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Kinsale Cuisine: A Food Lover’s Guide to Ireland’s Culinary Capital

Kinsale, Ireland -- Melissa wearing a grey turtleneck and black sweater holding a Pumpkin Spice Cruffin on a small white plate.
Melissa at O'Herlihys Kinsale aka OHK Cafe holding up a Pumpkin Spice Cruffin.

Kinsale, Ireland, a town in County Cork with less than 6,000 inhabitants, has at least a couple dozen restaurants, cafés and bars worth visiting. Three of its restaurants are in the Michelin Guide: Max’s is listed, Saint Francis Provisions has a Bib Gourmand, and Bastion has a star. In Kinsale, you can enjoy a multicourse meal at Rare 1874, created by Ireland’s 2023 Chef of the Year, Meeran Manzoor. In other words, there’s good reason that people call Kinsale the Gourmet Capital of Ireland. It’s a fabulous destination for foodies. 

If you’re venturing to Kinsale to enjoy its delectable dining options, make your reservations well ahead of time. Restaurants here have limited seating. We ate, drank, and made ourselves marvelously merry in this charming town without managing to snag a table at any of the Michelin spots. We tried – they were either booked or closed on our evenings out. Many of the restaurants listed below took us a few tries to secure a table, so be sure to plan ahead. 

Kinsale Restaurants

Finns’ Farmcut is a must on your visit to Kinsale if you love steak. Run by husband-and-wife team John and Julie Finn, the place is cheery and charming, from its popping pink and green exterior to the inviting interior’s pretty touches. In addition to their grass-fed, pasture-reared, free-range beef and lamb sourced primarily from the Finns’ family farm, their menu includes a fish dish featuring a fresh catch from the nearby waters of West Cork and a vegan option. 

Arrive with room for three courses. You’ll be having such a good time, thanks to their warm hospitality, that you’ll want a good reason to linger a little longer. For starters, you may want to try their Oyster Haven Oysters, Sticky Pork Ribs, or our favorite – Leek & Truffle Mac N’ Cheese. You can’t go wrong with a steak for a main – make sure you save room for one of Julie’s divine desserts. Their menu does change with the seasons, so when you arrive, there may be other delicious items to try. 

Be sure to arrive a bit thirsty as well. Their wine list is extensive and curated with care. Some wines are available to order by the glass. We enjoyed a bottle of Zenato’s Ripassa Valpolicella Ripasso DOC Superiore on our last visit. Wine Spectator scores the bottle at 91; Wine Enthusiast gives it a 90. We give it an oh my gosh, it tastes great and even better with our steaks.

A Vegetarian Dish featuring beets served in an earth toned bowl and glass of red wine.

Rare 1784 is a culinary experience you will tell family and friends about for years. We have. So have the family and friends we brought to Rare during our three months in lovely Kinsale. Sublime. Decadent. Delicious. These are just a few words that come to mind when we talk about Rare. 

Dining here is an event. When you arrive, you are invited to sit in the lounge area for a pre-dinner craft cocktail (or two) before being brought to your table in the more formal dining room for your multicourse meal of delights, starting with an amuse-bouche. Courses are well-paced, and service is beyond attentive. You won’t feel rushed, or like you’re waiting for what’s coming next. 

When you make your reservations for Rare, you can choose between a 5-course and 7-course meal, either with or without a wine pairing. At that time, you can specify any dietary restrictions, including being vegetarian or vegan. We recommend treating yourself to the wine pairing – the stories behind the wines and the pairings add extra depth to a delicious and decadent evening.

If you love seafood, make reservations for a meal at the award-winning Fishy Fishy. It might be Kinsale’s most famous place to grab a bite. Another husband-and-wife team, Martin and Marie Shanahan, own this iconic Kinsale restaurant. Martin is well-known throughout Ireland (and beyond its shores) for his cookbooks, including his bestselling Fishy Fishy Cookbook. He’s shared his expertise on a few television series—Martin’s Mad About Fish, Martin’s Still Mad About Fish, and Surf ‘n’ Turf

This place is another three-courser with its delicious starter, main, and dessert options. We intended to try other starters but fell too in love with their Fried Brie with Berries. You might notice that we never mention eating shellfish in any of our posts, videos, or blogs. Sadly, we’re both allergic to crustaceans.  

Fishy Fishy fish is fabulously fresh. Try saying that five times fast. Chris fell in love at first bite with their hake. I’m not a fish person, but I found their Roasted Summer Vegetable dish and their Salad with Chicken and Crisps delicious. For dessert, it’s hard to go wrong with their Classic Crème Brûlée.

