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As we walk up the stairs to our Bantry restaurant, the multi-event A Taste of West Cork festival is in full swing, heading for its closing weekend. Many attractive food options around the towns and villages but knowing punters make their way to the Fish Kitchen and a packed house enjoys the best produce from the local shores and seas. The Kitchen crew are busy but not a bother as the delicious meal is served.
“Freshness, simplicity, quality” is what they promise here and that is exactly what we get. Excellent service too, a good choice of wines and craft beer and good company too at the long tables. We enjoy the chat with Esther and Joe from Cappoquin and Jim and Barbara from the town.
Diarmaid, who owns and runs the Fish Kitchen with his wife Ann-Maria, served us a simple Amuse Bouche, a sharing plate of Sheep’s Head periwinkles with garlic. Hard to get them out of the little shells but well worth the effort!
Next up was a trio of Smoked Salmon, Prawns and Oyster. Tasty stuff. Excellent salmon, amazing prawns from the bay outside and a superb Carlingford oyster. Quite a hat trick of flavours.
We were very happy with that and got even happier with the next round: Steamed Bantry Bay mussels with Stonewell Cider. We had been out on the bay earlier and had seen the lines and lines heavy in the water with rope-grown mussels. And here they were now on our plate, meatier and tastier than any I’ve tried in recent times.
Another course was on the way as the Salterio Albarino level in our bottle was falling and this was another handsome combination: Union Hall Smoked Pollack and crabmeat croquettes, served with a simple salad.
Now for the big one: herb crusted Castletownbere Hake with sun-dried tomato and Gubbeen chorizo pesto. Sometimes in Ireland we smother delicate fish with heavy sauces. Not here. The Hake was the star, the others there just to show it off to perfection. And, yes, it was perfect, as were all the courses.
And of course there was dessert. Here we had a choice and the Plum Crumble won hands down at our table; maybe the lavender infused pannacotta found takers at the other tables!
While this was a special dinner (we paid 45 euro a head) for the festival, you will get the freshest of fish, skilfully handled and simply presented at a fair price every day, lunch and dinner, at this town centre venue. And, if you are eating at home, then grab some fresh fish from the family market on the ground floor!
* Diarmaid was our host on our earlier trip around the bay - check it out here. He has been doing it a bit over the past summer and intends to make it a permanent feature next year. A proud native of the area, he is a superb guide to the huge bay, its geography and amazing history. His sturdy rib will take six paying passengers so keep an eye out for that in 2019.