Kinsale Food and Drink Guide

I moved to Ireland 13 years ago, and was visiting for many a year before that. Even in those heady days of my earliest culinary adventures I had heard, seen and tasted the proof of Kinsale’s reputation for being the “gourmet capital of Ireland.” 

I moved to Ireland 13 years ago, and was visiting for many a year before that. Even in those heady days of my earliest culinary adventures I had heard, seen and tasted the proof of Kinsale’s reputation for being the “gourmet capital of Ireland.” 

This article was first published on in July 2016. It has been updated in April 2018.

Kinsale Food & Drink Travel Guide

Over the years, it has fought hard to retain its crown as many other towns and cities across Ireland have asserted their right to be as equally acknowledged on the grand stage of culinary virtuosity as its founding father: Galway, Waterford, Dublin – naturally; as well as the sibling rivalry of the myriad other West Cork towns discreetly nudging up alongside Kinsale.

The challenge is this: when you have self-proclaimed yourself the Numero Uno in something as relentlessly creative and merciless as the food world, where do you go from there?  And how do you do it to satisfy both locals and tourists alike to keep things growing apace?

Well, Kinsale has looked to its roots: to its history, its connectedness to all things of the sea, the creativity of the people, the towns’ own uniqueness and throwing just enough modern spin on the whole lot to keep people interested and not dissuaded; keeping the trad-modern fusion subtle and free from the whiff of hipsterism.

Kinsale is still all things to all men and women: great beer for the rugby heads; excellent cocktails for the hen nights; quality fish and chips for the family day by the sea, and wicked plates of exceptional food and creativity for the proud Kinsale foodie.  Whatever your reasons for heading to Kinsale then, here are my top tips to get the best eats and sups while you are there.

Kinsale Farmers’ Market

To enter a local farmers’ market is to experience a microcosm of the best of local fayre.  Kinsale market is no exception to this rule and is, in fact, flourishing thanks to an ebb and flow of seasonal traders mixing with the stallwarts of this lively market every Wednesday on Short Quay in the heart of the town.  Here are the stalls I recommend you make a beeline to when you visit.

My Goodness Vegan Café

Do not pass by this unassuming market stall without experiencing the exceptional food on offer here.  If you thought vegan food was as unsexy and uninteresting as it got, think again my friend.  Vegan is the new rock n’ roll and My Goodness are at the top of their game.  If nothing else, please try their (in)famous Gut Shot or indeed any of their fermented drinks.  Super tasty morsels.


Family run authentic Italian food stall that has to be tasted to be believed. The food from here is unbelievably good – rich, deep and guaranteed to slap a smile on your face.  I believe I would challenge you to a dual if there was just one tiramisu between the two of us.  I’d win, of course.

Bushby’s Strawberries & Vintage Cut Flowers

Two businesses in one all stemming from the talented Bushby family of Rosscarbery.  As seasonal as it gets, but trust me if you’re not wooed to within an inch of your life by the impossibly beautiful flowers from Lydia Bushby, then the perfect, shiny, heavenly sweet tasting strawberries will.

Sally O’Brien’s Caramelised Nuts

Sally, formally of Café Paradiso and Ballymaloe Cookery School, has perfected her recipe for her sweet, spicy, smoky, salted peanuts and is definitely worth a splurge.  Go on, give it some nuts!

Breakfast & Brunch

Nine Market Street

Frequently winning the admiration of John & Sally McKenna, Nine Market Street is a great place to head to for delicious house made breads, scones and pastries for breakfast, or fresh and flavourful brunch into lunch dishes such as watermelon and feta salad and fish taco’s.  Regular specials keep the menu exciting, and food can be purchased to take away for that all important picnic!

The Pantry

Top quality deli serving lunch during the week and brunch on Sundays.  A firm favourite with the locals, so make your way there and indulge!

Lemon Leaf Café

This café is a wonderfully warm and welcoming place that does the family friendly thing really well but doesn’t neglect providing really tasty plates of food for breakfast and lunch.  Offering seating inside and in their courtyard means that there is a safe place for little ones to play as mum’s catch up over a morning latte.


Poets Corner Reading Café & Book Exchange

Does exactly what it says on the tin!  This quirky little café encourages its patrons to come along, swap a book, buy a book and read a book whilst enjoying a brew and a bite to eat.  Perfect for those looking for a little time-out.

The Speckled Door

The place to go in Kinsale for the quintessential Irish pub lunch – a pint of the black stuff and a bowl of creamy hot chowder full to the brim with locally caught sea food.

The Seafood Café

It’s Kinsale, so seafood is everywhere, but not all seafood restaurants are created equal.  Never ones to rest on their laurels, The Seafood Café is the latest venture from The Blue Haven.  So if oysters are on your mind, then this is the place to go to sink a dozen with a glass of something cool and crisp.

Fishy Fishy Café

The eating place which almost single handedly launched Kinsale onto the international gourmet food map!  Martin Shanahan is still at the helm of this iconic Kinsale restaurant, with the food continually being praised for its devotion for getting the best out of the freshest of the seafood produce it sources locally.  Check out the website for exciting pop-up events with guest chefs.

Diva Boutique Deli & Bakery, Ballinspittle

For a village that is most well-known for the moving statue of Mary, Ballinspittle is in fact a little foodie heaven a short drive from Kinsale.  To my mind, “Diva’s” is short-hand for a “Reuben Sandwich and a slice of Carrot Cake.”  I’m sure everything else on the menu is awesome too, but my love for the Diva Reuben is complete and equal to no other.