A bowl of pasta and a plate of pizza at a table along with a glass of red wine.

Italian food lovers – Bruno’s Italian Eatery is your spot to dine in Kinsale. Their pasta and wood-fired pizzas are phenomenal. When we were lucky enough to get a table at Bruno’s for our mains, Chris ordered a Pepperoni Pizza for his main, and I went for the pasta of the day – homemade tagliatelle with cherry tomatoes, basil, and parmesan. We enjoyed a nice bottle of red wine with our meal. Their wine selection is solid. 

I feel a bit like a broken record saying this, but you’ll want to arrive hungry so you have room for a starter and dessert as well. We were blown away by their bruschetta with roasted grapes and walnuts. We will forever remember that Bruno’s is where we first tried and fell head-over-heels in love with sticky toffee pudding. 

Reservations for Bruno’s are only taken by phone. As it is with every other place on this list, you’ll want to make reservations in advance, not an hour before you hope to dine. If it’s high season, make them a couple of weeks in advance. The space is fairly small, and while the aesthetic is on the casual-rustic side, this is not a casual pizzeria where you show up thirty minutes before closing time, find a table, and order a pizza.

Chris sticking a fork into a chorizo ball at The Black Pig Wine Bar in Kinsale Ireland. There is a peppermill and a glass of wine on the table and plates.

The Black Pig Winebar & Cafe, run by husband-and-wife team Siobhan Waldron and Gavin Ryan, offers a tapas-style menu featuring organic, local, and seasonal ingredients. As you might expect, this award-winning wine bar has a stunning wine list featuring around 200 wines available by the bottle and over 100 by the glass. Several are organic, biodynamic, and natural—better for the environment and better for you. 

A sample menu of their tapas is available online. The menu’s delectable options vary due to their focus on local in-season ingredients. When we dined there, we loved their vegetarian antipasto; home-cured, dry-aged beef carpaccio served with rocket, parmesan, and horseradish cream; and jamon & chorizo croquettes served with harissa mayonnaise. 

We will forever remember The Black Pig Winebar as the restaurant where we first enjoyed dessert wine poured over vanilla ice cream. Sometimes, the most simple things are so unexpected and delicious. It was divine.

Vegan Caesar Salad at the Wharf Tavern in Kinsale.

Entering the Wharf Tavern feels like boarding a yacht, thanks to the work of local yacht designer Rob Jacob. The nautical feel and harbor views make this a relaxing place to dine and drink with friends. The staff is warm and welcoming, and they’ll make you feel right at home. 

Their lunch and dinner menus are upscale pub food with some delightful surprises. For basic yet scrumptious pub fare, you can order a burger (chicken, beef, or vegan), a steak sandwich, or fish and chips. Try their seafood bake, chickpea masala, or ribeye steak if you want something fancier.

Chris loved their Steak Sandwich, cooked medium, topped with crispy onions, garlic butter, and pepper sauce, and served with a side of chips; he ordered it on our last two visits. During our meals there, he also loved their Sticky Toffee Pudding. The Wharf Tavern and Terrace’s vegan options are delightful. I know because I tried the Vegan Caesar Salad, made of crispy lettuce, spicy chickpeas, garlic croutons, nuts and seeds Parmesan, and sweet potato crisps, the Beyond Burger served in a sesame seed bun, and topped with Volife Mature Cheddar, onion jam, and lettuce, served with Ballymaloe relish and fries. For dessert, I ate their Vegan Chocolate Tart with hazelnut crumb, and served with vegan vanilla ice cream. I love visiting vegan and vegetarian restaurants (and sometimes manage to drag Chris along), so I feel that I can say with some authority that The Wharf Tavern does vegan food right. 

They also have vegetarian and gluten-free options available on their menu. 

The Supper Club is a fun place to grab a drink and enjoy a meal. Start with one of their clever cocktails like the Scilly Walk, named after a local hike; it’s a mixture of Beefeater Gin, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Lillet Blanc, cucumber, mint, lemon, and pressed apple juice. Or, if you’re feeling a bit rebellious and like taking to the high seas, you might want to give their Anne Bonny a try with its Havana Club, Havana Club 7, Overproof Rum, Old Sailor, scorched pineapple cordial, fresh orange juice, and aromatic bitters. Anne Bonny is a legendary pirate born in Kinsale back around 1700. You can also see a staircase dedicated to her in Kinsale. 

Whether you’re looking for dinner or to snack on some lighter bites, chances are you’ll find something on the menu worth talking about later, like their 24-Hour Beef Short Rib served with tenderstem broccoli, parsnip purée, and rosemary & sea salt potatoes. My mouth is watering as I write about this meal. Their menu includes items for seafood lovers, vegetarians, and vegans. When we dined there, Chris devoured the Supper Club Burger with Baltimore Streaky Bacon, cheddar, onion ring, lettuce, and truffle mayo, served on a brioche bun with twice-cooked chips. 

