Eating out: Lucinda O'Sullivan Finns' Table in Kinsale
In the brave new world of casual eateries, Lucinda O'Sullivan found the fine-dining ethos of Finns' Table surprised and intrigued her.
With most restaurants going down the more casual route, we were a tad surprised to find the new Finns' Table in Kinsale bucking the trend with white linen napery, fine china, classical music and the other trimmings and frippery of the more delicate dining world.
The robust, colourful exterior gave no indication, either, as to the finer things of life to be discovered behind its facade, but the room was filled with smiling diners, many of whom were American tourists.
Previously based in Timoleague, John and Julie Finn relocated to Kinsale in recent times, to the former Cottage Loft premises of yore, in a quirky old house on Main Street. So, it is a happy, good-news story all round. We had no reservation but were soon sitting on a banquette, sandwiched between a young American couple and a local twosome. As you will have gathered, this is not a 'beat the budget' style eatery, but it was good to see a new restaurant in Kinsale returning to good, classic dishes. It's the sort of food that is timeless, well prepared and on which Kinsale has made its name as a foodie town, attracting visitors from all over the world.
An amuse bouche of pretty, piped cream cheese topped with fennel fronds arrived, to be demolished in one pop. Next up was a breadboard sporting aromatic mini loaves of brown bread and a soft beetroot and wild garlic bread, along with triangles of butter and a little dish of hummus. Ace.
Starters (€6-€12.50) included a West Cork three-crab tasting plate with creamy crab bisque, fried crab fritters and crab mayonnaise. Crispy egg was served with asparagus wrapped in Parma ham and topped with Hollandaise sauce, while black pudding fritters were served with sweetcorn puree, parsley panna cotta and braised apple salsa.
Brendan enjoyed his twice-baked Ardsallagh goat's cheese souffle (€10), which was sitting in the middle of a veritable field of rocket, along with shaved fennel, beetroot relish and walnuts.
"Ummera smoked salmon and avocado spring roll with wasabi mayonnaise and Asian vegetable salad" (€12) didn't work for me. It was as far from Asia as could be. A spring-roll casing should be light and crispy, as the name infers, or else be of the soft, rice-paper variety; this was more battle dress than evening dress. From the menu, I also expected regular cold smoked salmon and avocado, but here the salmon was cooked, while the salad lacked the typical sweet-and-sour zingy dressing.
Mains (€21-€32) included surf 'n' turf of fillet steak and half a lobster; roast fillet of hake with celeriac puree; brill; black sole; and turbot. Brendan loved his superb crisp-skinned chunk of turbot (€29.50) on fried polenta with spinach and chorizo cream. I had grilled black sole on the bone with lemon butter (€32), which was the biz; it was superbly presented, topped with glazed asparagus and a scattering of toasted almonds. It wasn't the biggest sole I've ever had, but it was delicious, and good value at a moderate price for this wonderful fish.
Puddings at €6 let the show down a bit, offering home-made tiramisu, dark chocolate mousse, strawberry fool, or baked lemon tart. We tried the latter, which proved heavy, cloying and gloopy, reminding me of the unpleasant commercial variety. A couple of virtually unbreakable pieces of meringue, which sat on top, plus a sprig of mint and a halved strawberry in a raspberry coulis, seemed to define the whole dish, placing it firmly in the 1970s. For some people, puds are the main event, so it is not good to finish on a bum note. With such effort being made up to this point, they need to refine this area.
Overall, Finns' Table is a lovely addition to Kinsale, with good food. Our bill with a bottle of Toso Gavi 2012 (€29) and optional service came to €130.
6 Main Street,
Tel: (021) 470-9636