A weekend in Kinsale
Last Christmas, a particularly generous family member gifted Damien and I a weekend in Kinsale, i.e. a voucher for a night in a hotel and two more vouchers for meals in the gorgeous fishing town. Using the excuse of a family gathering in Cork, we extended our stay to discover this little gem of a place.
Where to stay
We spent the night in Actons Hotel, a pleasant establishment located in the heart of the town. Our lovely room faced the harbour so while we couldn’t see much when we arrived on the Friday evening, the view when we opened the curtains on the Saturday morning was second to none. We didn’t get a chance to try it but the hotel has a leisure centre/spa which seemed quite nice.
Our room was bright, elegant and spacious enough to host a crib - this trip was our first with our newborn little boy, and while we brought the bed with us, we were kindly offered to get one brought up to the room.
The breakfast didn’t disappoint, with a wide array of options for the cold buffet and the possibility to order a hot dish. Of course, Damien went for the full Irish breakfast and enjoyed every bite…
Where to eat
… which brings us to the most important part of our trip; the food. On Friday night, our first voucher took us to a restaurant called Bastion. After (really) quick consideration, we decided to try the tasting menu, which was basically a not-pregnant-anymore-woman’s dream: oyster, meat carpaccio, smoked salmon… All the things I couldn’t eat for months gathered in a meal. Oh joy. With our little one quietly tucked in his buggy seat under the table, we got to enjoy one of the best meals we’ve ever had in Ireland.
The first course was a Haven oyster, served with apple yoghurt, purée and jelly and pickled fennel. With the subtle tartness of the apple, the crunchiness of the fennel and the richness of the oyster, the flavour combination was heavenly and this was probably the best oyster I have ever eaten - especially since it was the first in a long, long time.
The beef fillet carpaccio came with whipped milleens cheese, onion crumble and hazelnut dressing, while the smoked salmon was served with baked beetroots, candy walnuts and basil oil. Both dishes impressed us greatly with their freshness and incredibly rich taste.
After a delicious parmesan ravioli with truffle butter sauce and a perfectly cooked venison loin, dessert was the most amazing chocolate tart, followed by a few petits fours which included a gorgeous whisky jelly. For €70 per person, this meal was absolute bliss and we’d recommend anyone coming to Kinsale to pay a visit to Paul McDonald and Helen Noonan’s restaurant.
In a small, casual yet elegant setting, the chefs show their incredible talent at making the most of the local food while giving them a modern and creative twist. We were lucky enough to be served a couple of the courses by the chef himself, who seemed passionate to talk about his delightful creations - and so were we.
The next day, we got to try the famous Fishy Fishy, a Kinsale institution. We both ordered the “Taste of the Sea”, a seafood platter with everything you could hope for when on a weekend away by the sea: oyster, mussels, smoked salmon, cooked salmon, seared tuna, crab claws, crab meat; all of it cooked and dressed to perfection.
After an indulgent sticky toffee pudding and strawberry and custard for dessert, we had to hit the road, hoping we could have spent more time enjoying the delights of the Top Foodie Destination of 2018.
What to do
The pretty town boasts plenty of cafes and restaurants, making it the perfect place for a tasty weekend. We also noticed that a company offers a food tour of Kinsale, which we didn’t do but will definitely try when we come back.
The sun was shining over Kinsale during our stay and we got to visit Charles Fort under the most magnificent end of summer light. The visit of the star fort located on the water's edge is certainly worth the fiver, with its gorgeous view over the town and an interesting history lecture.
While the village itself is rather picturesque, going for a drive on the local roads is quite mandatory as Kinsale is at the finish point for the Wild Atlantic Way. After a few hours in Kinsale, we gave it the title of our new favourite weekend destination in Ireland, hoping to be back in no time to try more of what it has to offer.