Eamon Barrett is well impressed...
Garrett Byrne may have decided to call his newly opened restaurant in Kilkenny 'Campagne' but if the translation of this word evokes images of a rustic 'countryside' experience you might be in for a disappointment - albeit your only one of the night. Make no mistake, this is a super swish space that has cost a lot of money to put together - it's design would be just as at home in London. Olive coloured banquettes, interconnecting semi circular tables in the centre of the floor, abstract art on the walls and lots and lots of staff. We counted twelve staff that were visible and for most of our visit they had only us as diners to look after.
We are met with a friendly greeting, brought to our table, given menus, offered drinks and instantly brought some very very good bread. Starters are priced between E8 and E14 and include Terrine of foie gras and suckling pig with a beetroot puree and hazelnut dressing; Clare Island gravadlax with fennel, cucumber and potato salad; chicken liver parfait with PX jelly and toasted brioche among others.
I go for some deep fried haddock with a poached organic egg and spring onion hollandaise. It's a combination that Simon Hopkinson was very fond of and with good reason; it works extremely well - a kind of cardiac-arrest inducing, cholestrol-raising comfort food. Deep frying the haddock for crunch creates a nice foil to the egg and hollandaise. J goes for her usual foie gras and is not disappointed by it's treatment.
Mains are all under E30 with five meat options and two fish. Loin of free range pork with black pudding, creamed cabbage and mustard sounds good as does Rump of spring lamb with courgette stuffed with tomato and red pepper, rosemary jus, but I opt for Halibut with a pea puree and girolle mushrooms. It's a fine chunk of fish, nicely handled, the pea puree acting as a sauce to counteract the dryness which halibut can be prone to. J's choice is the star of the evening: grilled calves liver with pancetta, roast onions, carrots and shallot jus. The liver comes in one large crescent shaped piece and is absolutely delicious. It's perfectly pink and the whole dish just works so well together. The only veg accompaniment is a small dish of smooth mash potato - ideal for mopping up those liver juices.
By now the room has the benefit of some extra diners - including Neven Maguire - and the large space is buzzing nicely with contented conversation. There are five dessert options from which I choose a greengage tart with custard and creme fraiche and J goes for Opera gateau with salted caramel ice cream and pear puree. I come out the winner on this one as the greengage tart - more a sponge really - is just delicious and I'm left a generous jug of homemade custard to be a glutton with. The opera is not quite right, it's too sweet and doesn't have enough richness to compliment the lovely salty ice cream but we're into serious nit picking here. Good coffees finished off the evening.
This was extremely accomplished cooking and the prices are good - three courses here without wine would be E50.00 a head. Located under the old railway arches in Gashouse Lane – From the town centre head towards the McDonagh Junction shopping centre. At the traffic lights turn left. Campagne is just on the right.
The Arches, 5 Gashouse Lane, Kilkenny, Co Kilkenny
Tel:+353 (0)56 777 2858