In a town blessed with an exceptional choice of wonderful eating places, the Foley family’s buzzy little restaurant in Kenmare has long been a favourite for returning visitors.
Oozing with atmosphere, it's an informal and relaxed place to eat - "honest, clean cooking with genuinely friendly service" is the stated promise and and an underlying discipline of professionalism ensures that it is delivered every time.
The long main room has a tiny reception bar with a couple of stools shoehorned into it, and a dividing stone feature wall with foliage-filled gaps in it provides privacy and, along with candlelight, mirrors and framed pictures, makes for a warm, relaxed atmosphere - an impression immediately confirmed by welcoming staff, who are exceptionally friendly and efficient, keeping everyone at the closely packed tables happy throughout the evening.
Martin Hallissey has been at the helm here for some time now and, while he is unshowy, he has quietly earned a reputation as one of Ireland's finest chefs and his fish cooking, especially, is outstanding.
Menus (plus each evening’s specials) are based mainly on local ingredients, notably organic produce and fish - and, although there’s clear interest in international trends, combinations tend to be based on traditional themes, such as classic Irish stew with fresh herbs, which is a speciality.
Close examination of menus will probably reveal more dishes that have stood the test of time than new ones, but what remains impressive is the basic quality of the food, especially local seafood, and the satisfying skill with which simple dishes are cooked, which is very pleasing.
And there is no shortage of treats, including, perhaps, real prawn cocktail, and roast lobster with garlic or citrus butter (fairly priced at about €31.50).
Finish with Irish farmhouse cheeses or good desserts, including unusual dishes like lemon posset with shortbread: gorgeous. An interesting and well-priced wine list offers plenty to choose from, with some available by the glass.
This little restaurant punches above its weight - and consistent excellence keeps people coming back.