It’s no secret that we have a bit of a soft spot for Kilkenny, filled with lots of little dining out gems you will be spoiled for choice. On our recent visit we decided to try two very different venues, one a casual, relatively new eatery Rive Gauche and one with a Michelin star to its name. This is why we like the city so much plenty of choice no matter what mood takes you.
On this occasion we wanted to take advantage of amazing value lunch menu in Campagne, 2 courses €27 or 3 courses €32. We stopped by on Saturday afternoon on the way back to Dublin, as the restaurant is located within walking distance of the city centre. One thing about Campagne that struck us was how unique the restaurant setting was compared to most Michelin star establishments. Firstly the decor is quite informal, with lots colourful modern art splashed around the room by Kilkenny artist Catherine Barron, mixed with comfy teal chairs and deep plum walls. Secondly there were actually kids dining there, which as parents ourselves we were pleasantly surprised at. That is part of the charm of the venue it has a real family feel, no fuss and a warm welcome is extended to all. That said these were exceptionally well behaved little ones, thankfully!
Campagne is extremely well laid out especially considering the size, tables are spaced well and most have a good view of the magic happening at the pass. The large S shaped seating, ideal for larger bookings is by far the best seat in the house. That said we were happy with our lot by the window, and were quickly impressed with the lunch options and the fact all the local suppliers such as Butler’s family farm and John Hoyne are listed at the top of the menu, which we feel says a lot of what really matters to Head Chef/Propietor Garreth Bryne.
The menu itself had some nice surprises and as big souffle fans we were delighted to see this as a starter option, Twice Baked Hegarty’s Souffle got a big thumbs up, ripe cheddar oozing out accompanied by a superb marinated beetroot chutney and candied walnuts. Simple ingredients cooked with a bit of imagination really take on a new lease of life. However the Smoked Haddock was the dish that really stood out from the rest. This wasn’t about pretty presentation this was about pure unadulterated pleasure. Little layers of haddock topped with finely chopped, organic leeks drizzled in a mustard hollandaise and crowned with a delectable deep fried egg.
Start as you mean to go on as they say so we were hopeful of some pretty stunning mains to follow. Being October you can’t really get a more seasonal ingredient than pumpkin, but with beef, surely not! Surprisingly when we tasted the tenderised Braised Short Rib of Beef together with the spiced pumpkin chutney we understood why Gareth felt it would work. The creamed kale and herb dressing didn’t hurt either but when tasted alongside probably the prettiest mash you’ll ever set eyes on we were completely won over.
None of the other dishes were ever going to top the beef but the Aylesbury Duck Confit gave it a good run for it’s money. It lay on a nest of Choucroute, which is basically pickled cabbage and sat alongside a hearty chunk of black pudding, can you get a more Irish combination? Probably, but we doubt it will taste better. It’s the little touches such as the beautiful mustard and apple puree that make you realise why these guys have a Michelin star.
Campagne is one of those rare spots you come across where the food is simply outstanding but no showmanship is anywhere to be found. Much like Byrne himself the restaurant is understated, humble but has some serious genius hidden beneath. We skipped dessert so we have a good excuse for our next visit already.
Our bill including two glasses of Reuda Verdejo, Bodegas Menade 2014 came to an unbelievable €70.50 which for a Michelin restaurant with food of this standard is beyond good value.
This is an Impressive Taste we would highly recommend.
Keith & Jules Mahon are the founders of TheTaste. We want TheTaste to be a culinary kaleidoscope to champion every taste, food, wine, cocktails, whiskey, etc. We are delighted to be part of such a creative and fast moving industry and are very passionate about sharing with you our unique journey around Ireland finding the best culinary hotspots.