Styled as a ‘neighbourhood bistro’ Camden Kitchen is exactly that – a restaurant frequented by locals living in the nearby residential areas of Dublin 8 but within easy reach of the city centre which serves to attract a wider clientele. With its laid back, welcoming atmosphere, Camden Kitchen is the perfect place to pop into for a glass of wine and something to eat on your way home from work but it is also somewhere to visit if you fancy some top notch nosh in unpretentious surroundings.
The ground floor dining room is small but cosy and provided perfect refuge from the storm that was raging outside on the cold and very wet Tuesday night on which I recently visited. The restaurant normally spans two floors, both of which are used on busy nights, but we suspected that the severe weather conditions had deterred potential diners so only the downstairs dining room was in use. Despite this, most of the tables were occupied and once we stripped off our rain-drenched jackets we sat down at our table near the open kitchen and immediately ordered a couple of restorative Kir Royale cocktails made with Prosecco (€8.00).
We devoured slices of a crusty batch-style white bread which were served with endearing petal-shaped pats of butter as we decided on what to order. An Early Evening menu and a Dinner menu are offered and we quickly elected to make our selections from the latter. Fresh seasonal produce is to the fore on the brief but considered menu and we were looking forward to tasting the food.
Both starters were beautifully presented on vibrantly coloured plates which set off the food to great effect. My Natural Smoked Haddock Croquettes, Chorizo & Tartare Sauce (€11.00) kicked off the meal with a bang and were delicious. The croquettes were excellent and generously packed full of large flakes of smoked haddock. The accompanying ribbons of lightly pickled cucumber and a piquant celeriac remoulade cut through the richness of the croquettes preventing this sizeable starter from feeling heavy. Little nubbins of chorizo added an extra layer of spicy heat. These croquettes were little fishy golf balls of delight and I loved them.
Similarly, Eithne’s Pork Neck Ballotine, Black Pudding Croquette, Green Apple Purée, Pickles & Toast (€9.50) was a perfectly balanced dish where the flavours worked well together. Discs of a well-made pork terrine were presented along with a refreshing apple purée and spear-shaped ‘leaves’ of pickled red onion. We both loved the black pudding croquette and felt that it added an extra porky dimension and further texture to the dish.
It had been a while since I last ate pheasant so I was thrilled to see Wild Pheasant, Potato Gnocchi, Spiced Butternut, Wild Mushrooms, & York Cabbage (€24.00) on the menu and promptly ordered it. Wild pheasant is very lean and requires sensitive cooking to prevent it drying out. As such it can be a hit or miss choice but here the breast meat was perfectly cooked and succulent to eat. The leg meat was slightly chewier but flavourful none the less and I enjoyed it. Surprisingly delicate potato gnocchi, sautéed mushrooms, slightly peppery York cabbage and a velvety smooth butternut squash purée completed this accomplished dish.
Eithne’s choice of Handmade Potato Gnocchi, Greens, Wild Mushroom & Free Range Egg (€16.50) was like a meat-free version of my main course but with the substitution of a flawlessly cooked poached egg for the pheasant. Some purple-sprouting broccoli was also included along with the cabbage and a generous amount of the wild mushrooms. Keen to try a broad range of dishes from the menu, Eithne was slightly disappointed with her choice which inadvertently resulted in her selecting a dish that was so similar to mine but this was not to take away from the wonderful cooking on display.
Green Beans, Sauté Potatoes and Potato Purée are offered as side dishes and we both agreed to share a portion of the most fabulous Green Beans (€3.50). I love eating simple food with punchy flavours and these beans with their wholegrain mustard dressing were heavenly and ideal with both mains.
My dessert of Apple & Cinnamon Crumble with Vanilla Ice-Cream (€7.00) was sweet, hot and full of fruity apple flavours. I particularly liked the oaty crumble which contrasted nicely against the soft, sticky apples and the cool intensely flavoured vanilla ice-cream. This was comfort food of the highest order and a suitable dessert choice on a cold and miserable night.
Panna cottas are ubiquitous and found on many menus but excellent panna cottas are elusive and rarely chanced upon. Eithne’s Vanilla Panna Cotta with Passion Fruit Sorbet (€7.00) was outstanding and I’m embarrassed to admit that I tucked in enthusiastically only relinquishing my spoon on noticing my dining companion’s thunderous expression!
To finish we shared some Milleens Cheese, Crackers, Quince Paste & Grape Chutney (€10.00). Milleens is a washed-rind whole milk cheese from the Beara Peninsula in West Cork with real depth of flavour and body. It has an underlying sweetness on the palate and is said to reflect the tastes of the pastures on which the cows who supply the milk to make it graze. We both felt that the sweet/sour elements of the grape chutney accentuated the cheese’s natural floral qualities and we happily nibbled away and sipped on our dessert wines – a glass of a 2008 Quady Elysium Black Muscat for me and a 2010 Essencia Orange Muscat for Eithne (€8.00 each). Sweet and viscous, both wines were delicious and an indulgent way to end our meal.
Service throughout our meal reflected the ambiance of the restaurant and was relaxed but friendly and efficient. Too often food is designed to impress but the food in Camden Kitchen is food you want to savour and enjoy and I thoroughly enjoyed my meal. Since first opening in 2010, at the height of the recession under Chef/Proprietor Padraic Hayden, Camden Kitchen has steadily built up a loyal customer base and it is not difficult to see why. This is competitively priced casual dining but with a fine-dining edge where the main aim is to showcase and maximise the potential of all the ingredients that are used. Hayden’s food is confident, his cooking purposeful and full of coherent flavours. I will be back.
3 Camden Market
T: 01 476 0125
Niamh believes Ireland produces some of the best food in the world, and travels around the country; seeking out the best food producers, and places to eat.
An accomplished cook and baker, Niamh is also a previous MasterChef Ireland finalist. During the competition she had the opportunity to cook in some of Ireland’s top restaurants and experience life on the other side of the kitchen pass.
Working with TheTaste allows Niamh to write about her experiences and to share her passion for food and cooking with a wide audience.
Visit Niamh’s blog The Game Bird Food Chronicles.