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Kenmare Stag Party

Dinners and Drinks in Kenmare – April 2007
And so to County Kerry
We’d planned to travel from Cork to Kerry by bus, preferring the bus whenever possible, so we asked in the bus station whether there was a bus from Cork to Kenmare. “Ah, well now”, said the man at the information desk, “No, there isn’t”. What he meant was, as he subsequently explained, you have to change at Killarney. This seemed a bit complex especially for the way back so I got onto the Bus Eireann website, Very good site and it turned out that the timings of the bus weren’t quite right for us, so for the following morning we booked a hire car from Cork airport as there was no hire shop in town. At the airport we picked up a red Renault Clio for £44 for two days, very reasonable, though the additional insurance an additional €38 – as ever, all the money goes to those poor, lamentable, insurance companies.
Out west to Kenmare, which our friends had suggested would be a good place to stay and where we’d thus booked a hotel. Weird hotel, enormous dining room kind of Soviet-grandeur style, with white tablecloths and gold-backed chairs and all laid for dinner, but with no menu displayed. So we had a little stroll round Kenmare, which proved to be geared to tourism, with restaurants and pubs and gift shops in a triangle of Victorian streets, the buildings all fresh-painted in bright colours, with wrought iron balconies.
Kenmare and its cranes and breezeblocks
All around Kenmare are building works. Field upon field having houses built on them for the perfect let or second home. Is there going to be the market for all this property? We rather doubted it. Ireland’s a bit like Spain, it has had a housing boom as its population has got richer and foreigners have come flocking for holidays and to buy a holiday home in a pretty location, fuelled partly by relatively cheap borrowings. Now that interest rates in the euro zone are rising, and there must be considerable overcapacity, a lot of these new builds are destined to remain unfinished or unoccupied. That’s how it seems to us anyway. Kenmare has loads and loads of it going on.
A coffee and scone overlooking the estuary
Our friends had suggested a café by the estuary some five miles out of Kenmare so having looked at what the town had to offer we decided that might be the best bet for some tea and cake, and took a drive out to it. All very Irish, somehow, it was part of a sailing and water sports centre and was really a bar. We walked in expecting a display of appetising homemade flapjacks and cream buns and the man at the bar said rather uncertainly that he could do us a scone or we could have something from the dinner dessert menu if we wanted. So we ordered a scone with jam and an apple pie with cream, and they were very good, and since there was a sign outside saying they did fresh fish in their restaurant and part of the place seemed to be a fish wholesalers, we asked if we could see the dinner menu. And it looked like the food might be quite good. It was Saturday and we asked if we’d need to book and the man said no, we should be OK if we just turned up later.
The stag party
We took a drive to the end of the peninsula and watched for seals but didn’t see any, though we did see an avocet, and you don’ see one of them every day; then we took a leisurely drive back, stopping to look at gardens full of palm trees, arriving at the sailing centre again at about 7.30. We walked in to the most enormous noise, made by a group of men sitting at tables at the back of the restaurant. They weren’t being especially raucous, but the restaurant was like a barn and the sound of their voices was echoing round the ceilings where it was amplified and making an immense din. Should we stay? Ah, come on, it might be fun, we can survive it, but the man at the bar was rather embarrassed and suggested that perhaps we’d be more comfortable sitting at one of the tables in the porch. Since it was a fine evening and the porch overlooked the estuary we thought this sounded a good idea and agreed. The barman, who was a Brummie, came and had a chat with us. He was an experienced publican who’d run pubs in the Midlands had decided to retire to the west of Ireland and was just helping out in the bar and restaurant as much for something to do as anything else. The group of noisy men were a stag party from Killarney, who had arrived at the restaurant as a coachload, unannounced, and most of them wanted steaks, and it was causing the kitchen great consternation; there were a number of tables booked for the evening – we’d noticed the reserved signs – and Brummie was hoping the stag party would be through and out before too many of the people who’d booked arrived. But he’d see that we weren’t forgotten, and please forgive him if the service wasn’t as quick as it might have been.