Don’t be discouraged if the only spot you can make a reservation for is at the bar. You’ll be made to feel right at home. We certainly were.

Save room for a liquid dessert! Their Tiramisu Cocktail (Absolut Vanilla, Kahlua, Creme de Cacao, Butterscotch, Cream, Mascarpone) is fantastic.

Kinsale Cafes & Deli

Kinsale, Ireland -- Melissa wearing a grey turtleneck and black sweater holding a Pumpkin Spice Cruffin on a small white plate.

OHK Cafe is a local favorite for brunch. The place is small and cheery. Their menu is small yet innovative, with selections like Turkish Eggs Flatbread (which Chris loved) and Mushroom Toast (so good!). If you’re feeling less adventurous, the Breakfast Focaccia Sandwich might be the way to go. Their pastries are perfection. In short – it’s the perfect place to start your day. 

Or, as their site says, “morning rituals: it all starts with breakfast; strong coffee, eggs, toast, and damn good pastry.”

When we went in early autumn, they had pumpkin-spiced latte cruffins that were positively scrumptious! 

Jo’s Cafe is a cozy stop where you can sit and enjoy a homemade pastry and morning brew. If there’s a lot on your schedule, you can always order your tea, coffee, or cocoa and treat for takeaway. Go early to get one of their famous Raspberry White Chocolate scones before they’re sold out for the day.

Stop at Gourmet Pantry’s Deli to get all you need for packing up a picnic. There isn’t any seating, so order a couple of sandwiches, salads, and sweets to take to a pretty spot along Kinsale Harbour. Unpack and enjoy. This shop is also great for purchasing foodie souvenirs. 

Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are available.  

Kinsale Bars

Hamlets Bar and Kitchen has ample indoor and outdoor seating. Their cocktails are fun, and their street food hits the spot. When we went and sat at one of their garden tables, I felt transported to a vibrant wonderland.

The Tap Tavern

The Tap Tavern has been owned and run by the same family since 1886. If you sit at the bar, you’re likely to find yourself in a friendly conversation with a local. Enjoy a pint, a whiskey neat, or a gin and tonic, perhaps, and relax. There’s a full bar of liquor options, so if our suggestions don’t suit you, don’t fret—you’re sure to find something there that you like.

If you’re in Kinsale between April and October, check at the tavern or Kinsale’s tourism office to see if a ghost tour is running the night you’re there. The tour starts from The Tap Tavern and is led by one of its owners – Brian O’Neill. One of our regrets and one of the many reasons we want to return to Kinsale is to go on this tour. We’ve heard such great things about it. 

We were lucky enough to see trad music performed there on a cold October night. I cannot conjure words adequate enough to describe how moving, enjoyable, beautiful, fabulous it was — not one of those words does it justice. 

If the Scilly Walk is on your list of Kinsale adventures, try to time your walk to arrive near its end at The Bulman Bar’s opening time. The space is charming, the lunch here is fantastic, and the tables fill up fast. It’s located on the outskirts of Kinsale, near Charles Fort.   

We loved their Jamaican Curry’s slow heat.  

They take bookings for a table in their restaurant area in the evening, but not the bar or during the day.

Exterior mural on The Spaniard of a man -- perhaps the Spaniard the pub is named after.

Built on castle ruins around 1650 and opened as Castle Bar, The Spaniard Bar is worth a visit for its history alone. In the 1960s, its name changed to The Spaniard in honor of Don Juan d’Aquila who took a significant role in the battle of Kinsale in 1601. 

We only had a chance to stop in for a pint on our walk back from Charles Fort. The service was friendly, and the pints hit the spot. I’ve read a lot of positive reviews about their food. Next time we make it to Kinsale, we’ll have to stop in and order a meal. 

You can tour Irleand’s first meadery in 200 years at Kinsale Mead Co. On the tour, you’ll learn how mead (honey wine) is made and the history of mead-making. At the end of the tour, you can sample some of Kinsale Mead Co.’s award-winning meads. We enjoyed the meads so much that we bought a couple of bottles to drink and share with guests during our three-month stay in Kinsale. 

Our list of full of places we’ve tried, tested, and adored. We did not make it to every restaurant in Kinsale, so our list is not exhaustive. It’s good to have a reason to return to charming Kinsale. We love this city! Check out our post — Kinsale, Ireland: Your Romantic Weekend Escape Planned

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