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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 and a glass of top notch Veuve Clicquot champagne 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).
I'm often asked where I've been for the holidays and I often get sympathetic looks when I answer Ireland (can't bring myself to say staycation!). But I'm not in need of that the kind of sympathy! Far from it. Didn’t realise I spent so much time (not to mention money) in West Cork this marvellous summer of 2018. But I did and I enjoyed it, every minute. So I’ve put it all together in this “package” and am hoping it will give you a few pointers if you are heading in that direction in 2019.
De Barra Lodge You'll find it hard to get a B&B breakfast better than that served up by Sinéad at their lovely house near Rosscarbery. Here you'll see the cows grazing, the rabbits sunning themselves and the hens (who provide the eggs for your breakfast) in their run by the house. The dining-room is brilliantly lit by a series of Velux windows. It, and indeed, the bedrooms are comfortable and spacious. And Sinéad and her husband will themselves drive you to the village if you have your evening meal booked there.
Glendine House Mick and Mari are the owners of Glendine House on the edge of Clon. Both are "blow-ins" but each is well involved in the life of the town and contribute much of their time. They too have their own hens and the produce for the breakfast is more or less all local including that of the Clonakilty Black Pudding Company. The house is about an eight minute walk downhill to the town centre (a bit further on the return!). You get a terrific welcome here and plenty of help and advice on what to do in the area. It is comfortable and well equipped (loved the shower-unit here!).
Maritime I usually stay about once a year in Bantry's Maritime. It it so central with an underground car park just across the way and a very warm welcome. Well equipped too and spacious, with a lovely dining room where you may enjoy your breakfast. The bedrooms have all you want and all have great views out over the magnificent bay. Lots of music in the bar during the season. Would love to see some local craft beer on tap here but they do carry some good ones in bottle.
Jim Edwards is a renowned restaurant in the renowned foodie town of Kinsale and it has been serving up classic fare since 1971.
And while some of those beloved classics are still on the menu, Jim Edwards is not slow to support new producers and new products in the area. Just a peep at their drinks list confirms this, with Kinsale Mead, Stonewell Cider and beers from Black’s of Kinsale and 9 White Deer (Ballyvourney) on offer.
Local gins include Kinsale gin, Blackwater gin and Black's gin. while local whiskeys include Pogues from West Cork and the world famous Midleton Very Rare. With the best of spirits available, there is no shortage of cocktails. Produce suppliers, some long-standing, are listed on the back of the menu.
And there is no shortage of food choices here. You may dine in the Gastro Pub or in the restaurant. The Gastro Pub menu (including a sandwich selection) and A La Carte menu are available from 12pm to 10pm daily. In addition they have daily specials and a value menu also available all day. No wonder the venue has been declared“a standard bearer in Kinsale's distinguished culinary culture” bythe McKenna Guide.
We were glad to see the A La Carte menu available from lunchtime on when we arrived there about one o’clock on a recent Friday. Soon we were seated by the window and reading our way through the choices. By the way, from exchanges at a nearby table, we heard that you can pick and choose from the various menus.
The mussels and oysters come from nearby Haven Shellfish and I picked the rather traditional starter (they don’t really do cutting edge here in any case) of Kinsale Mussels toasted with Garlic Breadcrumbs. Very tasty, with a well prepared salad. And CL too was very pleased with another excellent appetiser, this of Pan Seared Scallops in garlic and basil with a cauliflower purée.
We sipped our Black’s ale as we waited for the mains. Unbeknownst to ourselves we had chosen two house classics and looking back we can appreciate how they’ve stood the test of taste and time. Both were superb.
One is the flavoursome Mint and Herb Crusted Rack of Slaney Valley Lamb with a rosemary and garlic jus. Beautifully cooked, neatly presented, as were all our dishes.
Our other mains was the Medallions of Monkfish, pan fried with ginger, spring onion chill and lime dressing. Another superb combination, no shortage of quality here. And no skimping on quantity either.
And, just in case you haven’t enough, in another nod to tradition, they serve three sides as well: potatoes gratin, seasonal vegetables and fries.
It was a fairly busy lunch service in the restaurant and no problem to the staff as they kept the food coming and helped the customers make their choices, patience needed in some cases!
We did have a look at the dessert menu but, having been well fed, decided to give the sweet stuff a skip and finished off with an excellent cup of Maher’s coffee, another local business supported by Jim Edwards. Roll on the 50th celebrations in 2021!