Showing posts with label Kilkenny Inn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kilkenny Inn. 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)


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Kernel Kilkenny. Maria’s Up and Running

Kernel Kilkenny

Maria’s Up and Running
So here you are in the kitchen with this lot in front of you: Salmon, sugar snaps, mint, new potatoes, Toonsbridge feta, butternut squash, lime dressing. What to do? Well, check with Maria Raftery, the owner-chef at Kernel, Kilkenny’s newest restaurant. She grilled the salmon and put all the other ingredients together in a magical manner to produce one of the best salmon dishes you're likely to come across.

It is one of the main dishes on the new menu at the restaurant which has taken up most of the front of the Kilkenny Inn on Vicar Street. And the dish, and others, amply illustrate that Maria has lost none of her innovative qualities that shone through over 17 years at Zuni, also in Kilkenny.
Goatsbridge trout
 Kernel Restaurant and Bar, to give it its full title, will be running hand in hand with the hotel and is providing the breakfast for the lucky patrons. Brunch and dinner is also available, even afternoon teas for both ladies and gents!

Back to our visit. While CL was finishing off the salmon and singing its praises, I was tucking into something a little less complicated: the Kernel Angus Beef Burger, smoked Gubbeen, burger sauce, pickle-slaw, house fries. Less complicated maybe but still a perfect combination of textures and flavours.
Ham Hock Scotch Egg
CL had started the meal with Goatsbridge Trout Ceviche, Nori Seaweed, Smoked Trout Mousse, Roe Dressing. Hard to beat that. You’ll notice that Kernel has started by supporting local producers and Goatsbridge Trout Farm is one of the best.

I didn't do too badly either with my Ham Hock Scotch Egg, Piccalilli. Lacked nothing in either quantity or quality, full of good flavour and a really satisfying opening to my visit to Kernel.
 The dessert list is short but still left us puzzled, a puzzle we solved by ordering the Assiette of Desserts, a sweet solution.

They’ve got a pretty good wine list, three suppliers contributing to a good balance overall. We made a bit of a compromise, an enjoyable one, on the Cantina Frentana, Montepulciano D’Abbruzo, fruity and smooth, and twenty five euro the bottle.
Dessert - for sharing!
Had noticed a few (quite a few actually) craft beers on the list including Franciscan Well, Costello’s, O’Hara’s, Free Bird and Hop Adventure (both from Carlow) and Falling Apple Cider (also Carlow). The taps on the bar heralded the three variations of Smithwick's (Red Ale, Pale Ale and the Blonde) but I'm sorry I missed out on the tap for O’Sullivan’s Malted Red Ale, a local beer (now revived) that was produced before Smithwick started in 1710. Next time!
See also