Hospitality Ireland Diarist Kevin Kelly pays a long-awaited visit to acclaimed Kilkenny restaurant Campagne.
I have long wanted to visit Campagne Restaurant near the railway station in Kilkenny, and indeed when the Elegant One and I did visit recently, we were enchanted. I was delighted to see that Campagne won the Leinster heat in the Restaurant of the Year Awards. It is a beautifully designed restaurant, which, the Elegant One suggested, could sit happily in a smart Parisian arrondissement.
We had a delightful three-course lunch for €32 each, which included warm smoked haddock, organic leeks, deep fried egg, mustard hollandaise, and parfait of foie gras and duck liver Pedro and Ziminez jelly-marinated raisins as our starters.
We both chose the roast shoulder of suckling pig, choucroute beetroot, caraway and capers with apple purée for our main course. As the Elegant One seems to be on a bit of a permanent diet, she decided against a dessert, while I chose a warm chocolate mouse, orange jelly, vanilla ice cream and caramelised nuts, which was sublime but unfortunately attracted the attention of my dining partner.
On Brid Hannon's recommendation, I chose a Chateau Lagrange Lussac St Emilion 2010, which is a fine Bordeaux and excellent value at €42, and came accompanied by a sticker notifying me that the wine had won a Gold award.
Owner/chef Garrett Byrne is well-deserving of his Michelin Star and his other various awards. Like all great chefs, Garrett's CV includes some really very fine establishments including Quaglino's and the Orrey – two excellent London restaurants owned by my good friend Sir Terence Conran and his charming wife Vicki, who used to work for me when I owned Image Magazine.
Garrett returned to Ireland to work with Ross Lewis at Chapter One before striking out on his own in the middle of the recession so it's great to see him and Brid Hannon prosper.
Campagne ticks so many boxes for me: beautifully designed, so many nooks and crannies, bright vibrant use of colour, leather banquettes, crisps linen, sparkling glasses, in-house freshly made bread, friendly, professional staff and an interesting location just five minutes from the station with a really cool address: 5 The Arches, Gashouse Lane, Kilkenny City.
Surely the perfect venue for the smart older D4 ladies who lunch, and who can utilise their free travel passes to visit this exquisite restaurant?
Just opposite Kilkenny Castle is the famed Kilkenny Design Centre, a wonderful tourist attraction with a restaurant/café, Anocht, open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. We have never dined there but look forward to doing so one day.
However, we are big fans of their foodhall, which serves the most delicious coffees, teas and light lunches, as well as sublime bread, cakes, scones and sandwiches. There are a number of take-away meals available, some of which we purchased (I would recommend the Duncannon Fish Pie most highly). The Design Centre Food Hall would certainly give Avoca's Salt in Monkstown a run for its money.
Our visit to Kilkenny was short but memorable. I poked my head into Langton's on John Street Lower. The Langton's Bar looked very inviting but sadly we didn't have time for a quiet pint but I hear that the Langton's family are winning nearly as many awards for their bars and restaurants as Hanley Shefflin has All-Ireland medals.