Kilkenny is home to a beautiful castle and park, to cobbled streets, to medieval buildings, to a world famous arts festival, to many a hurler and to a vibrant food scene. A single day might not sound like much time, but it’s amazing what you can fit in when you have a healthy appetite.
Increasingly, the city’s eateries are providing plenty of healthy options on their menus meaning health conscious customers and those on restrictive diets don’t have to compromise in order to eat well in this vibrant city.
To create the perfect day of healthy and wholesome eating in Kilkenny, all you need is a little planning. For breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to food. Kilkenny is a compact city which means everywhere is within walking distance, leaving you with plenty of time to eat, drink and then eat some more.
Kickstart your day with a cold pressed vegetable juice. Juuce is Kilkenny’s first cold pressed juice bar and offers a variety of cold pressed vegetable and fruit juices. Made fresh each day on the premises; the very impressive cold pressed juicer is located on the shop floor behind a glass partition so if you are an early riser, you can see the juice being made. They also offer a selection of raw treats that are free from gluten and dairy and contain no added sugars. Think coconut and raspberry energy balls and raw cacao bars.
For a more traditional breakfast, wander down the pedestrianised Kieran Street and stop by one of the many cafes dotting this street offering breakfast and coffee. From The Yard Cafe to Marble City Tea Rooms, there are plenty of choice from eggs to porridge to salmon. Most have outdoor seating areas that are perfect for these warm summer months, but equally appealing when the weather turns cold thanks to the addition of outdoor heaters and blankets.
Taking a leaf out of our continental European cousins’ book, many of these cafes are dog friendly making this area the perfect spot for dog lovers. For any vegans, stop by the Saint Mary’s Cathedral Cafe, located in the basement of the Cathedral on James’ Street. It serves the city’s finest vegan breakfast.
For lunch, wander up towards the Parade junction. If you are lucky enough to be in Kilkenny on a Thursday, the Kilkenny Farmers Market operates from the Parade, just in front of the Castle. Its traders and food producers sell everything from organic fruit and vegetables and fresh bread to falafels and locally made chocolate.
Otherwise, opt for Cafe La Coco, just around the corner on Patrick Street. It’s a small café that serves some of the best salads in Kilkenny that you can wash down with a matcha latte.
For a more formal lunch, Ristorante Rinuccini, a Kilkenny institution is also located in this area, on the Parade. Ristorante Rinuccini uses Irish and local ingredients to produce classic Italian cuisine and imports all their wines and Italian products directly from vineyards and artisan producers in Italy. This Italian restaurant is anything but stereotypical. Forget about carb loading, this is proper Italian food and we all know how healthy a Mediterranean diet can be. On the lunch menu, you will find organic mixed leaf salad with char grilled fresh vegetables, olives and slices of marinated artichokes along with Rinuccini’s famous antipasto comprising wafer thin slices of air cured Italian meats, olives, roasted red peppers, cannellini bean salad, red cabbage and hot garlic ciabatta bread.
For an after lunch coffee, stop by the Foodhall at Kilkenny Design Centre also on the Parade and opposite Kilkenny Castle. Take your coffee to go and wander through the Castle grounds. On a warm day, sit on the grass and soak up the sunshine. Even when the rain is falling, the tree covered walkways provide shelter and there is nothing quite like sipping a coffee while enjoying the smell of wet grass. What could be more Irish.
Spend the afternoon, indulging in a foodie’s favourite past time; food shopping. Stroll along Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile to Parliament Street where you will find The Little Green Grocer. This wholefoods grocer stocks everything a foodie could wish for. The shelves are packed full of wonderful ingredients that are sure to inspire you to create beautiful home made meals.
Take a trip to Shortis Wong Deli on John Street which is a home cook’s paradise. There is not much that Shortis Wong doesn’t stock and for a pick me up while shopping, grab one of their famous spicy vegetable samosas, made on site every day. They are all kinds of deliciousness.
You are spoiled for choice for where to finish off your day with dinner. Zuni Restaurant and Townhouse is a favourite among Kilkenny people and visitors alike and dining there is always a treat. Think white table cloths, seemless service and a kitchen run by head chef, Maria Raftery that consistently serves high quality food.
Zuni has recently added a superfood salad to its menu that is well thought out and perfectly executed, full of flavour and with a proper nutrient balance. Zuni has recently opened a bar area to the front of the restaurant that serves cocktails, drinks and nibbles. Chose from an extensive range of different gins for the perfect gin and tonic served with plenty of ice and in a balloon glass; important details for gin lovers.
Anocht at Kilkenny Design Centre is well worth a visit. Open Thursday to Saturday evenings, it’s located upstairs in the Kilkenny Design Centre over looking Kilkenny Castle on one side and the Design Yard on the other. For food, think coriander crusted yellow fin tuna with avocado, radish, cucumber and miso glaze or ardsallagh goats cheese terrine with apple, celery and candied walnuts. Anocht also does a vegan menu on request that is beyond impressive, with a choice of three starters, three mains and a dessert option of dark chocolate mousse with praline, blackberries and pistachio. I know vegans will find it refreshing to be offered a dessert option that’s not fruit salad. The mains include saffron risotto with sundried tomatoes, apricot chutney and flaked almonds and cauliflower steak with a caper raisin dressing and baby leeks and pickled apple.
If you are after something a little more relaxed it’s hard to beat the Bula Bus at Billy Byrnes. The Bula Bus is located in the beer garden of Billy Byrnes pub on John Street and as the name suggests the food is prepared and served from a colourful bus located on site. The focus is on street food with a different theme each evening. Think taco Tuesdays and wood fired pizza Wednesdays and you get the gist. The food is super tasty, prepared from scratch and great value for money.
Favourites are the char grilled aubergine and chickpea curry with tamarind chutney, coriander and yoghurt or the vegetable makhanawala which is a creamy tomato and cauliflower curry. The sweet potato fries are legendary in Kilkenny. The perfect way to spend a relaxing evening in one of Kilkenny’s best pubs.
For any health conscious foodies, spending just 24 hours in Kilkenny with its endless opportunities for eating well is tough. Don’t be surprised if you end up extending your stay.
Frances Walsh is the creator and writer behind healthy lifestyle blog, The Honest Project. The Honest Project focuses on plant based eating and cooking, using vegetables, fruits and wholefoods. Frances’ interest is in preparing and eating foods that are made from scratch but are practical and easy to make for even the most inexperienced cook. For more information visit thehonestproject.com.