Restaurant review: St Francis Provisions in Cork 'is a little cracker'

Joe McNamee's latest food find in Cork.

Restaurant review: St Francis Provisions in Cork 'is a little cracker'

Joe McNamee's latest food find in Cork.

    St Francis Provisions
    Short Quay, Sleveen, Kinsale, Co. Cork
    Tel: 083-0636879

HAVING hymned the praises of the very gorgeous

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I delayed visiting to avoid repetition.

Having operated her own sausage-making business and food truck in San Francisco, it was hardly surprising Clare woman Barbara Nealon opted for another hospitality venture on her return to Ireland with husband and business partner, John, and the cafe’s name (St Francis: San Francisco) recalls her erstwhile Stateside home.

OHK is one of the prettiest fit-outs I’ve come across in many a long moon, so there’s no shame in stating SFP is not quite in the same league but the tiny L-shaped space (20 seats at most) is bright and friendly and, that our fellow diners comprise proprietors of three local restaurants along with the owner/operator of one of Ireland’s loveliest country house hotels, is a substantial imprimatur from hospitality fellows before we even open a menu.

No 2 Son plumps for St Francis Breakfast Roll (streaky Gubbeen bacon, fried egg, slow roasted balsamic tomatoes, local leaves, pickled onions, brioche roll) while La Daughter opts for the minimalist take: bacon, roll.

He then slurps hearty, homely roasted root veg soup, pleasingly perky kale pesto arresting the comfort factor before it slides into blissful somnolence.

Current Wife, seeking uplifting vitality, orders sweetcorn, chard and Macroom buffalo mozzarella fritters atop a mixed salad of cauliflower, mange tout and pickled onions.

Liberally sprinkled with spelt grains, seeds, nuts and dried fruits and anointed with ajo blanco dressing, it is healthy, wholesome and, crucially, bursting with balanced flavours.

Regular readers will know I follow the Way of the Toastie, pursuit of the perfect grilled cheese sandwich being a primal and endless quest for any encounter with perfection is seasoned with the knowledge that, when it comes to the toastie, ‘perfection’ is merely a starting point for further improvements.

Mind you, it would take fair effort and then some to improve on the toasties in St Francis Provisions.

As we dine, one of the stallholders at the Kinsale farmers’ market on the square outside pops in for his second of the morning. Dear Old Sainted Mother and I, having just taken an initial sampling of our own two specials, classify his self-discipline and restraint as superhuman.

First there is the wealth of fine cheeses, never less than three in each toastie, melted to a fondue-like state and in quantities that would overwhelm lesser breads than these hunks of sourdough, from Diva Boutique Bakery, in nearby Ballinspittle.

Slathered in butter, they are grilled to golden, glistening, crunchy crisp, perfect textural foil for this rich molten dairy lava.

One houses grilled cauliflower, Gubbeen, Young Buck and Hegarty’s cheddar, along with Dijon mustard and jalapenos, a wildly sumptuous affair, while the other contains sweet and salty Cooleney and Wicklow Bán, with hefty low end provided by Cáis na Tíre.

Candied walnuts and apple in the latter offer some contrasts but it takes crisp, tart in-house pickles served alongside to sharpen up our gloriously overwhelmed palates between each mouthful of toastie.

We finish with delicious Red Strand coffees and solid in-house baked confectioneries, all very much in the American tradition of splendidly sweet excess, a mini-tart of apple and blackberry is pick of the bunch.

Sure, SFP shares surface similarities with OHK but there are far more differences, most especially in culinary sensibilities, evident in both the pronounced and deeper dive that Nealon takes into employing her local larder and also her easy accommodation of certain excesses of US-style comfort food.

Furthermore, a considered weekend evening menu features a sharp selection of natural wines, well sourced charcuterie alongside smart little in-house dishes, including a class of cassoulet featuring her own quite excellent sausages.

Secondhand news, it seems, can be less than perfect so let me give it to you straight from the horse’s mouth: St Francis Provisions is a little cracker, mostly resembling itself, another unique addition to a town fast regaining its magical masticatory mojo.

The tab...

€60 (including drinks, excluding tip)

How to

Tuesday to Friday, 9am-4pm; Saturday and Sunday, 9am-3.30pm; Friday and Saturday, 5pm-late

The verdict

Food: 8

Service: 8

Value: 8.5

Atmosphere: 8

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