Camden Kitchen
3 Camden Market
Grantham Street
Dublin 8
Phone: 01 476 0125

Irish Daily Mail
30 April 2016

It’s all happening, as far as food is concerned, in Dublin 8 these days. There’s Bastible and Richmond to name but two places that are wooing the gastronomic adventurers of the city. The local market, drawn from all those cute and expensive Victorian redbricks, is blessed with being able to walk to good food in mere minutes.

Camden Kitchen was ahead of the curve, opening in 2010 with very intricate and quite ambitious cooking. Six years later, the style is more relaxed and homely but the quality remains the same. This is food worth travelling for; and I don’t mean from your Farrow & Balled terrace in Portobello.

We repaired there – having booked, thankfully – on a Friday evening and the place was busy, full of punters who, at first glance at least, appeared to be much the same kind of folk as you see at Bastible and Richmond and various other restaurants of similar ilk. They may be regulars at the much vaunted Delahunt too, a place I left in what is called high dudgeon on my first and only visit. It is highly spoken of by Dublin’s gastro gnomes.

Anyway, at the risk of sounding like Eamon Dunphy, I can report that we had a very good meal, if not a truly, breathtakingly great one.

A starter of Fivemiletown goat’s cheese from County Tyrone – white as a sheet, very pure and fresh – that had been turned into a mousse was good, simple bistro food. It came with filaments of crisp Pink Lady apple (the popularity of which amongst chefs tends to puzzle me, as a fan of Granny Smiths), black sesame seeds and pomegranate seeds. There was a delicious form of cracker for scooping and for contrast in texture.

Goat’s cheese is, admittedly, getting a bit tired on Irish menus at this stage; it’s unusual to find a menu without some form of it, a bit like sundried tomatoes way back. It’s a bit of a cliché but this starter was a reminder that it can do very good things. It’s also a very good palate cleanser at any stage in a meal and clearly a sensible way to start.

Our other starter, based on pork neck and black pudding from the Offaly free range producers, Pigs on the Green, was a reminder of Camden Kitchen in the early days. A picture on a plate, an exercise in crispness contrasting with the sweet, earthy softness of beetroot purées, both yellow and red, it looked as good as it tasted. Unusually, too, it was a pork starter that was so light as to be almost ethereal.

We fought over the mains which were, to be honest, so similar as to be virtually identical. They were, essentially, potato gnocchi with fresh peas and mushrooms, one with a poached egg, one with a roasted chicken breast. I suppose had we read the menu more carefully we would not have been surprised when the dishes hit the table.

The little gnocchi were very good, with that elusive texture that home cooks find very difficult to emulate. The peas and mushrooms, somewhat surprisingly, worked very well together. The chicken, billed as being from Cavan, was full of flavour and properly seasoned. The poached egg that provided the protein in the other version, was delightfully runny and generously proportioned.

The verdict? Very pleasant, both of them. Not awe inspiringly pleasant, but no hardship to eat. It can be mildly irritating to find two very similar dishes on the same menu but not nearly as annoying as the “same sauce with everything” that is more common than many people think.

Puddings were elegant, even the dark chocolate fondant which at this stage is, so to speak, a hoary old chestnut. But it was given a fillip by being flavoured with five spice, that strangely lovely Asian seasoning, and accompanied by a coconut sorbet and clever coconut mousse. A combination of rhubarb granita, biscuity crumbs and creamy, vanilla pannacotta was delightful.

In a world where restaurant kitchens don’t have to cook anything at all because whole menus can be delivered by the food service truck, it’s important to salute, value and appreciate the ones that create your dishes from scratch on the premises. That’s what Camden Kitchen does, and it does it very well.

Service was brisk but pleasant, as were a couple of espressos.