Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

[Review] Campagne, Gashouse Lane, Kilkenny

Sometimes the lure of one's hometown is too strong and people find themselves drawn to return. Such was the case for Garrett Byrne, formerly of Dublin's Chapter One and his partner Brid Hannon. His decision to set up shop in his hometown has been thoroughly validated by the success of his Campagne restaurant, which recently earned its first Michelin star. However though, this is old hat (or business as usual) for Garrett, who was Head Chef at Chapter One when it won its first star. The only surprising thing is that it took Michelin approximately 5 years to recognise his achievements in Kilkenny. 

We ventured to Kilkenny for a relaxing weekend break, and while the taxi trip through the middle of town was a bit Armageddon-like, tranquility returned as we turned down the small lane towards Campagne. Warm light pooled onto the footpath from the location snugly tucked under disused railway arches. Once indoors, our eyes were immediately drawn to the stunning wall art from Catherine Barron. An elegant colour scheme, along with xlever curved interior walls and banquette seating organically divide the room into sections, allowing for a sense of privacy.
Menu cover detail
I have lately developed a love affair with artichokes and I immediately pointed to the warm Jerusalem artichoke mousse with a soft hazelnut and wild garlic crumb (€10). It was utterly delicious with wonderfully contrasting textures. By the way, if anyone can describe the taste of an artichoke to me, I'll be ever so grateful. I find it the most elusive of vegetables to articulate. At the other side of the table, Himself was intrigued by the scallops option (€14) which were served poached rather than the more conventional pan-fried. Served with fennel, orange and olive oil, the scallops were delicate yet firm, with every mouthful feeling warm and satisfying. 
Warm mousse of Jerusalem artichoke
Poached scallops with fennel, orange and olive oil
A perfectly cooked piece of monkfish with a meaty oxtail croquette and a piquant cabbage and mustard sauce made Himself declare that sublime things were afoot in the kitchen (€29). My Aylesbury duck breast was vibrantly pink-red with winter rich kale and a tangy apple and green peppercorn jus (€28). A side of creamy and luxurious mash was the mash of dreams. I know several people who would travel to a restaurant just for good mash, so it's now my duty to tell them about Campagne.

I've recently been learning more about wine, leading me to select a bottle of Catherine Breton La Dilettante vouvray (€42) to accompany our dinner. A biodynamic wine, it had loads of fruit, with little acidity and a silky feel.
Aylesbury duck breast with kale and parsnip
Monkfish with oxtail croquette and jerusalem artichoke
At this stage, we were reaching maximum capacity. Campagne does serve very fine cooking, but it also serves decent portions (catering for local clientele possibly). Looking around the dining room, we could see that it was full of local diners and turning over tables at a good rate. Of course, this gave us opportunity to indulge in one of our favourite pastimes, people watching. We did manage to put our speculation aside long enough to order a single dessert to be shared between us. Then back to the serious business of imaging each table's back story.

Rhubarb jelly and marscapone cheesecake came with rhubarb ice-cream, sugary doughnut bites and perfect pieces of poached rhubarb (€9). (It's not often that I get to use the word rhubarb three times in a single sentence!) If this was a dessert for one, then it's a miracle that the regular diners at Campagne aren't rolling out the door. The intrinsically astringent nature of the rhubarb was balanced by the creaminess of the ice-cream and marscapone and the sweetness of the doughnuts, all washed down by a honey smooth Chateau la Caussade dessert wine (€6.50 per glass).
Rhubarb jelly with marscapone cheesecake

Service was impeccable, with just the right level of attentiveness. We dislike venues where waiters are constantly topping up wine glasses or water glasses. Here the wine was perfectly offered and poured and then we were left to our own devices. I like this form of service as it gives you time to sit back and indulge in a real conversation with your dining parter. After all, eating at a good restaurant is as much about spending time together as it is about the food.

Campagne is not a standard fine dining restaurant.  The food is French in style, executed with irish ingredients and expertly prepared. The linen is indeed crisp, the silverware and crystal spotless and  polished. However, if you revel in tasting menus and amuse bouches, then you'll be waiting a while as Campagne only offers Early Bird and a la carte menus. Instead it is contemporary and catering for the way that Kilkenny diners want to eat. The end result is very pleasurable indeed.

Campagne, 5 The Arches, Gas Works Lane, Kilkenny, Co Kilkenny
Tel: +353 (0)56 777 2858
Twitter: @campagnekilkenn

Campagne on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

[Recipe] Folláin's No need to knead brown bread

I'm very proud of the far that I grew up in Cork's Muskerry Gaeltacht, or Gaeltacht Mhúscraí. This meant that I completed all my education through to secondary level "as Gaelige". I sat my Leaving Certificate in Irish, even going so far as to have Irish language textbooks for subjects such as Mathematics and Applied Mathematics. It all seems so distant now in this modern world where I travel the world and work with many cultures, but it has had a deep influence on my life.

But being from the Gaeltacht is about much more than just speaking our native language. What I took for granted as a child and teenager has been revealed by adult life to be a cultural treasure-trove. These days, there is a new form of culture developing at home in Cork. Well-established food companies such as Coolea Cheese, Folláin Jams and Preserves and Macroom Oatmeal (located just a tad outside the Gaeltacht) have been joined by newcomers including McCarthy's Natural Dairy, 9 White Deer (beautifully named after the legends of Naomh Gobnait), the hirsute Mountain Man Brewing and Toonsbridge Dairy. I'd love to know what they're putting in the water down there!

Out of all these great companies, I have a certain grá for Folláin Jams. As a child, I would head into the fields with my mother or cousins to pick blackberries or other summer fruits for their jams. I can't remember what we got paid per pound, but I probably ate my way through a lot of potential earnings.  Whenever I hear the word "halcyon", these are the memories that are conjured. Sunshine, scratches on my arms from briars and fingertips stained with blackberry juice. Back at the farmhouse, I would slather slices of my grandmother's brown and white soda breads with thick layers of butter and jam.

If you want to try a little taste of Ireland on St Patrick's Day, or indeed any time of year, read on for Folláin Jams' "No need to knead brown bread"
  • Pre-heat your oven to 190C / 170C fan / Gas Mark 5
  • Combine 225g Macroom coarse brown flour with 1 teaspoon of bread soda, a teaspoon of salt and 225g of sieved white flour
  • Add a teaspoon of dark brown sugar and mix well
  • Mix 2 teaspoons of sunflower oil with 235ml of buttermilk, add to the flour mixture, mixing lightly with your hands until the mixture is sticky
  • Transfer the mixture into a greased loaf tin, score it and bake for 45 minutes until the bread is golden
  • Allow the bread to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool before slicing
  • Slather a fresh slice with Irish dairy butter and a selection from the Folláin Extra Fruit or No Added Sugar ranges. If you want something savoury, try one of their delicious relishes
  • Serve with a piping hot cup of tea!

If you need a little extra assistance, a video of this quick and easy recipe is available here
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