Food fashions may come and go, but Jim Edward’s restaurant, in Kinsale, is a solid producer of fresh local produce. Picture: Denis Minihane
As anyone lucky enough to share their life with an Irishman will confirm there are many and varied sub species of that noble genus. Two can be used today to illustrate a dilemma facing restaurateurs. A third will be referred to later as an illustration of the flaws that can afflict even the most wonderful concepts.
The first type is the man who forms his relationship with fashion — clothes always, but most revealingly hairstyles — very early in life and never feels the urge to update it. We all know an otherwise awake neighbour, a beloved uncle or even someone we occasionally pass in the mirror who is far more Bay City Rollers or Duran Duran than Kanye West or WILL.I.AM. By their quiffs and corduroys shall ye age them.
The other relevant subspecies is the aging but determined, diehard fashionista. Cycling and lycra have been, if not universally recognised as a godsend, a new set of challenges for this type of tanned Irishman, bejeweled, preening, and in secret, pouting in the mirror at 65.
Jim Edwards’ fine, family-run restaurant in Kinsale, where fashion and food are often such happy conspirators, is very much one of the former. Content in itself, secure in its abilities and all the more reassuring and pleasurable for that. The restaurant has been a valuable feature of the town for decades and has built a loyal following, one unperturbed by the decrees of the moment. If you want a menu built around kelp, roots, berries or wildflowers — why never gulls’ eggs? — foraged along the coast of Cork then Jim Edwards may not be for you. However, if you fancy some of the standard dishes that have sustained menus since long before Bay City Rollers realised tartan was far more than a brand of dodgy beer, then the food at Market Quay will satisfy you splendidly. That you will eat it in a homely space reminiscent of an older Ireland, will add to the warming sense of continuity.
On the evening we — DW as ever — visited, the house was not full but the enthusiasm, cheerfulness and unobtrusive attention of a happy staff did more than enough to create a very good atmosphere. DW opened with, despite admonishments from a friend from Castletownbere that this is the worst time of they year for them, crab claws tossed in a garlic and butter sauce. They were, despite the calendar, a very enjoyable and generous beginning. I had seared scallops with basil and garlic and a cauliflower puree, it was another dish to warm the heart of a settled, unperturbed Irishman.
DW’s main course was excellent, so good in fact it might be considered a benchmark for how the fish should be used. She had a medallion of monkfish pan fried with spring onion, ginger and lime dressing. Another friend travels 30 miles to Kinsale for this dish and now I know why, it was top class. I, trying to undo decades of indulgence in months, asked for a fillet steak and nothing more than a green salad. It was the epitome of cheering simplicity and the value of good fresh ingredients.
And now, a third type of Irishman, one that can only diminish the fine impression created by his usually splendid peers. The evening was smudged by a small group of diners, “down the country” and so moved by the sea air and pinot gris that they felt obliged to share the experience, via video calls on a smart phone, with those unfortunate enough not to escape our capital for the weekend.
This became a loud, communal experience, certainly not one sought or enjoyed. It may not have warranted the response of Lord Cardigan who had a Captain Reynolds courtmartialed because he was treacherous enough, in 1840 in Victoria Barracks — Collin’s Barracks in Cork — to serve a Moselle without decanting it, but there would have been a cheer — albeit a silent one — if the staff had asked the noisy Dubs to desist. That the staff was so challenged confirms that we learn, or do not learn, far more than our fashion habits very early in life. We will return, hopefully they will not.