Casanova, Kerry

Kenmare is a recognized as one of Ireland's top gourmet hot spots, and over the years while some restaurants have come and gone, that title has always been a worthy one.  Martin McCormack is no stranger to the scene, with several previous eateries gracing the town, the last one was the super popular Salvados on Main Street. From there he blazed a trail in Killarney with La Rambla, but this summer he delighted locals by returning to Kenmare with the delicious Casanova.

Having run a number of successful restaurants over the years, Martin knows how to create a winning formula to ensure that he will build a loyal customer base, and so he has again with Casanova.  While Kenmare is a popular tourist town and the summer months are are very busy, it is clear that the locals will ensure that Casanova will be busy during the winter also.  This not the case for all the town's restaurants.  When we visited recently the busy summer season was winding down, yet Casanova was buzzing.  The menus that Martin creates ensure that his food has a broad appeal, and he serves the best pizzas and pasta dishes in the town, yet it is family inspired Spanish dishes that really signal him out.  Authentic Catalan cooking is a rare treat, and the price point is perfect. The menu poses the dilemma of having to make difficult choices when you actually want everything - and so we return to our default decision of ordering lots of tapa dishes to share.

Both being big fans of Calamares, we ordered a portion each of those and also several tapas dishes to share.  These included a delicious goats cheese with wild mushroom jam; Gambas Pil Pil (Chilli prawns), Gambas Rebozadas (breaded whole prawns), Chorizo cooked in red wine, Albondigas (meat balls) and Patatas Romesco.  The plates came out perfectly timed, and we shared and enjoyed every morsel with a bottle of Rioja- the perfect foil to our Spanish feast. We even left room for some delicious desserts, including a not-too-sweet apple and berry crumble with vanilla ice-cream.  The service was friendly and perfectly timed, the atmosphere was lively - just as a popular tapas restaurant in Barcelona would be.  

There are times when you want a starter followed by a main course and there are some people who just want a main course rather than sharing small plates, and there is plenty of choice here too, and again well priced.  I loved the sound of the Spanish Fish Stew (Zarzuela), and the seafood platter with haddock, salmon, sea bass, squid, mussels and whole prawns served with cheesy potatoes and drizzled with lemon butter - now that sounds seriously tempting.  As well as wonderful fish and seafood, there are meat dishes including Roast Fillet of Duck and Flame Grilled Beef, stuffed pork fillet and a delicious sounding Spanish Chicken cooked in a tomato sauce. You could return to Casanova again and again and have different dishes each time - sounds like a great winter plan to me.  Open from 5pm.  Deserving of nomination for Irish Hospitality Awards 2018 and highly recommended by Hotel Reviews Ireland.

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