4 Main Street
Co. Kildare
Phone: 01 627 4967

One of the best places in which to eat (and drink – the wine list is quirkily exciting) on the island. And all the better for being somewhat hidden away in Celbridge.

Down a lane in the dormitory town of Celbridge you will find the latest manifestation of James Sheridan’ and Soizic Humbert’s particular geniuses, they being the immensely talented pair who ran Canteen in Blackrock (now Heron & Grey). They paused briefly to embrace the happy event of parenthood and moved closer to home.

The result is a happy event for all of us who have any feeling for food

It’s not just good food, of course. It’s thoughtful cooking; in fact it’s very considered cooking and it’s not unduly influenced by fads or fashion. It’s the kind of food that takes not just a great deal of experience to produce the required level of confidence; it needs a certain kind of mind. The food at Canteen is, if you like, highly intelligent. (James Sheridan has worked at Gidleigh Park and with both Kevin Thornton and Graham Neville; but he’s very much his own chef).

And now, just in case this sounds all a bit heavy and joyless, I must hasten to add that it’s also fun. When Canteen was a bright ruby in the dust amidst the tat and tawdry charm of Blackrock Market, there was sense of adventure to the place, eating the kind of food that would seem perfectly at home in a Michelin-starred joint in a tiny space where the menu was hung on the wall.

And that sense of adventure and fun continues in Celbridge. While nobody could describe it as a big restaurant it’s vast compared to the tiny space in Blackrock. And the kitchen is, well, kitchen-sized; this must be sheer luxury after years of cooking in something that made the average broom cupboard seem airy.

We, the customers, benefit too if we are prepared to forsake the sweet security of the south Dublin suburbs. Celbridge may not be on the Dart, but there’s a perfectly decent bus service. The benefit for us is increased comfort (the unfussy, stripped down restaurant interior is all about clean lines, smart minimalism, clever use of space and light) and a more extensive menu; now when I say extensive, I mean compared to the no-choice one that held sway in the Blackrock days. It’s still reassuringly compact and constantly changing in response to the seasons and what’s good on the day.

There are some regular features, however. The lamb rump, which is stuff of legend amongst Canteen’s afficionados, is deceptively simple, very rare without being raw in the middle, presented with buckwheat spatzle (tiny flecks of something between dumpling and pasta) a delightfully different vehicle for the intense yet restrained jus, the melting leek and sweet but pungent garlic.

I am hoping that what the menu baldly described as “ham and egg on toast with girolles” will go on forever or at least for as long as this, perhaps the greatest of all mushrooms, is in season. Why? Because of the sheer delicacy of this brilliant starter. The egg fried but soft, the tiny round of toast crisp, the intensely savoury combination of ham, peas and mushroom, the smooth, sweetish pea puree and crunch of fresh pea shoots.

See what I mean about intelligent cooking? Every element balanced, poised, perfect.

As if this were not enough, you also get an equally intelligent, thoughtful wine list with delightfully maverick tendencies that, like the food, delivers on value for money.

In summary? One of the best places in which to eat (and drink) on the island. And all the better for being somewhat hidden away in Celbridge.