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
URL: www.campagne.ie
Twitter: @campagnekilkenn

Campagne on Urbanspoon

2 comments:

acookbookcollection said...

This sounds gorgeous. Campagne is top of the list of restaurants I really want to get to this year. I might show some people this review and drop some hints before my birthday!

Donna

steve said...

Jerusalem artichokes are a tuber or root vegetable and not the same as an artichoke which is the flower of the artichoke plant. Jerusalem Artichokes are sometimes called sunchokes and are very different from artichokes. yet delicious in their own way