Kinsale: Endless possibilities

Finns’ Table, 6 Main St, Kinsale, Co Cork; tel: 021470 9636, finnstable.com

A FEW of Thomond Park’s more challenging banners assert that “to those with belief nothing is impossible”, and even if the team in red have proved that time out of number, it is so very uplifting, so very reassuring, to see others prove it is true as well.

That — as the team in red often do — the challenge is taken up, despite the pessimism of the zeitgeist, can make the future seem a less daunting place because, after all, optimism creates its own momentum.

John and Julie Finn had built an enviable reputation ever before they opened in Kinsale a few months ago — they were behind the much-lamented Dillon’s in Timoleague which closed last September.

There they had built up a loyal following, the kind that whispers recommendations amongst themselves so they can be sure not to be crowded out if a place becomes too popular.

The Finns had won a barrow full of gongs, including an enviable Michelin recommendation. Indeed some of the less active food guides, dead-tree or online, still eulogise the dead Timoleague business, but then reading a three or even a two year-old food guide is a sobering experience. The attrition rate is startlingly high and too often, these guides seem littered with obituaries punctuating the details about bustling, inviting places.

This of course makes the Finns’ determination to get back up on the merciless merry-go-round so quickly all the more admirable. That they did so in Kinsale — hardly a town short of impressive places to eat and some with stellarish reputations — in the dreary depths of a recession showed ambition and considerable confidence.

Our — DW and I — visit suggested that the experience, hard-won further along the coast, has been transferred seamlessly to Kinsale, and the resort town has yet another excellent restaurant to boast about. Hopefully there will be enough business for all of them to thrive. If the crowds in the town on our Saturday-night visit were representative, then there is no reason to think that they will not.

DW opened with a crab tasting plate — fresh crab in homemade mayonnaise, crab bisque with coconut and coriander, and a crab and herb fritter. Not only did it look impressive, it was a wonderful, to use a now-shunned 1970s word, medley of tastes and textures. It did the crab and the kitchen proud.

My opener was far less complicated — confit of duck leg with apple tart tatin and homemade apple chutney — but no less impressive or enjoyable for all that.

This was a lovely, succulent piece of fowl sitting on a bed of apple and pastry made spikey by the chutney. In fact the duck was so well cooked, so moist and sweet, that it would sit well as a main course, but what to drop from that interesting list for it?

DW continues with what has, strangely, become something of an occasional presence on many menus — roast loin of lamb, with spinach roast beetroot, and rosemary jus. The portion was generous to a fault and the meat so delicate, so tender, that it more evaporated than melted in the mouth. And the taste was equally impressive.

I chose grilled turbot with fried polenta, glazed asparagus, and a pink peppercorn, crab, and lime dressing. Maybe it’s the pressure to perform in a town with so many decent restaurants, but this was excellent, and on a par if not better than anything else Kinsale has to offer.

Desserts were a wonderful bookend to what was a lovely meal in a tight, snug, intimate room, but one where a conversation can be held without involving all of the guests.

The wine, a Domaine Saint-Denis Macon-Lugny 2010 (€33.50), if it was a colour, would have been a pastel shade of something or other, and certainly less vibrant than that needed to lubricate the Thomond Park terraces. It was light to the point of being ephemeral.

A very fine meal in a restaurant that has the skill and belief needed to thrive in such a competitive environment.

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