On a little break in Kilkenny before Easter, we booked dinner for one of the evenings in Campagne. We had been once before to Campagne over a year ago which hadn’t been very successful, primarily our own fault in that we booked a later table and were both suffering with colds, we should have cancelled but we persevered on and as a result didn’t enjoy it. We were determined to re-visit though and I’m so glad we did as this was a totally different experience that we loved…
We booked an earlier table and were in the whole of our health this time so we started from a good place! The advantage with an early table (ours was 6.30pm) is the incredible value early bird menu. Campagne holds one michelin star (since 2013) so you know the food will be good and the early bird offers 2 courses for €27 or 3 for €32. This menu is available at lunch and Tues – Thurs 6-7pm or Fri – Sat 5.30-6pm. Outside of these times, its an a la carte menu.
The restaurant itself is located under railway bridge arches, it’s quite mews style and relatively innocuous from the street. Inside, oak wood, muted tones and materials, simple yet refined decor with striking artworks lining the walls. Food is French influenced, seasonal and local. Chef Garrett Byrne is in the kitchen and Brid Hannon runs front of house and it all just works well…
We started with Gin & Tonics, Tanqueray for him and Bombay for me, while we looked at the menu. We loved the wine list here, a really great selection, at different price points, including by the glass. We were in the mood for an Italian red, there’s a Valpolicella, alpha zeta, on the menu at €31. Brid recommended the Nero d’Avolo (€26) and offered us a taste of both to decide. In fact the Nero D’avolo was better so we went with that. I quite liked the bottle too (yep I’m a sucker for a label!).
The early bird menu offers 4 choices in starters and mains, he chose the Warm smoked haddock, organic leeks, deep fried egg and mustard hollandaise – a kind of modern take on ‘smokies’. I love celeriac so the Warm celeriac mousse, pickled pear, celeriac chutney, hazelnut dressing, parmesan crisp was perfect for me. Both starters were really excellent, the haddock, leeks and egg with hollandaise was moreish yet light, perfectly balanced and delicious (I tasted so I know how good it was!). My celeriac was equally good, the little toasted crunchy hazelnuts and pickled pear making the perfect foil for the soft warm mousse. It was gorgeous!
Mains were beef, chicken, duck or cod. I decided on the Aylesbury duck breast and confit leg, choucroute, salt baked beetroot and cep sauce – I love duck and beetroot so this dish made me happy while he chose the Braised short rib of beef, turnip puree, cevennes onion and green peppercorn dressing. We added a side of vadouvan spiced carrots (€3.95), chips (€3.95) and mashed potato was served with the mains as well.
The main courses didn’t quite live up to the standard set by the incredible starters but were very good nonetheless, particularly the duck. Perfectly pink, the ingredients all just worked together so well to make a delicious plate of food. And the beetroot was heavenly.
His beef was less successful, it was quite a ‘heavy’ dish, with the short rib itself with purees, dressing and sauces – it was too much and in hindsight would ask for the dressing part at least on the side. Not a reflection on the quality of the food though, more a personal preference on tastes. The carrots were the star – the best carrots I have ever tasted… so good and I’d go back just for them! Just look…
Portion size is quite big and with the French style of cooking tends towards being quite heavy so I couldn’t fit any more food in but he had a little room after not eating much of the beef. There’s 3 desserts and 1 cheese available on this menu, he (of course) went with the cheese – a slice of Brie de Meaux, toasted walnut bread and fig chutney. A lovely way to end the meal.
My dessert was more of the liquid variety in the form of a New Zealand red, Trinity Hill 2012 Syrah, Hawkes Bay (€42). This was a beautiful wine and lived up to our thoughts on the wine list at Campagne being really excellent and a well thought through selection. We enjoyed our wine, chatting and taking in the lovely ambiance in the restaurant.
In the end they kindly took the beef off our bill, which we didn’t ask for and was unnecessary but very nice for them to do – this made our total bill, including the G&Ts and wine – €130.65 (not including service). I know – pretty good, and don’t forget this is a Michelin star restaurant.
I was really impressed with Campagne, the place, food, staff were all super. A great wine list and truly exceptional value early bird menu makes it somewhere we will certainly return to, soon I hope.
Campagne | 5 The Arches, Gashouse lane, Kilkenny City | 056 777 2858 | firstname.lastname@example.org