Canteen Celbridge may be the most significant restaurant in Ireland.
The clue to it’s importance lies in the name.
James Sheridan and Soizic Humbert’s restaurant is Canteen, the name they brought with them when they moved their premises from Blackrock, in south Dublin. Housed in a little market in Blackrock, it was called Canteen @ The Market.
But Canteen, today, is in Celbridge, County Kildare. And that’s why it’s so important.
Places like Celbridge don’t get top flight restaurants, places where creative professionals cook beautiful food and serve it expertly in a gorgeous room.
Celbridge, and its sisters in the Dublin diaspora – Lucan and Maynooth, Swords and Dunboyne, Leixlip and Rathcoole, Naas and Portmarnock – get chain restaurants and franchises, if they are lucky.
But here is Celbridge, on a Saturday afternoon in late autumn, and the 20 people eating lunch in Canteen will be followed by 65 people who will enjoy dinner.
James’s lunch menu is a thing of beauty:
Cured and charred salmon, warm potato and horseradish, sorrel
Terrine of rabbit and foie gras terrine, poached quince, walnut crumble
Salt baked jerusalem artichoke, pear, endive, Knockalara sheep’s cheese
Braised beef cheek, roast leek, pomme purée, confit onion
Hake, butternut squash, fregola, chanterelles, shellfish bisque
Confit duck, pickled blackberries, spatzle, parsnip
Soft chocolate, hazelnuts, praline ice cream
Passion fruit chiboust, coconut sorbet, exotic fruits
Selection of Irish cheeses, homemade crackers and pommé
The food looks as good as it eats, with that artful dish of artichokes arranged around the plate like a wedding hat, whilst the duck features both a crispy confit and tender grilled duck breast. Finding the apposite note is the key to Mr Sheridan’s food – that leaf of sorrel with the salmon; the wibbly-wobbly mouth feel of the fregola against the hake; the ethereal lightness of the chiboust. Save for some over-eager seasoning with the chanterelles, the dishes are beautifully thought-through and delivered, the textures and flavours powerfully expressed.
There are two other things of beauty: the room itself, with its glass wall overlooking an aged and weathered stone wall, and the service, led by Soizic and a little crew who are all whipsmart good.
People, we are in Celbridge, eating meticulous and modern food served with grace, and three courses costs €28, which makes Canteen Celbridge the bargain of the year.
We drove from Kilkenny to get to Celbridge, and then headed home to West Cork, so lunch involved a round trip of 500 kilometres.
We would drive it again tomorrow just to eat here.
You can expect property prices in Celbridge to rise by some 20% over the next 12 months. Call it the Canteen Factor.
Canteen Celbridge, 4 Main Street, Celbridge (01) 627 4967 canteencelbridge.ie