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Connie and Colin admire all the elements of Zuni, Kilkenny

All the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

Zuni Townhouse is the kind of destination you’d hope to find in Paris, so exceptionally and cosily does it fit into Killkenny’s idiosyncratic Patrick Street.
This little boutique hotel is a definition of class, an institution which is confident in its modernity.
The eating experience is quietly spectacular and, even though white table cloths are present in the dining environment, there is a successful and well-designed attempt in making the room quite unpretentious. The culinary expertise is carefully constructed by the kitchen crew, under head chef Maria Raftery, and it results in magic.
I was keen to understand how Zuni explore fish and seafood, so the starting point of our supper introduced itself on a high note: Goatsbridge trout tempura, nori seaweed, pickled cucumber with horseradish; and beetroot cured salmon with pickled beetroot and horseradish dressing.
Both of these entrées were sisters in relation to how light and delicate they became in their pretty demeanour, and the pairing with horseradish in particular, and the pickled vegetables, was beautifully executed. The trout tempura should be defined as a true Irish take on how to steal a Japanese technique and make it Irish.
Coming onto the next stage were pan-fried scallops with chorizo, spinach, bulgur wheat and quinoa, with red pepper dressing and lime creme fraiche; and pan-fried hake with sour cream and chilli potatoes, crisped bacon, courgettes with salsa verde.
The hake was warmly enjoyable and homely, but it was with the scallop dish that the kitchen over-delivered, a marvellous marriage of tastes, textures and diverse ingredients.
The food in Zuni can be defined as fine dining, yet there are times when it isn’t. It also likes to be punchy and funky and to get as much fun on the plate as possible.
In terms of accommodation, Zuni is sweet and simple. The monochrome modernist bedrooms are intimate spaces. But before our departure into the night, the late night bar had to be relished. With jazz rumbling and roaring in the background, candles flickering and ladies laughing, the bar has just the right note of romance for this late night activity. We enjoyed the best gin and tonics with orange and rosemary, paying homage to Silver Spear Gin.
Like the experience of staying in Zuni, breakfast is simple and succeeds because of using quality ingredients. Excellent coffee to start; beautifully made French toast that goes the extra mile with sourdough bread; and chilli eggs.
Wonderful.

Words by Connie McKenna, Photographs by Colin Grant

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