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Sink or swim

Grup Spy Alan Kelly dishes the goods on Ireland’s tastiest dining destinations.


Kitty O’Se’s in Killarney

Kitty O’Se’s in Killarney

The disappointing main courses were in contrast to tasty starters

The disappointing main courses were in contrast to tasty starters

The disappointing main courses were in contrast to tasty starters

The disappointing main courses were in contrast to tasty starters


Kitty O’Se’s in Killarney

When thinking about the best seafood restaurants in Ireland, places like Fishy Fishy in Kinsale, Out Of The Blue in Kerry and La Cote in Wexford immediately spring to mind. I know Kitty O’Se’s is not strictly a fish only restaurant, but I have high hopes of adding it to my list of seafood favourites.

College St, Killarney, Co Kerry
Three Stars
Food €75.90; Drinks €22

Handily located in the centre of Killarney – which on this fine Saturday evening is jammers with families waiting for the Christmas parade to start – we find a pleasant dining space with stylish levels of fish-inspired images adorning the walls, and a cohort of welcoming smiley staff. We are impressed. Including a compact bar area it has the look of a cool place to have up your sleeve when a dependable fish supper and a decent pint is required.

So what is it like? Does it live up to its promise and good looks? Well, the menu is of the non-fancy variety, and while it is part filled with time-honoured steak, chicken and pasta goodies; it is the enticing list of seafood offerings that we are after. And our evening starts good; I mean really, really good. We go for the fried calamari and tempura prawns. Nicely cooked in super-light tempura batter the prawns are strapping and meaty, and pretty close to sublime. In fact, served with a chili mayo for dipping and a side salad for added taste they are the best we’ve come across in yonks. Ditto with the calamari deep fried in seasoned flour. Fat crispy rings of fresh squid expertly cooked and served with a nifty little side salad and a tub of lemony mayo, are at Fishy Fishy levels of deliciousness.

Having relished our sensational starters, we are especially looking forward to equally sensational main courses. Unfortunately that’s where matters slip downhill. I’m hoping the kitchen is having an off-night, because our fillet of pan fried sea bass, while no doubt it arrived in the kitchen gorgeously fresh, is overcooked and dry. Serving it on a splodge of inferior mash alongside a bowl of fries does not work and is quite simply odd. There is a tasty side garnish of sweetcorn, asparagus, broccoli and tomato – but again, such an odd combination with that mash. Worse still is the so-called ‘special’ of monkfish and prawns wrapped in Parma ham, served with a pea risotto. The monkfish/prawn/ham combo is overcooked to the point of being burnt and barely edible, while (to my taste) the risotto is a gloopy tasteless mess. It is all so disappointing. Culinary magic is not what’s going on here. It looks like a mistake and it tastes like a mistake.

Boy, talk about a game of two halves. Nothing about these fish dishes swim for us. For the life of me, I cannot understand how there is such a difference between the start and the finish. There is a chance, of course, that over the years I have become an obsessive foodie fusspot who has fails to appreciate Kitty O’Se’s finer points. While this restaurant certainly oozes charm and entertainment – I have to call the meal as I find it.

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