When Camden Kitchen opened last April, it would have been quite easy to be cynical and dismiss it as yet another formulaic addition to the glut of mid-price bistros appearing in Dublin over the past two years. However, I realised how unfair this would have been when I dined there during August: in particular, a main course of rabbit wrapped in pancetta which was one of the best things I ate all year. It was only last month that I managed to get back to see if the standard was still as good.
The restaurant is owned by its head chef, Padraic Hayden, who previously gained much attention for his excellent, if somewhat expensive, cooking at the Dylan Hotel. And while very much in keeping with the trend towards cheaper and more casual dining there is still great finesse about the food being served.
My wife and I arrived for Sunday lunch at around 1.30 and got the last seat in the downstairs dining room so it might be wise to make a reservation to be sure of getting a table. Something you’ll notice when you get the menu is that it’s not divided into courses so you sort of have to guess using the prices as a guideline; only a minor inconvenience but still a bit annoying.
We decided to share a starter of smoked haddock croquettes with sorrel aioli, chorizo and cucumber. This was the highlight of the meal for me, beautifully presented and very well balanced as the smokiness of the fish and the chorizo didn’t dominate over the other ingredients; the cucumber added a cool, refreshing note and my only complaint was there could have been a bit more aioli.
For mains I ordered the Guinea fowl coq au vin with gnocchi and my wife ordered the skate, crushed potatoes and crab with brown butter and shrimp. I was disappointed with my choice, if something is described as coq au vin I would expect it to have been cooked in red wine with a sauce made from the braising liquid to accompany but instead I received an unadorned leg that was tepid verging on cold. It was a shame this dish was so average because I know the kitchen is capable of much better and I am willing to let it go this time given how good the food generally is here. There were no problems with our other main though which was excellent, the crab and potatoes being particularly good and complementing the fish in a lovely, understated way.
The wine list is quite brief but well chosen with all wines available by the glass: the viognier (€8.00) I ordered was outstanding. Service was very friendly and attentive and even as we were leaving we were given recommendations by the waiter for some dishes that would soon be on the menu so we could try them when we next came in. The total bill including tip came to just under €50.