A solid recommendation from one of the most knowledgeable men in the food industry, Mr Declan Maxwell, prompted us to book a table in Canteen Celbridge. Visiting Canteens online booking system we quickly found out this was a restaurant that you need to book in advance, that alone is a great recommendation in itself. We were lucky to secure a table on a Sunday night, Canteen usually close on Sunday and Monday but as it was a bank holiday weekend they planned to open Sunday night so we were in luck and secured our table for 7pm.
A very minimalist restaurant front sits on Main Street, Celbridge. This appears to have been an original build, possibly a converted house. From the front door signage you are directed to enter the restaurant through the side. Upon entering we were greeted by the very warm and friendly front of house Soizic and seated at our table for two by the floor to ceiling window. The retro style ‘Canteen’ chairs are far more comfortable than they appear. Muted grey walls with brightly colored paintings along with soft candlelight and fairy lights give Canteen a beautiful, romantic vibe.
Soizic Humbert and James Sheridan opened Canteen Celbridge in June 2016. This opening came after their very successful pilot project ‘The Market Canteen’ in Blackrock, where Soziac and James put their skills, expertise and genuine love of great food together and presented it in a less than glamorous setting. In their own words ‘regardless of the premises short comings we always knew great cooking and genuine hospitality would make up for the less than salubrious surroundings.’
The theme behind Canteen is modern European cooking, with a very strong emphasis on sourcing the best ingredients possible and we can confirm this is evident in every dish presented. James Sheridan has a rich history in high class cooking, previously in Residence and Thornton’s, both located on St. Stephens Green. Soziac who leads front of house is also an accomplished Chef who also held positions in both Residence and Thornton’s. Maeve Walsh, Euro-Toques young chef of the year 2016 is making her mark along side Sheridan in the kitchen in Canteen delivering superb dishes of an exceptionally high standard.
The scents wafting from the open door of the illuminated kitchen at the back of the restaurant serves only to heighten the anticipation of what promises to be a great nights dining.
Fresh, warm sourdough is by far the most direct route to our hearts and this delicious crunchy crusted, warm and chewy wonder was a winning start to our evening. Following on from this our table is furnished with some tasty little snacks. The term ‘foodie’ gets bandied about a lot but all of the small touches in Canteen make it a ‘foodies’ dream dining destination.
At this point we have had a chance to scan the all important wine list. Concise but very well considered. With some of our favourites available by the glass this makes wining and dining even more fun. Pairing food and wine is an endless love affair for us so being able to purchase by the glass makes for a really varied and exciting dining experience.
The short menu in Canteen was really difficult for us to choose from because we wanted everything on it! Not a complaint we have too often. After a lively debate on what to order we decided to start with.
Quail & Foie Gras Pithivier, Celeriac Purée, Madeira Sauce €14.00
Pink centered Quail breast wrapped in the lightest, flakiest pastry was a sight to behold. Roast Quail Leg, crispy skin with flesh falling off of the bone. Foie Gras Pithivier sits so elegantly on this plate of food in all its rich, delicious, buttery glory. Not expecting pastry to be the standout element of this dish but it really was. There is clearly a lot of skill involved in creating perfect pastry and that skill seems to be abundance here in Canteen. Madeira Sauce enriches all elements of this dish together so well with its peachy, caramel nuances. Art on a plate. A glass of Les Hauts de Montarels Chardonnay 2016 €8.90 with its smooth buttery tones was a great match.
Our second starter was the one we initially weren’t going to go with simply due to the mention of Goat Cheese but it otherwise appealed to us so much that we decided to ask if it was possible to have it without, to which we were very readily accommodated.
Jerusalem Artichoke & Mushroom Tart, Boilie Goat Cheese, Hazelnut Pesto €12.00
Opting for his tempting tart sans Boile Goat Cheese, because currently there seems to be an explosion of goats cheese on menus across Ireland and we just wanted a break from the rich ingredient. The subtle nutty flavour synonymous with Jerusalem Artichoke and the unmistakable meatiness of fresh mushrooms all encased in the most amazing crumbly yet crisp pastry with somewhat herby accents. Again, the pastry really really stands out in each mouthful. Hazelnut Pesto, so good we would purchase it by the pot if it were possible. A glass of crisp & fruity Conte Amato – Pinot Grigio 2017 €8.00 was a real palate pleaser with this stunning starter.
