However, Campagne in Kilkenny city centre is doing so with aplomb. Chef Garrett Byrne, previously the head chef in Dublin's Chapter One, left the world of smears, foams and emulsions to go back to his native county and you get the impression he is cooking the food that means more to him.
Campagne uses seasonal and local ingredients to produce classically cooked and hearty dishes. Byrne utilises the whole of the animal and it is heartening to see under-used, so called, lesser cuts, some of which are not easy sells, appearing on his menu. Such as a first course of slightly crisp on the outside, but soft and tender in the middle, sweetbreads with pearl barley, it was rich and warming great first course. As was a ham and comte raviolo with creamed broad beans with a light mustard sauce. that cut through the natural saltiness of the ham. Main courses were hearty and indulgent, but everything was well executed. Perfectly cooked pigeon, peas a la Francaise with ham hock and potato boulangere was extremely moreish. A classic combination of duck, pink and tender, with cherries was decadent served with a creamy swede mash.
Desserts were light and extremely tasty. An indulgent but airy chocolate souffle was not overly rich like many can be. Baked lemon cream with raspberries, not too sweet as to kill the lemon cream, was light and a refreshing end to the meal.
Restaurants like Campagne, cooking classical, comforting food are needed as much as progressive and innovate establishments, but for some reason they are few and far between in Ireland and most attempting it are not doing it right. Sadly, there is none, that we know of at least, doing it this well in Dublin.
If you read the review, over a year ago, of our last meal at Campagne you may have noticed that we were not as complimentary about it then. That is because the mains were very poor on that occasion and this food, if not executed properly, can quickly become ordinary. Thankfully there were no such errors on this years visit, but consistency may be an issue.
The service is casual, but professional, friendly and very welcoming with a hospitable neighbourhood feel. The value isn't bad either and is helped by a very reasonable wine list.
Campagne is a restaurant serving comforting, indulgent, generous, classical food, cooked with love and care by a talented chef. We left Campagne well fed, well watered, satisfied, nourished and happy, which is exactly what this restaurant is all about.