Kinsale in Co Cork is one of my favourite towns. It has a character very few Irish towns come close to touching and an ambience that’s really special.
I first starting taking notice of Kinsale back in the late 1970s when my father, in generous mood, used to take mum, myself and occasionally other members of the family, down to sample its many amazing restaurants. Did I tell you it’s the culinary capital of Ireland?
We tried several of the best places, from the Man Friday to the Vintage (where I tasted my first duck and didn’t much like it), to Jim Edwards for amazing steaks, and the Bistro. There was something about the Bistro that just kept us going back time after time. The food was wonderful, of course, but we always seemed to have wonderful nights there. And I lived for the desserts.
In those days you could smoke in any restaurant, and dad and I were partial to cigars. I didn’t drive, but no one took much notice of driving with a few drinks in you then. They were always wonderful nights and I think back on them with great fondness.
But my special connection is with the Man Friday. It was there I first tasted stuffed mushrooms – still my favourite starter – followed by fillet steak and whatever dessert took my fancy. With dad paying every time there was no holding back. I took Trish there when we got engaged, but when our children came along it wasn’t so easy to find the time or the money for a few years to return.
Sadly, the Vintage fell victim to the recession and the Bistro is now replaced by the Aperitif Wine & Tapas Bar, but the others are still with us.
Whenever an anniversary rolled around we returned to the Man Friday, and I promised the kids when they were old enough to appreciate the food we’d take them there – which we did. Did they love it? Of course.
I also enjoyed The White House. One night a film crew from Australia recorded a music session there and months later a friend who was living in Australia told us she spotted us on the TV!
The Blue Haven we somehow missed out on. For some reason dad never brought us there, and Trish and I always assumed for reasons unknown that it was too expensive, so it wasn’t until my brother-in-law Paddy and his wife Addie took us there as their guests that we discovered what a fabulous place it is and we’ve been back many times.
I didn’t get to The White Lady for years, a place my younger brother always had a fascination for. We have been there a few times, including a recent visit. As always the food is great and you never who you’ll meet.
And then there’s The Bulman over in Summercove. It’s the place to be in the summer when the crowds spill outside. Lovely atmohere and great food inside.
In latter years Kinsale has started its own jazz festival, and its narrow streets and many pubs heave with the sound of music and jazz fans lapping up its unique buzz. There always seems to be something going on in Kinsale, from arts festival to rugby sevens.
Today Trish and I still travel regularly to Kinsale. We drive down, park the car and walk around its gorgeous narrow streets, meet the many tourists who flock there, and the many British and some Americans who now call Kinsale home. We might take a drive out to the Dock just outside the town which has a lovely seated area. Some people walk or drive over, either for a drink, to visit the small beach around the corner, or gaze out at Kinsale’s many boats and yachts.
There are a couple of bookstores, and lots of little shops to explore, whether you’re interested in antiques, photos or art. There are also plenty of delightful cafés if you just want a coffee and cake.
Being a harbour town you won’t be surprised by the many sailing activities that draw locals and others from many countries. But most of all Kinsale is just the perfect spot to chill out in and there is always a fantastic buzz in the air.
For everything you want to know about Kinsale there’s a great website to get you started at http://www.kinsale.ie
My favourite places to eat are listed below.
The Man Friday http://www.manfridaykinsale.ie
The Blue Haven http://www.bluehavenkinsale.com
The White House http://www.whitehouse-kinsale.ie
The White Lady http://www.whiteladyhotelkinsale.ie
Jim Edwards http://www.jimedwardskinsale.com