Kenmare Bay mussels and fish and chips
We’’d eaten an elaborate meal the evening before and had had a good lunch consisting of fresh rolls and a pate of Irish salmon with seaweed that our friends had bought us from the market before accompanying us to the airport, to ensure we wouldn’t be hungry on our way, and so we weren’t in the mood for anything elaborate. We ordered Kenmare Bay mussels (lots of mussel beds in Kenmare Bay) followed by cod and chips, which turned out as we’d guessed, very fresh fish in a delicate batter and hand-cut chips cooked in fresh oil – probably oil rather than fat – and with nothing to criticise at all. The mussels were interesting because they tasted very Irish, somehow, more fishy and salt-watery than the mussels we have in Italy, which taste fleshier and are greasy on account of having been cooked partly in oil.
How you doin’ there?
Our meal was interrupted – or rather we had a constant floorshow – with members of the stag party going out to the balcony for a smoke, and being Irish they all said hello and nearly every one of them stopped, on both outward and inward pass, for a chat, some of them continuing the repartee while outside puffing away, until the waitress came out and closed the door on them. But it was all very good-natured and all immensely friendly.
Brummie managed to get them all through and get the money for all the dinners and drinks they’d had by a method of firm cajoling, he was obviously very experienced at his job, and they staggered off to their coach at about the same time as we were leaving, somewhat after the first reserved guests had taken their seats, looking a little bit aghast. We gave the lads in the coach a wave as it pulled away, they already having told us that next stop was a bar in Kenmare, though they’d no idea which one.
We’re taken to a bar
We pulled up in Kenmare centre on the way back to the hotel, partly for a stroll and partly to see what might be a possibility for tomorrow night’s dinner. The best restaurant in Kenmare seemed to be Mulcahy’s, not cheap, and a bit over-elaborate for our liking, but ah, come on, let’s see if they’re open tomorrow night and have a table. Yes they are, and they do, so we booked it. That’s done, then, problem over for tomorrow, we’ll worry about how we pay the credit card bill later. Now we’ll have a little stroll round town to see how the other restaurants are doing. Oh, look, there’s our lads from the stag party. You following us around? At which point, come on now, we’re taken by the arms and dragged into the nearest bar for a drink.
I thought it best to take the car back to the hotel at this point as otherwise we’d have had too much alcohol and be obliged to leave it in town all night, so I did, and the hotel car park was full and it took a bit of driving round to find somewhere, and so this took a bit longer than expected, and during this time the lads were immensely kind to Hilary in the bar, making sure she was not left alone for a minute and that conversation never faltered.
The bar, Crowley’s Bar, was packed, mainly with stag and hen parties, you could barely move, but it had a constant flow of people, not the kind of hostile groups you used to see in a London pub with a circle of impenetrable backs, and one reason for this is that there’s a permanent coming and going of people out to the street for a smoke. Has the smoking ban led to greater sociability among pub-goers? Possibly in Ireland the people were sociable enough in the first place, though we did hear that there’s a new verb entered the language in Ireland, to smirt. This is where you go outside for a smoke and flirt with the other people of the opposite sex doing the same (in gay bars, it’ll be the same sex one assumes). This is called smirting and is quite an occupation.
Yet another hen party squeezes its way in
Yet another hen party squeezed its way into the bar and one or two of our lads were obviously a bit taken with its members. Classy girls, said one of them to me, aren’t they? So I thought I’d help him out by engaging them in conversation, which proved very easy to do, simply by asking them which one was getting married and then comparing notes with our prospective bridegroom, who by this time was out of sight, in a side room joining in a session with guitar, accordion and drum, he was the guitarist and possibly a non-drinker. The girls were a bit short on conversation among themselves and seemed delighted to be helped out a bit, but our lad who was especially smitten was embarrassed and so convinced of their classiness that he asked, weren’t they the announcers or disc jockeys or something that he’d been hearing that morning on Radio Cork? This just made them giggle, it was a conversation-killer, and he fidgeted about on his heels wondering what to do next and blushed and fiddled with his wedding ring.
Maybe these girls seemed classy because, though they were wearing the regulatory hen-party horns and sashes, the horns weren’t reindeer horns and the sashes not obscene or excessively sparkling.
A naive assumption
I’d naively assumed that the weddings, to which the stag and hen parties related, would be taking place on the following day, but no, of course not, silly, tomorrow’s a Sunday, you don’t get married on a Sunday. No, the forthcoming Big Days were a week, or in our chap’s case two or three weeks, away yet. I now wish I’d asked the girls what sort of work they did, it’s just that after the gaffe of our lad I didn’t feel this was appropriate.
