Kilkenny City Break: Great Food and Even Better Pubs
Kilkenny is only a small town but it packs a serious punch, with Michellin stars, more pubs than you can shake a hurl at, great countryside and even better people. Read on to see just why we loved Kilkenny so much…
Kilkenny has had two Michellin-starred restaurants since 2013 – not bad for a town with a population of around 25,000 considering Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle can’t muster a single glimmer of tyre-man gold between them.
Mount Juliet’s Lady Helen restaurant offers a formal dining experience in a glorious old country house, the resort also featuring an equestrian centre, championship golf course and beautiful grounds, as well as a fine spa. The tasting menu is a steal at €85 and whilst the setting is formal, the service is typically Irish; warm, friendly and laid back. There were some real stars among the many courses with the scallops a real delight and the various flavour combinations all coming together perfectly.
Campagne is located in the city centre and offers excellent French-influenced food in a relaxed, modern restaurant. The early bird menu is exceptional value at €32 for three courses whilst the a la carte is well priced at around €50. What’s not to love about a Michellin-starred restaurant where mains come with a pan of mash?
We stayed at the Mount Juliet itself as the hotel and restaurant are about 10 miles from the centre of Kilkenny near the charming riverside village of Thomastown. There are a plethora of options but we splashed out on the main house and it was well worth it. Our package included bed, a delicious breakfast and the tasting menu and if you like the glamour and luxury of old-style hotels you won’t be disappointed. With free bicycles to explore the estate and all the aforementioned facilities there is something for everyone, although simply enjoying the grandeur and fine food was all that really interested us.
In Kilkenny itself we stayed at the Kilkenny Hotel, a modern business-style hotel on the edge of town but still only a short stroll to the action. The leisure club and spa are, like the rooms, well-appointed but it was the staff who were the real stars: as friendly, helpful and warm as you could wish for.
Kilkenny makes for a wonderful gourmet break but it’s also worth noting that it has brilliant, vibrant nightlife. There seems to be at least one bar per person and given the local side won the All-Ireland Hurling Final (replay) when we were there it was no surprise to find them all packed. Kilkenny is a hurling town (a hurl by the way is the name of the “stick” used in the sport) and the atmosphere was superb, with the entire town decked out in the local colours and smiles and bonhomie everywhere.
Kilkenny is also a great place to take in some live music, with most of the bars and pubs featuring traditional and more modern music on various nights of the week.
Kilkenny also hosts a number of festivals, with the food festival sure to appeal to those who love to eat, be it traditional Irish fayre or Michelin’s finest. Food might not be everyone’s passion but there are also various music, arts and comedy events and, of course, an economics festival too (just what you’d expect) – Kilkenomics!