Post-Lunch Activities

After all that food, surely now is the perfect time to walk it off a bit and make some room for later, but hang tough with the foodie theme because there is more in store…

Blacks of Kinsale Brewery Tour

No foodie town is complete unless it has its own successful micro-brewery, said every craft beer enthusiast that ever was!  So, toddle on down to Blacks Brewery and take in their fascinating brewery tour and, of course, a tasting of some of their most iconic brews.

Kinsale Mead Tour

Take a tour of Ireland’s only Mead distillery. Delicious, informative and utterly unique to these shores – put it on your to do list!

Forage & Find, Ballinspittle

Get back to nature with Kevin O’Connell, proprietor, chef and expert forager with one of his guided seashore or hedgerow foraging walks in the nearby village of Ballinspittle.  Events are announced on the F&F Facebook page or you can book a private tour for a group.  Walks include tastings and can include a picnic or cooking demonstration.  Well worth the effort!

Quay Food Company

Head to this great deli and pick up a few nibbly-bits and strike out on one of Kinsale’s beautiful walks.  The Scilly Walk is particularly beautiful, but my personal favourite walk is out to James Fort – the less preserved and often overlooked cousin of the magnificent Charles Fort.  Visited infrequently even by locals, this is one of my favourite spots to take in the ruins, sit on the rocks beside the lapping water and looking out over Kinsale Bay.

KoKo Kinsale

For a choco-lovers paradise, head to this boutique chocolatier to admire the beautiful handmade chocolates on display, and indulge in a wee purchase to take away with you.  Better still, stay awhile and enjoy your chocolates with a tea or coffee. Better again, one of the hot chocolate shots. Pure indulgence!

Afternoon Tea & Cocktails

Perryville House Tea Room

This quaint guesthouse also houses a traditional tea room serving delicious lunches and the best Afternoon Tea in town.  Transport yourself back in time when “taking tea” was the fashionable pastime of elegant ladies of leisure.

The Supper Club

Recently opened to much aplomb, The Supper Club is a great little evening eating joint that just also happens to be creating some of the best cocktails in Kinsale right now.  Firm favourites are their Old Fashioned and Jimbo’s Revenge.  You’re welcome…


A funky little bar that is well known for its party atmosphere and serving decent cocktails.  Well worth a swing by if you’re looking for a fluorescent cocktail with an overtly sexual name.

The Black Pig

Fantastic wine bar that really pushes the boat out to serve a truly interesting array of wines from across the world.  Choose from 200 wines by the glass or 100 wines by the bottle.  Thankfully, with so much choice on offer, you can easily find an excuse to try them all…eventually!

Drink Like a Local

Hit these spots for an early evening or post dinner pint and become one with the locals:

Tap Tavern, The Greyhound, The Spaniard (retreat here on rainy days for a hot port and nestle beside the fire).

Fast Food

Dinos Fish & Chips

Around since the 1970’s, this family eatery and takeaway is pretty much a Kinsale institution.  Join the ranks of fish and chip lovers as you eat from the paper package on the wall overlooking the marina.  Great for kids, even big ones!

Bruno’s Pizza

Top local’s tip: the place to go for superb service, excellent wood fire pizza, creative salads and stunning pasta dishes – and child friendly too.  What are you waiting for?

Evening Dinner

By now, you’re probably the size of a small manor house in Sussex, but look smart…there’s still evening dinner to enjoy!  Whether it’s casual dining or fine dining, Kinsale has got you covered.


One of the new wave of dining experiences in Kinsale, Twisted is mixing up Spanish Tapas with Japanese inspired flavours and French patisseries: from Jámon Íberico to Seaweed Rolls; Cod Croquestas to Canelé de Bordeaux.  Winning recognition from many a food writer, not just for their food but also for their exceptional wine list, this is a must-eat destination.

Max’s Wine Bar

More restaurant than wine bar, this long established restaurant is a firm favourite among the locals serving up great seafood dishes with French flair and showcasing great local produce.  The wine list is vast offering something to suit every taste and pocket.  A warm welcome awaits you here.

Finn’s Table

Regularly receiving recommendations from the Michelin Guide, Finn’s Table is the best in fine dining to be found in Kinsale.  Care is taken over sourcing the very best of local ingredients, including the meat from Chef Patron John Finn’s parents’ farm in Mitchelstown; fresh fish locally landed and seasonal vegetables from local organic farms.   Patrons are kindly asked to turn off their mobile phones or discreetly take your call outside – no place for Facebook scrolling or food selfies here.  It’s all about the food.  And the twice cooked home cut fries with truffle aioli, of course.


Michelin Bib Gourmand awarded restaurant that has burst on the scene unapologetic in its indulgent menu at a seriously reasonable price, especially if you can take advantage of the Prix Fixe menu (2 to 4 courses ranging from €35 to €45.50 pp).  If imbibing a glass of one of their more than 60 wines at the bar tickles your fancy, then pair it with a range of bar bites instead.  The provenance of Bastion’s chef is as remarkable as his plates of food are beautiful.  This is exceptional food worth celebrating every day.

Kinsale Yacht Club

If you are fortunate enough to be a member, or know one open to bribery, head for dinner at the historic Kinsale Yacht Club for a delicious menu prepared by their own in house chef.  Open for Sunday lunches to, and also for that essential yachting picnic.  Members only which only adds to the appeal and mystery!

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