Kinsale 2.0: A new wave hits Ireland's original foodie town
Food & Travel
A new generation of food and drink businesses is breathing life into Ireland's original foodie town, says Pól Ó Conghaile.
Set the mood
Kinsale is as much a place as a state of mind.
That's the received wisdom, anyway. With a population of just few thousand, it boasts a food scene to rival Galway, Belfast or even (whisper it) a certain city 30 minutes up the road. Snappy seafood joints and passionate chefs were valued here before they ever became fashionable, and its place in the Irish food story is assured.
In recent years, however, I think it has lost some spark. Similar to the ground-breaking rock group that finds itself passé several albums in, Kinsale continues to attract the crowds, but has become largely irrelevant to Irish cuisine's cutting edge.
2016 could see it back with a bang, however. Recent arrivals like Bastion, Cantinetta, Blacks Brewery, Twisted, The Steakhouse and The Black Pig have given a new generation a head of steam.
A Second Coming could well be nigh.
Leopold Bloom wondered how to cross Dublin without passing a pub. In Kinsale, the puzzle applies to cafés and restaurants.
Stalwarts include Fishy Fishy, Man Friday and The Bullman, but Bastion (bastionkinsale.com) is where you'll find the best of the new blood.
Paul McDonald and Helen Noonan's elegant eatery specialises in small plates - try the braised rabbit with Iberico ham, or the mackerel with cucumbers, chorizo and a Hendrick's gin and tonic foam. Deserving of its Michelin Bib Gourmand.
Cheap 'n' Cheerful
Dino's family chip shop (facebook.com/DinosChips) has a Fiver Friday offer bundling chips, fresh fish, mushy peas and tartar sauce for €5. Elsewhere, try a citrusy pale ale from Blacks of Kinsale (blacksbrewery.com). The business began when Maudeline Black gave husband Sam a brewing kit for Valentine's Day. Sláinte!
30 minutes from Kinsale, Monk’s Lane (monkslane.ie) in Timoleague is a gastro pub serving up gorgeous food, great tunes and a warm welcome.
The West Cork tasting platter (€12.50, above), crammed with potted crab, wine-cooked chorizo, yummy smoked salmon and a plate of leaves plucked fresh that morning, is worth a trip itself.
Kinsale wrote the manual for foodie towns in Ireland - a winning combination of fresh, local fare, passionate restaurants and a proud community that clubs together in serving up its message. It ain't cheap, however - these are Cork City prices. To justify them, and cut out complacency, it needed this new wave - and a cutting edge.
Get me there
Kinsale is about 30 minutes from Cork City (Bus Eireann No.226 connects the two), and both a start and end point on the Wild Atlantic Way.
I stayed at the four-star Trident Hotel, home to the Pier One Restaurant (tridenthotel.com; book a suite for the best views of the harbour and hilly townscape).
Kinsale Good Food Circle's 40th gourmet festival takes place this October (kinsalerestaurants.com). See Kinsale.ie for more.