Showing posts with label Bula Bus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bula Bus. Show all posts

Thursday, April 13, 2017

48 Hours in Kilkenny. Sweet Start to Sweet End

48 Hours in Kilkenny

Sweet Start to Sweet Finish
Street food: Farmers Market taco from the Bula Bus

Let me take you to Inner Ireland, to Kilkenny in particular, the heart of the Ancient East.

Must say I was more interested in the inner part of me when I arrived, with the sunshine, on a recent Thursday at noon. Parked up and headed to the Weekly Farmers Market. Not as many stalls as I’d been led to believe but no shortage of food.

One of the first spotted was Charly’s Cheesecakes who have been trading in Cork’s English Market recently and who now have a spot in the Coal Quay on Saturdays. 

Close by were the boys from Bula Bus, the bus based restaurant in the back yard of Billy Byrnes’s pub in Kilkenny. Started at their stall with a hearty Smoked Czech Sausage in a baguette and a dollop or two of Californian Pickled Cabbage (a short-cut version of sauerkraut). CL was also well fed, no shortage of either quality or quantity in her Braised Beef Taco.

Muscles and Medals galore.
So we sat on one of the stone benches and indulged and soon over came Derek of Charly's with a couple of his cheesecakes for dessert! Both gorgeous, but that Malteser must be one of his very best. A cup of coffee then from another stand and we were ready to walk!

Our first port to call was the Smithwick’s Experience. The family first started brewing here over 300 years ago (1710) and we had an enjoyable tour and tasting in the old building in the centre of the town.
Inside the Medieval Mile Museum
 Back towards the castle area then to see a modern art show in the Butler Gallery. Across the road, we dallied in the gardens of the Butler Townhouse enjoying the flowers, especially the magnolias.

Time then to check in at Hotel Kilkenny, up past famous St Kieran’s where I was well fed in 1963 after playing a “friendly” against them at Nowlan Park. It is a fine hotel but disappointed at the lack of Irish craft beers and spirits in the bar. We were dining out that night, at the Royal Spice, one of the better Indian restaurants around.
Kilkenny Castle

Up good and early and again the sun was shining for a packed Day Two. The new Medieval Mile Museum is quite an eye-opener, with something for young and old, great views into the past and some good views too over the city.

What I particularly liked about it was that fact that the small folks in history got a mention! Oh yes, the Butlers and other nobles are well covered here. But be sure and go upstairs to the Kilkenny Room for some interesting stories about ordinary life in medieval times.

You'll see the quotes on small blue-ish panels. If you are not on a guided tour, you can open these doors yourself and see the actual letters of the time, all of them hand-written, some of them some of them beautifully so.

One concerns a complaint (about 1700) that "severall idle women doe make and sell unwholesome bread halfe baked in open ovens". Two men, who may have been members of the bakers guild, made the complaint.

There is a document where you learn that Kilkenny employed a "whipsbeggar" whose job was to drive strange or unfamiliar beggars out of town. In 1547, the mayor was given the task of making a dipping stole (stool) for punishing of bawdy hoores, and cnaves (knaves).

We had visited the Castle a good few years back and were delighted to do so again. Some magnificent rooms and furniture here, history in every nook and cranny, lovely views over the Nore River and of the castle grounds. A highlight is a visit to the gallery though you may have a strain in your neck as you take in the very unusual painted ceiling. The high walls are full of paintings, mainly of the Butlers.
Operation transformation at Nicholas Mosse
A pastry and a coffee (the latter good quality, but steep enough at €3.15) in the coffee shop at the Design Centre across the road was enough to keep us going as we headed out to the countryside. We drove to Bennettsbridge, the base of outstanding potter Nicholas Mosse. Here, we added a few bits and pieces to our modest collection.

The Nore flows through Bennettsbridge under a lovely old multi-arch bridge. The next river we would see was the Barrow in Graiguenamamagh on the Kilkenny-Carlow border, a beautiful village, with quite a few river-boats parked for the winter.
Goats graze in Bennettsbridge
 We took a walk past them and past a couple of representations of the monks (one a farmer, another a fisherman) after whom the village was named. By the way, the better boats seemed to be on the Carlow side! Then again, maybe they are ahead with the spring-cleaning!

Our base that night was at the renovated Kilkenny Inn and we enjoyed a lovely meal in their new restaurant, Kernel. Up bright and early - so was the sun - the following morning.
Farming monk in Graiguenamanagh
 St Canice's Cathedral is a few hundred yards away and we spent the best part of an hour there going through the treasures, treasures that include the beautiful east window (and its fascinating story), St Kieran's Chair (used for enthroning the local bishops for over 1500 years), the fascinating effigy tombs and, of course, the Round Tower. I think if I had time for just one visit in Kilkenny, this would be it.

I didn't climb the tower this time but, they do say, if you like a place you should always leave something to draw you back! 
Kilkenny side of the Barrow
 But we weren't leaving the pastries of Cakeface behind. We got a late tip to call to the cafe, a very busy one, in Irishtown and helped ourselves to a few of their colourful and unusual cakes and a loaf of crusty sourdough!

Carlow side of the Barrow
 Soon we were on the road home after a lovely (if busy) stay in the Marble City and its surrounds. We’ll be back, if only for the food!  And the Round Tower, of course!

St Canice's Cathedral and Round Tower

Lots of notes and photos taken, so I have individual posts on some of the visits. Hope they help you on your trip to Inner Ireland! 

