Eating Out with the Phoenican Trader: Country Kitchen

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A sizzling meal

The Country Kitchen

For those who have missed this column during its recent occasional absences, I apologise. However I can't rule out a few more missed deadlines over the next few weeks. Although there have been some summer holidays, life right now is running to a schedule I can neither control nor predict: so there is my excuse.

However, no matter what, a body has got to eat.

So, for various reasons, this time about 70% under my control, I found myself taking advantage of the SailRail offer between any station in the UK to any station in the Republic of Ireland. This offer resulted in a single standard UK rail ticket "From LONDON TERMINALS To KILLARNEY" via Holyhead and Irish Ferries. Although this isn't a quick way to get to Ireland's west coast, it is a fixed price which meant I could buy the ticket the day before going and buy the return ticket the day before returning, still at £50.50 per person.

So we, and I indicate by this that for this journey I was accompanied by a very accomplished companion, set off at midday to London Euston railway station and arrived in Dublin at 7ish. This wasn't in time to catch the last train to Killarney, so we resumed our journey the next morning just after 9am to be fresh faced in one of the most wonderful places in the world. We were pleased to have a few whole days to stroll around mountain lakes and generally enjoy some stunning scenery.

With all of this gentle outdoor activity, it wasn't very long before we were looking for a bite to eat in the evening, and The Country Kitchen seemed the place to provide it.

From the outside it looks a bit like a sandwich and cake shop, but the blackboard hanging outside the door indicated 20 Euros for three courses which seemed like a bargain for hungry people. On entering, there was a photocopied piece of paper stuck next to the mostly empty sandwich refrigerated counters saying 'Wait here to be seated' which turned out to be fully intended by the owner. After a few minutes of waiting (and not being able to see into the back and assuming they couldn't see me) I wandered towards to door of the dining area to wave at any passing staff. I was intercepted with a very stern telling off by a young lad (who turned out to be the aforesaid owner) who continued this while he took us to a table.

During a pause for breath in his tirade, my companion and I looked at each other, and one asked the other quite calmly if we should just go. There is no point in eating out if they staff simply can't stand the sight of you and I don't get much pleasure from it either. The other thought about it and said, given our reasons for being there hadn't changed 'No, let's wait and see.' I don't know what the other customers thought but it was quite quiet in there.

From that moment on, all of the staff demonstrated pure hospitality including the provision of a couple of free excellent cups of coffee at the end.

One very good piece of advice given early on was, if you order the Fish and Chips, order nothing else. This turned out to be sound advice and my companion followed it. I on the other hand was having salmon in a creamy sauce for my main, so I ran with plaice and salad for a starters and the chocolate and beetroot cake for desert. There is no wine list, but we were given a red card which, when waved at the off-licence two shops down, gave us a 10% discount. The off-licence didn't have the greatest collection of wines in Western Europe but we found something to do the trick at about 11 Euros ( minus 10%). We handed the bottle over to the, by now, extremely friendly proprietor Shane (which whom we were now on first name terms) to be kept somewhere cool.

The plaice was deep-fried and so had lost some of its flavour as a result but, as far as deep fried fish goes, it was done really well. The biggest problem was that my fish had three fillets which was either a) a miracle, b) generous of the chef or c) rather a lot for a starter. I saw other patrons had the same experience. The main Fish and Chips was very similar to my plaice except without the salad (which my very desirable companion had nicked while I ate some of my fish) but with chips (no surprises from the kitchen on that front then). My salmon again lacked any actual fishy flavour. I appreciate that a lot of people only like fish if they can't taste it but if an animal is going to die for me, I think it is right that I enjoy the unique and specific pleasures it brings even if I don't much like it (otherwise I can eat mashed potato, which is suitably bland and something I know I like, and take a vitamin supplement).

The cake though, was quite excellent and came with sufficient cutlery that everyone at our table got to have some.

Shane had not before seen the wine we had chosen, so we offered him a glass, which he accepted as the night was coming to an end. He offered us coffee which we accepted because we didn't have to go to sleep right away or get up in the morning. It was all very civilised.

Getting There: Use a 50 quid sail-ferry fare from anywhere in Olde England to Killarney.

Who should eat there: It may be 50 quid but this is for those who have a day and a bit to get there.

Dining Style: confused.

Price: £25 with wine from a nearby bottle.

Quality: Good Pub.

Would I go Back: No, not really.

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