Reopened under new ownership in 2017, this three star hotel has benefited from renovations and is well situated, close to St Canice's cathedral and within easy walking distance of many of the town's attractions.
Behind the smart new modern frontage there is now quite a cool and quirky contemporary interior. On the ground floor, a colourful lounge provides comfortable seating between the reception area and Maria Raftery's Kernel Restaurant (see below) and, above the restaurant, there's an attractive new bar.
The bedrooms, which had not all been renovated at the time of reopening, offer multiple combinations (single, double, twin, triple and interconnecting family rooms) and are well equipped with TV, WiFi etc and neat en-suite bathrooms.
But, as Kernel Restaurant is an integral part of the hotel, the real USP for guests is that renowned local chef Maria Raferty will cook their breakfast - few breakfast rooms can offer such a treat.
As well as all the usual cereals, juices, croissants, scones, tea and coffee, a short but tempting menu offers cooked to order dishes including Chilli Scrambled Eggs on toasted sourdough (with smoked salmon, smoked bacon or mushroom and tomato); Eggs Benedict (three versions), French Toast, an inviting Fruit Platter and, of course, the Kernel Full Breakfast.
A friendly young crew provides willing service and, although training may not always be quite up to scratch, everyone is very friendly and helpful.
Kernel Restaurant & Bar
Highly regarded chef Maria Raftery (formerly of Zuni) operates Kernel, the restaurant and bar at The Kilkenny Inn.
The split-level restaurant is a pleasant and colourful space, featuring multi-coloured light clusters and a line of lamps mounted high up on the large street side window. Tables - a mixture of standard height tables and high tables with stools (near the bar) - are illuminated by suspended bulbs, filaments exposed. Upstairs there is a lovely bar, with TV and off-white brick arches.
Local producers are key to Raftery's venture. Fresh produce from sea and land comes from respected suppliers like Goatsbridge, Toons Bridge, Gubbeen, Costello’s, O’Hara’s, Summerhill Farm, and Fisherman’s Market - they are respectfully listed and the results are splendid.
During the day, brunch and bites like sandwiches, burgers and salads are offered, and also an express lunch menu - although delicious dishes like Poached pear, Cashel Blue cheese, candied walnuts & dressed leaves deserve to be savoured.
Later there's a novel idea for the shopping brigade, when the High Tea for High Heels menu kicks in, offering small and tasty portions of nourishment such as Cod croquettes, Goatsbridge trout cone, Kernel mini burger, pork chipolatas, pickle-slaw, super-salad, house fries, scone and fruit tartlets. And, to match it, Maria has had a bit of fun lining up The Gentleman’s Tea which includes some extras such as Chorizo croquettes, and ham hock Scotch egg.
But dinner is the big event, giving Maria Raftery's skill and creativity full rein. The menu, which includes a couple of charcuterie platters, is short but well balanced and enticingly written. There is some overlap with daytime menus - the excellent starters (small plates), for example, may include Ham hock Scotch egg with piccalilli - but there will also be other treats such as a prettily presented Goatsbridge trout creation of ceviche, with nori seaweed, smoked trout mousse and roe dressing.
A house speciality is the Kernel Angus Beef Burger, a tasty and attractively presented main dish with smoked Gubbeen, pickle-slaw, house fries, while a summery dish of grilled galmon, with sugar snaps, mint and new potatoes among the elements is also sure to please. And vegetarian or not, the Chilli Toonsbridge halloumi super-salad is tempting, with vitamin-rich broccoli, sugar snaps, roasted barley, quinoa, tomato, mint, mixed leaves, and avocado dressing among the components.
Wines are mid-range, about a dozen each of red and white, and four of each available by the glass. The three Smithwicks (red, pale and blonde) are on draught along with the local O’Sullivan’s Malted Red Ale and some craft bottles are offered too, including Franciscan Well, Costello’s and O’Hara’s and also Falling Apple Cider.
Then, to finish, there's the dessert menu includes an Assiette of Desserts - and that means no more decision making, which is a big plus for many diners. An after dinner drink in the adjoining lounge would then round off the evening neatly - or you could go upstairs, instead, to the lovely bar.
Offering quality with good value and a slightly quirky tone, this interesting hotel and restaurant brings something a bit different to Kilkenny.