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Kinsale’s renowned Good Food Circle seem to have backed a winner with their Restaurant Week. The place is abuzz as was Finns’ Table when we walked in there around 7.00pm last Monday. We hadn’t met Julie and chef John with quite a while so it was great to take the opportunity to eat, drink and chat in such a lovely and lively spot.
Julie had reserved the “Love Table” for us, knowing that we were celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary. So we sipped our Veuve Clicquot and soon we were tucking into two delightful mini-loaves from John’s kitchen, a treacle bread and also a potato bread, each different, both delicious.
So, what do they give you for your twenty euro? A choice of four starters and four mains, all really top class. One starter was Mushrooms on toast, crispy hen’s egg and Hollandaise sauce, another was Jerusalem Artichoke soup with honey, almond and rosemary granola.
Not easy to turn down either of those but I picked the Braised Irish Beef Brisket Croquet with celeriac remoulade and horseradish cream. The packed croquet was full of flavour, the remoulade and cream the perfect partners. CL spotted that the local mussels (from nearby Oysterhaven) were enhanced with coconut, coriander, ginger and lemongrass. Oh, the steamed bivalves have rarely been so well accompanied in a bowl.
Joseph Mellot wines from Sancerre - we would meet Olivier from the winery later on in the evening - were produced and much appreciated as the lovely occasion unfolded.
So what would we have for mains?The quartet on offer were all very tempting indeed. There was a Confit Duck Leg, slow cooked, with Rosscarbery black pudding, and cider braised lentils and also a Vegetarian Wellington (Uncle Tom’s Turnip, Sweet Potato and Bandon Vale Cheddar).
The Irish Lamb Tasting plate was CL’s choice: Roast Rump, Slow Cooked Neck and Braised Shoulder, with Fondant Potato and Jus. We swapped wines at this point with CL taking the Pinot Noir and I taking the Sauvignon Blanc. The SB proved a perfect match with the exquisite Seafood Bourride, a Provencal style fish stew containing lightly poached local fish and shellfish in saffron broth with garlic aioli and herbs, a delightfulmix of flavours and aromas.
I’ve often thought that it is the small things on your plate that can indicate a chef’s skill. And what caught our attention here, in the most delightful way, was the side of Mixed Garden vegetables. No exotic veg included but excellent stuff, superbly cooked and a pure delight on the palate. Still wondering what little extra magic he added here.
Fair play to the Finns. Since moving to Kinsale from nearby Timoleague about six years ago they have played a full role in the Good Food Circle, as indeed do all the members. Bookings have been brisk for this week’s combined venture and you may find it too late to reserve a place in some venues.
But two excellent courses for just twenty euro is well worth checking out. The full list involved is: Actons Hotel, The Blue Haven, The Bulman, Jim Edwards, Finns’ Table, Fishy Fishy, Man Friday, The Supper Club, The Trident Hotel, The White House, and The White Lady. The week opened on the 18th and closes on the 24th - no time to lose!
The big event for the Good Food Circle comes every October when the annual Gourmet Festival takes place. Dates this year, for the 43rd running of this famous and fun event, are 11th to 13th of October. And, believe it or not, bookings can now be made. Check "Kinsale Good Food Circle - 43rd Kinsale Gourmet Festival”for further info.
Before that though, the Good Food Circle will host the national Chowder Championships in April with a street food festival on the same weekend (6/7 April 2019).
Cast Your Vote in the 9th All-Ireland Chowder Cook-Off on Sunday 7th April.Kinsale Good Food Circle want your help to find the best chowder chef in Ireland. A representative from each of the 32 counties will compete for the title of “All-Ireland Chowder Champion” at the annual All-Ireland Chowder Cook-Off. Everyone attending the event will have a chance to vote for their favourite chowder-chef. The food festival in the streets will be held on the Saturday (6th).
Lots of joy in Kinsale and surrounding areas at the return of Acton’s Hotel. Now a refurbished four star establishment, it reopened on Thursday March 14th and hit the ground running. Indeed, its value to the local business and tourist interests was underlined by the sell out figure for its first Saturday night.
On Saturday at breakfast, a proud staff member told me that the breakfast room would be so much busier on Sunday: “We have one and hundred fifty booked in.” Not bad at all for the first weekend, especially considering that the hotel had been under repair since the end of 2011.
Oh yes, that proud staff member wasn't an exception. We had received the warmest of welcomes at the impressive reception desk. Later in the bar, that friendly courtesy was very obvious. And it continued right through to the breakfast room, another impressive facility here. Just loved it all the way.
The Sidney dining room hadn't reopened at that point but the bar area was very busy with both food and drink. Our only food there was the breakfast and that was top notch. There is a terrific selection for both the Continental type and the Irish type, lots of quality choices.
The hotel looks very well both on the outside and inside. Our room was spacious and well equipped (the Wi-Fi worked without a hitch) and the bathroom too was excellent, big and fully equipped.
And the hotel is very central for the town itself. It is on the Pier Road and a very short stroll will take you into the middle, to the restaurant area. Places you might look out for are the Lemon Leaf (for breakfast, lunch cakes) and the newly opened Finn’s Table (a classy restaurant run by John and Julie Finn, ex Dillon’s). Janey Mac and Bruno’s were others on my list but I didn't get to them this time.
Breakfast: vegetarian option
We did make a short trip to the west though. First stop was the Old Head, all closed up at the moment, even the golf course is shut. But at least there are some fine views, both left and right, by the entrance. Then down to the beach, especially to Garrettstown for a walk and also to see the many surfers in action.
Over then to nearby Ballinspittle for a snack. Quite a snack actually, in the Diva Boutique Bakery and Cafe. Completed the round trip then by calling down to beautiful Sandycove on the way back to Kinsale.