Oysters on the menu

About the Good Food Circle

Kinsale Community Promotions (the forerunner of Kinsale Chamber of Tourism) was set up in 1971 to promote tourism in Kinsale at a time when tourism numbers were very low. The troubles in Northern Ireland and a World Wide oil shortage impacted badly on the Irish Tourism Industry.

In 1972 and for some years after, a series of Wild Geese Weekends was organised during April and May of 1972. This promotion focused on the home market and the committee was made up of local volunteers, both from the tourism industry and professionals such as doctors, accountants, bankers etc. These weekends were very successful in promoting Kinsale to the domestic market and also extending the tourist season. One of the most popular aspects was “the dining out” feature in the “restaurant of your choice” each evening.

The close working relationship between the hotels (Actons, The Trident and Blue Haven) allowed the restaurants to use the hotels as a focal point for their various activities. The success of both the Good Food Circle and Chamber of Tourism would not have followed if it were not for this spirit of co-operation which in turn spread to the other voluntary organisations such as the Tidy Towns.

At that time, Kinsale was one of the few places that one could find a decent restaurant and the restaurateur’s soon realised this. The close working co-operation and good relationship between the restaurateur’s finally lead to a more formalised structure.

Being able to operate as a group and combine their collective talents rather than operate alone, led to higher standards and raised the image of Kinsale as a gourmet centre. They formalised the group in 1976 and the Good Food Circle was born, later that year they came up with the idea of holding a Gourmet Festival in the Autumn. They decided to combine resources to promote the town and half of each restaurants advertising budget was used to promote the Kinsale Gourmet Concept.

By working together they improved their individual standards. They set up visits by anonymous inspectors who produced detailed critiques which were circulated to the members concerned and discussed at group meetings.

The Gourmet Festival was to be held in October in order to extend the season and also to have a fun party where the individual restaurants would participate and entertain their guests as well as hosting them.

The spokesman / chairman at the first festival was Dick Burmby, who was actually the one to suggest the idea of a festival. Thereafter Gerry Galvin and Brian Cronin shared the role until 1983 when Gerry left Kinsale and Brian took on the role until 1990. Brian was succeeded by Wendy Tisdall.

Other members to hold the position were Michael Frawley (1993), Michael Buckley, (1994) Peter Jordan (1995) Hal McElroy (1996) Jack Walsh (1997-2001), Denis Kieran (2002-2004), Jack Walsh (2005-2007), Carol Norman (2007 – 2010) Roman Minihane (2010 – 2015) Liam Edwards 2105-2020)Ciaran Fitzgerald (2020) Thomas Kay 2021- , Approx dates only

The administration duties in the early years were ably done by Peggy Green who was succeeded by Peter Barry in 1986 and held the role for a long number of years until the appointment of Maria O’Mahony in 2001,and currently the role is held by Niamh Edwards.

Three other restaurants which at the time were not viewed as “full restaurants” were later invited to join the circle, namely, Max’s Wine Bar, Jim Edwards and The White House. The Trident Hotel joined later as did The Cottage Loft, Le Toucan, The Tulip, Seasons, Bernards, Chez Jean Marc and one or two others.

In 2002 The Circle was enlarged to include more restaurants and at one point there were 21 members. This later reduced back to 12 with many of the newer entrants dropping out - most could not conform to the ideals and structures of The Circle and left in the first year.

As part of a revamp, the format of the festival was changed in 2002 and the first hosting of the “Mad Hatters Tea Party” was held. This was an immediate success and is now one of the most eagerly awaited annual event on the Calendar!

The Good Food Circle now hosts the longest surviving food festival and it is just as, if not more, popular than ever.