Kate and Andrew Cooke’s sensitively renovated bar and restaurant in the centre of Cahirciveen has plenty of character, with original features including a rugged stone wall and an enormous fireplace; the bar counter is also over a century old and there are numerous pictures of local interest and nautical antiques, reflecting Andrew’s special love affair with the sea.
The sea is fundamental here anyway, as local fish and seafood is the main feature - supplied by the family company, Quinlan’s Kerry Fish at Renard’s Point (see entry;one of their shops is just across the road).
It’s a busy place, appealing to all age groups, both local and visitors – and, with its warm colours, subdued lighting and professional feel, everyone arriving immediately feels cheered and relaxed. Delicious char grills are a speciality, with lots of olive oil and garlic: fresh crab claws and crabmeat, also pan-seared baby squid - and sizzling prawns.
These will be the beautiful big Atlantic prawns, often referred to in this area as 'Dingle prawns'; they are the same as 'Dublin Bay prawns', ie langoustines - this is not a place where inferior imported prawns will be found. Sustainability is recognised as a key issue here and, on the rare occasions when farmed fish is on the menu, it is carefully sourced.
There's always a good choice of daily blackboard specials in addition to the menus, which are flexible - many of the starters can be served in a main course size and, although it undoubtedly helps to like seafood, there are plenty of other choices too.
Main courses include excellent meats to balance up all that ultra-fresh seafood - especially, on evening menus, rack of Kerry lamb, South Kerry pork and char-grilled fillet steak (supplied by local butcher, Sheehan's).
The most pleasing aspect of the food is its immediacy - everything is ultra-fresh, simply prepared and full of zest. And, given the quality of the food and high standard of cooking, it is also good value.
An interesting wine list offers half a dozen wines by the bottle, carafe and glass (from Chile, Australia, Italy and California), and the main list is organised temptingly by style – ‘fresh, light & crisp’, unusual and aromatic’, ‘magnificent, complex’ etc.
Service is very professional, with special requirements, such as coeliac diets, catered for and well understood. At the back of the restaurant, there’s a charming sheltered outdoor dining area and landscaped garden, which also gives access to the accommodation.
[*Rib Rides are available for coastal trips/ water taxi (up to 6 passengers), inquire from the staff]
Seats 50 (outdoors, 20). Meals: L 12.30-2.30 in Summer (Jun-Aug) only; No L on Sun; D 5.30-9.30pm, 7 days in Jul-Aug, 6 days shoulder season (closed Mon), Winter Thu-Sun. Children welcome.
Splendid rooms are offered at QC Townhouse, an adjoining building that's been stylishly updated and refurbished. A large, comfortably furnished residents’ lounge is accessible from the bar through a delightful courtyard and, with sofas, coffee table books, a piano and a wood-burning stove, it’s a pleasant retreat even in chilly weather.
The spacious bedrooms are themed by colour, with quirky matching accessories, including the headboard and woollen throws. Pale, wood-panelled walls give a contemporary look as does the cowhide mat, thrown artlessly on the wooden floor.
Generous beds and good showers are the essential comforts, and local Valentia slate on the washbasin surrounds adds a touch of opulence. In two rooms - the Red and the Orange – a free-standing, cast-iron, roll-top bath takes pride of place and, while the in-room location may suit some guests better than others, they make a stylish talking point.
Everything you need for breakfast is provided in each room – a small table and two chairs, Nespresso coffee maker, teapot, painted crockery, a bowl of fresh fruit and a jar of homemade granola are laid out on a shelf, and in the fridge you’ll find a jar of fresh fruit salad, homemade fruit compote, a jug of fresh milk and bottles of water and juice.
Freshly baked muffins are hung outside the bedroom door during the evening, making for a delicious and healthy breakfast to eat whenever it suits - perhaps lounging in the huge bed.