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It’s a big bravo to Carole Norman on her return to the Kinsale restaurant scene. Three years ago, she closed the doors on the original Crackpots. But couldn’t stay away and you’ll find her now every weekend at Crackpots Encore in Cork Street. You’ll also find a warm welcome, good food based mostly in local produce and, if it’s a Friday evening, you’ll have the bonus of Billy Crosbie on the piano and a guest (or two, perhaps!).
Carole has that hospitality gene in abundance and the trademark warm welcome had us settled even before we are seated and studying the menu. A menu with a twist. Instead of starters, you are offered Platters. Have one for yourself or order a bigger one for sharing. Great variety and good value too. And yes, you may also have soup, oysters perhaps, mussels too.
Those Platters include Spanish Tapas,Patés on Parade and a Seafood Platter with prawns, oysters, mussels, and smoked salmon included. Hard to resist the superb Taste of Ireland (Irish cheese and charcuterie, including spiced beef from the local butcher just up the street) and a helping of Ballymaloe Relish!
The table tops are a decent size here but if you get one of those large platters, it makes for a tight squeeze. A delicious one though as we found out when we shared the Middle Eastern, a board loaded with Falafels, creamy Hummus, pomegranate tabouleh, roasted aubergine, artichoke hearts, olives, toasted pitta breads, stuffed vine-leaves.
There is a long wine list here, quite a few available by the glass as well. All kinds of spirits too and some gorgeous cocktails. I went for the local Black’s beer, always enjoy their superb ale.
Chef John Paul McCarthy comes into his own with the Plat du Jour, which features a short but ever-changing list of main courses with something guaranteed for fish lovers, meat eaters and something too for the vegan/vegetarian. You might find a Rib-eye steak, a pan-seared chicken supreme, a Monkfish red Thai curry, or amixed bean chilli, for example.
Our set of choices included a Baked fillet of Hake with teriyaki glaze on shredded Pak Choi, chilli and garlic and with basmati rice (or fries) and it was perfectly cooked, well presented and a terrific combination. We choose the rice and that also featured in another excellent dish: Chicken Massaman Curry, slow cooked in Thai spices and coconut milk and served with basmati rice and a green salad.
Other mains on offer on the night included Roasted Cauliflower cutlets, with a smoked tomato and red pepper sauce and olive tapenade and a Rib-eye with caramelised red onions, peppercorn sauce and hand-cut chips.
We had made an early start and as we were looking at the dessert menu, the punters were streaming in. It was Friday night and it was obvious that quite a few regulars had booked around this time, knowing that Billy Crosbie would soon be tinkling those ivories. He soon was and the lovely buzz increased. From Abba to Andy Williams, Beatles to Buble – Billy can play “almost” anything!!
We just had to be somewhere else later on but enjoyed our sample of Crackpots craic as we shared a dessert. Like some of Mr Crosbie’s numbers, this was a classic: Poached Pears in mulled red wine. And it was a terrific version. The list is short but also includes an excellent Irish cheese plate. If you’d like something small with your coffee, you can treat yourself to the local Koko chocolates. Pity we had to go. Next time we’ll give yourselves more time at Crackpots Encore.