A cigarette destroyed
We decided after a bit that we could go now, that it wouldn’t seem rude, and sure enough that seemed to be fine. Shouting above the din to be heard was getting a little wearing for us oldies. Outside we met one of the party whom I’d been talking to about drugs in general and drugs in Killarney in particular and I’d mentioned that the biggest killer statistically is not an illegal drug, it’s cigarettes, and when I went to shake his hand I accidentally knocked his cigarette to the ground. “You’re certainly practising what you’re preaching, aren’t you?”, he said to me, but in a warm way.
Back past the empty hotel dining room
We wandered back to the hotel past the streams of be-horned and be-glittered hen-party groups passing from one bar to the next, bent-kneed in their high-heeled shoes, and up the hill to the hotel entrance, passing the now empty Soviet hotel dining room; previously, when I’d come to park the car, a few hunched-shouldered elderly couples were eating their dinner in silence, and the menu was now on display: soup of the day, roast of the day, and we decided that booking into Mulcahy’s for tomorrow was probably a very wise move.
The dining room fills up for breakfast
The following morning at breakfast the dining room filled-up shortly after we got in, so obviously the hotel was pretty full, and who were all these people? Mostly Irish, and so far as we could tell, all manner of people away for the weekend. Some may have been to a wedding, we thought, and possibly some to hen parties. The breakfast was shambolically organised, and the food quality mediocre at best, so even more we were glad we’d booked into Mulcahy’s.
We go for dinner to Mulcahy’s
We go for dinner to Mulcahy’s. Busy restaurant, and we seem to have got the last table, tucked away behind the wine racks, which was no bad thing because it meant that we could see most of the other people in the restaurant without having too much to listen to them, a fair number being Americans. Quite a number of Americans, we found, around Kenmare, universally rather loud and irritating. Mulcahy’s must be the place to go according to the guidebooks.
Quite stylish, bare-wood tables, and I had for starter another try at Kenmare Bay mussels; possibly a bit more tasty than yesterday’s but still with that very Irish taste about them. None too bad. Hilary had the day’s special, which consisted of crab claws, a crabmeat mixture, and a crab pate, and in the centre of the stylish rectangular plate a cup of gazpacho, which it was clear one was expected to drink from the cup. Actually, very delicate and, like the girls from Cork at a hen party, classy.
A delicate dinner in Mulcahy’s
Our main courses consisted of monkfish for me and scallops for Hilary, both perfectly cooked and accompanied by carefully-chosen delicate other things that we can’t remember what they were – should have written it down. Whatever they were, we remember thinking that the tastes worked very well together and we’d have to remember them – how old are we? That we think we’d remember anything without writing it down?. Also very classy. What was less classy, were the quarter-moon dishes of mixed vegetables, which were unquestionably well-cooked, but rather guest-house and unnecessary, possibly they’re still expected in that part of Ireland.
And a bottle of Alsace Gewürztraminer, which was so nice that we’re now into Gewürztraminer and have started buying it from the local supermarket.
A dessert of homemade ice creams laid out on the dish like a Japanese garden with a delicate thin stick of wafer biscuit posed across the top. €140 the bill, a lot of money, but probably for what we had, quite reasonably-priced. Just two waitresses managing the waiting-on, running around like mad things, they were both very professional, very polished, very attentive, very impressive.
The French coach party gets an early start
The following morning we had to get up early so as to get the car back to Cork airport in good time so we didn’t have to pay for another day’s hire. The Soviet-style dining room already had a group of people in it to our surprise, since we’d arrived bang-on opening time. These proved to be a group of elderly French tourists on what appeared to be a do-Ireland coach trip, for their bus was waiting for the final stragglers to do a wee-wee before setting off, as we were leaving. A French-speaking Irish guide with them, we felt rather sorry for her.
We give the hunger museum a miss
In Skibereen in County Kerry there’s a multimedia experience museum of the Hunger of the 1840s, which sounds a rather gruesome spectacle to want to visit, so on the grounds of squeamishness we gave that one a miss, even though we stayed not far from Skibereen.


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