop.

Cheese: Loughbeg Farm hard Goat Cheese with Yellow Zucchini Relish also by Loughbeg.
Cork Beer: Friar Weisse (Franciscan Well).
Porterhouse: Red Ale.

The gorgeous crumbly cheese didn't seem to be getting on too well with the spiced up relish. Until the Friar Weisse was introduced. The local wheat beer transformed the potential discord into a very edible treat. A terrific match. Porterhouse don't make a wheat beer and through no fault of its own their Red Ale couldn't quite replicate the feat of the Friar here. Still, it was a nice way to pass the longish interval to dessert. That makes it 1.5 each for the beer teams.

Dessert: Yummy Tummy’s Brownies with Glenilen Clotted Cream.
Cork Beer: Knockmedown Porter (Eight Degrees).
Porterhouse: Oyster Stout.

Let me get this straight. Yummy Tummy’s Brownies are ace. Glenilen Clotted Cream is ace. You're on a winner. Now, add Knockmedown Porter (Eight Degrees) and you have a jackpot combination! Irresistible! That gave the edge to the Cork beer team, 2.5 to 1.5. The Oyster Stout, a gem in its own right, didn't have quite the same impact in the sweet finale to a smashing West Cork dinner.





Monday, January 20, 2014

Hats off to Jacques!

Hats off to Jacques!
Hats off to Jacques.  Thirty three years on and the renowned Cork City restaurant, the oldest in town, is still setting the pace.

The Barry sisters, Eithne and Jacque, who started it all off, could be forgiven for sitting back and taking it easy. Not a bit of it. The award winning establishment, now with a small plates/tapas area recently added, continues to surprise.

“Every seven years!” said Eithne when we were in the other night. Every night really. I had started to look around for specials when I realised that the menu is really all specials. “We had a different menu last night. Depends on the market.” Now that takes some commitment.
Pigeon. Perfect!
And the commitment is extended to local producers, most of them named on the back of the menu. Some are well known, such as Breslin Butchers in the English Market, Gubbeen cured meats and Kanturk’s Jack McCarthy. Some are so well known, only the first names are used e.g. cheesemakers Giana and Jane. And the fish? “Well,” they say, “just look at the size of the Cork coast”.

And the sisters are delighted too to support the craft beer revolution which is quite strong locally with new breweries popping up all over the county. My choice in Jacques was the Kinsale Pale Ale, in its new and larger (50cl) bottle. One of the best ales I've come across (and I was in to Bradley’s the following day for more).

Now, for the food. Let’s take a look at the starters: Soup of the Day - Fresh Mussels with Chorizo Tomato and Garlic -  Crab and Apple salad - Salad of Blue Cheese and poached pear - Smoked Ummera Chicken.
The stunning KPA!
All tempting but I went for the Lambs Kidneys Dijon, with mustard, gherkins, apple and cream. The super sauce was one of the elements that made this a great success. And CL was blissfully happy with her flavour packed plate of Pigeon breast, white onion and thyme and Jack McCarthy’s Black Pudding.

We stayed on the game as we choose our mains. Mine was the Haunch of Venison on celeriac puree with some handsome robust kale, confit of shallot and red wine jus. A simply spectacular combination. so well executed.

And similar sentiments at the other side of the table as CL made her merry way through the Roast Pheasant, wrapped in pancetta, confit leg in potato cake, red cabbage and bread sauce.
A terrific choice too of main courses. Also on the list were: Scallops - Fresh Organic Sea Trout (with Goatsbridge Caviar) - Slow Braised beef short ribs - rib eye steaks - and a 7 vegetable Tagine.
Plum & Crumble
Seven temptations too in the dessert menu but, running out of space, we picked one to share and it was the gorgeous Plum and Walnut Crumble, well cooked and presented, underlining the immaculate attention to detail that prevails in this pleasant place. Here's to the next thirty three!

Tel : +353 (0)21 4277387        Email : jacquesrestaurant@eircom.net       Address : 23 Oliver Plunkett St, Cork
Jacques Restaurant is located at the heart of Cork City near the G.P.O. and is open Monday 10am - 4pm and Tuesday - Saturday 10am - 10pm. Lunch from 12pm - 4pm, side plates and tapas from 5pm to 10pm and the evening dinner menu is available between 6pm and 10pm.