Brill, Grilled Ballymakenny Potatoes, Anchovy Crème Fraiche, Salsa Verde, Squid €28.50
Unlike many other fish dishes this piece of Brill had a lovely all over charred, crispy outer and was so moist and delicate on the inside. A host of baby squid added a really lovely balance of textures. Salsa Verde & Anchovy Creme Fresh were incredibly well paired sidekicks but in no way over shadowed the star of the plate, the Brill. Served with Ballymakenny Potatoes, that pop of purple and the delicate, sweet flavour they added to the overall dish makes this a plate we would definitely order again and again. The same Chardonnay enjoyed with the Quail starter was enjoyed again with this beautiful Brill.
Feighcullen Duck Breast, Boudin Blanc, Kohlrabi, Heritage Carrots €29.00
This beautiful duck breast arrived to our table, gently crisped and served pink. Succulent and so well seasoned. Small rounds of Boudin Blanc, often referred to as the King of French Sausages, adds a smooth, elegant and voluptuous texture. Although slight, the sweetness from the Kohlrabi and Heritage Carrots was a welcome addition to this dish
A glass of Armigero Riserva – Sangiovese 2014 €8.90 with its smooth cherry, blackcurrant & vanilla oak tones partnered so well with the depth of gamey flavour of this dish.
Passion Fruit Soufflé, Vanilla Ice Cream €9.00
Arriving at the table, a wobbly top floating buoyantly from a warm ramekin dish. If this soufflé was to taste even half as good as it looked we knew we were in for a treat and wow did it deliver. The aromatic scent from this sweet tropical fruit along with its sweet but tart like flavour made each spoonful utterly delicious.
Opting for a double espresso instead of wine was a really lovely finish to this meal.
Callebault Milk Chocolate Square, Hazelnut Ice Cream €8.00
As self confessed chocoholics this dessert was squeal inducing. Although impeccably presented and not in the slightest bit retro looking, the first taste literally transported us back to the hot summer days of our childhood when every once in a while some generous relative or family friend would allow you to choose your favourite treat from the ice cream freezer.
The one us chocolate obsessed sugar fiends always wanted was a Feast! You know the one? Rich chocolate ice cream encased in a thick milk chocolate shell with a host of chocolate cake like crumbs running through it and then that block of solid chocolate in the middle, good God, the stuff of dreams folks…well my childhood dreams! Now as a fully fledged adult my dessert dreams will be focused solidly on this wondrously clever creation in Canteen.
Cracking through the thick milk chocolate shell of each square to find creamy chocolate ice cream , a scattering of chocolate cookie crumbs on the plate, along with Hazelnut ice cream. Each sinful spoonful a joy to behold. A glass of the recommended Tawny Port, Quinta do Vallado 10 Years €9.50, was an incredible match. Cutting through the rich chocolate almost sounds too harsh as it felt more like the silky warmth of this beautiful amber hued liquid added a depth of flavour to this tasting experience.
For us, the forty five minute drive to Canteen Celbridge was worth every second for this incredible dinner. From start to finish our food was nothing less than perfect. The staff are so warm and efficient which is in no way surprising considering they are lead by the very endearing Soizic. We highly recommend a visit to Canteen. We left with that relaxed, satisfied felling that we absolutely adore for a night of fine dining. While there was a good mix of clientele from couples to friends to families we think Canteen makes for the ultimate indulgent date night.
Our bill for the night came to €145.20 and for the quality and quantity of food and drinks that we enjoyed, dinner in Canteen is in no way over priced. Yes, this is a substantial amount of money to spend on a dinner for two but it is worth noting this includes four really good glasses of wine.
We definitely plan to be regulars at this restaurant especially after seeing the Tuesday Treat offering of three courses & a glass of wine for €36.00 per person.
Canteen should be high on everyone’s list of must visit restaurants.
4 Main Street
Written by Keith Mahon