See also: The Smithwick Experience. Royal Spice Indian Restaurant. From the Bula Bus. CakeFace Pastry The new Kernel Restaurant
Effigies on the tomb of Piers Butler (died 1539) and his wife Margaret Fitzgerald (1542)


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Taste of the Week. From the Bula Bus

Taste of the Week

From the Bula Bus
Smoked sausage and pickled cabbage

The Bula Bus is a restaurant, in a bus, a double decker. They cook downstairs, serve you upstairs. It is an old bus from Manchester that doesn't go anywhere anymore. It is parked up, permanently, in the backyard of Billy Byrnes pub in Kilkenny.

But they do have a stall at the local Farmers Market every Thursday and it was there that I got fed last week and found my Taste of the Week in their Czech style Smoked Sausage.

Six euro bought me street food at its best. A big choice of sauces and condiments and the large sausage was served with Californian style pickled cabbage, a faster version of Sauerkraut. 

The sun was shining as I sat down on a public seat nearby and tucked into my substantial and very tasty lunch. I could have been in California or Prague but Kilkenny’s Parade was cosmopolitan enough for me.

It is easy enough to catch the Bula Bus crew and their out of the ordinary food - they are open most days behind the pub. More info here.

A brief account of a 2014 visit to the bus: it was time for lunch so the group (about 14 strong) headed off to the Podge Meade’s Bula Bus, a former unit of the fleet in Manchester city but now parked up at the back of Billy Byrne’s pub. The kitchen is downstairs and the upper deck is laid out as a restaurant, serving wild and foraged street food. Venison, mushroom and rabbit (which I enjoyed) featured on the menu.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Kilkenny’s Night of a 1000 Feasts.

Kilkenny’s Night of a 1000 Feasts
Town of Food a Step Closer
Hazel, top left, with just some of her guests at the Feast.
On Sunday evening we left our lovely base at Rosquil House to head to our Feast, part of the Night of a 1000 Feasts in Kilkenny. Our Feast, one of about two thousand registered as it turned out, was quite close and at about 7.00pm we were warmly greeted by Hazel and three generations of her family, all celebrating the 76th birthday of her father.

Hazel is a fabulous cook and really loves to bake and the tables were groaning under the weight of a very colourful and tasty feast. The conversation flowed, not least because there were some relations home from Canada. We had a lovely evening with the family and a big thank you to Hazel and husband Richard.

The 1000 Feasts project, while obviously having a huge social element, was also designed as a fund-raiser  towards the Town of Food Project. This is a huge Leader funded project that is located in Thomastown but the local people had to raise some €180,000 themselves. It was down to about €25,000 before the weekend and hopefully a good bit less at this stage. Read all about the project here.
Happy Birthday!
Our group were brought to see the project on Monday afternoon and met Francis Nesbitt, the co-ordinator. He told us it is based in the old school (built 1947) and that the builders had been in since mid-July and will finish in about six weeks.

There will be a lot of community involvement, at all levels, including gardening and cooking. There will be a community kitchen club to benefit many, including fledgling food producers who won't have to kit out their own kitchens to make a start. There will also be a training kitchen. This will be state of the art, as no less than €105,000 has been spent on equipment. “Everything you could think of.”

There will of course be all kinds of cooking courses going on here but don't run away with the idea that this will be for amateurs only. Thomastown won this project in a competition with other towns so there will be some serious education going on here, including chef training.

“We want motivated people here….We want to create a pipeline of kitchen-ready chefs..their learning will be one half here, the other half in restaurants.” This is a fantastic project and the few paragraphs above only give you a hint of what's in store. Please check it out on the website.

Francis (left) meets the Town of Food bloggers.
The day of a “1000 Feasts” began for me with a bloggers meet-up at the main gate of the castle. After the introductions, we made our way to the National Craft Gallery, the venue for one of Jim Carroll’s Banter on Food series, this episode entitled War Stories from the Kitchen.

Pichet’s Denise was among the panelists and she said you have to be a little bit crazy and one hundred per cent passionate to open your doors to public scrutiny. John Healy agreed that the industry is “addictive”. One big danger is that people go into it for the love of food and with no idea about the business side. Overall though the panel agreed that standard has “gone away up” over  the last ten to fifteen years.

Carroll then steered the discussion, mentioning Anthony Bourdain’s rather ancient book Kitchen Confidential, to the war in the kitchen! But no big news there really. Yes, flare-ups are inevitable and management has to be ready for it, “people skills required”.

By now it was time for lunch so the group (about 14 strong) headed off to the Podge Meade’s Bula Bus, a former unit of the fleet in Manchester city but now parked up at the back of Billy Byrne’s pub. The kitchen is downstairs and the upper deck is laid out as a restaurant, serving wild and foraged street food. Venison, mushroom and rabbit (which I enjoyed) featured on the menu last Sunday.

We had some time to ourselves after lunch and I headed back around the many market stalls on the Parade and enjoyed a glass of Costello’s Red Ale in company with Colm McCann and Pascal Rossignol who had just finished their second Wine v Beer show, a show that also featured Caroline Hennessy.

We would meet Gabriella of Costello’s again in our last group engagement here. This was in the Leader tent where we chatted with some emerging producers including Eadaoin's Kitchen, Bob and Joan’s Jams, Butterfly Valley (Cookie Mixes), Richie O’Brien (Honey) and Inistioge Food (Marinades). Our bag included some of those marinades and we’re looking forward to trying them soon, so watch this space!

See also:

Rabbit at the Bula Bus