I handed my copy of The Dubliner 100 Best Restaurants to himself during the week as it was his turn to choose where to dine this weekend. He chose The Camden Kitchen which pleased me as I’d eaten lunch here before and thought it was excellent. It fell to me, as usual, to make the booking. A quick phone call on Thursday secured a table for two, on Saturday evening, at eight o’clock. There was no mention of wanting the table back for a second sitting so everything was hunky dory.
We arrived punctually and as we approached the restaurant I could see that there were two tables for two just inside the door near the front window. I also noticed a second couple approaching from across the street so we rushed in ahead of them and got the better table. You snooze, you lose.
The Camden Kitchen is a tight space. These was seating for about twenty four downstairs and the waiter told me that another twenty two could sit upstairs. The downside of such a tight space is that the entrance door opens directly into the restaurant and despite the best efforts of a glass screen a lot of cold air rushed in every time it opened. On a cold January night this is a bad thing.
The staff were very friendly and efficient. The maître d’ brought us the menu and indicated that there were specials on the blackboard. We took a while reading through it and, after discussing the nature of the partridge dish with the maître d’, we made our choices. I opted for mushroom soup with truffle cream and himself went for the ‘Goats Cheese Croquettes, Beetroot Purée, Winter Leaves’ as recommended by the authors of The Dubliner 100 Best Restaurants. For mains I chose sea bream served with cauliflower risotto, crab ravioli and froth and hubby chose the partridge special of the evening. This was a whole partridge (halved) served on toasted baguette with pâté and mushrooms. My partner was well impressed with the wine list and had a long chat about it with the mâitre d’. He informed us that the restaurant manager (off duty on the night) was just short of getting her final sommelier exams and that she particualrly chose wines from smaller producers. We ordered a pinot noir.
The starters arrived. My soup was served in a kilner jar and I must say it was absolutely yummy, the truffle cream transformed an ordinary soup into something special. I am not a fan of goats cheese but I am assured that this was a fine starter too. It certainly looked great, there was a light layer of crumbs all over the cheese and the colour was lovely. I think himself was just short of licking the plate clean.
The main courses were served promptly. When my sea bream arrived the foam had almost disappeared, which was disappointing. The fish was really good, the risotto sublime but the crab ‘raviolo’ was below par, the pasta being far too chewy. Himself loved the taste of the partridge but didn’t love the effort of trying to get it off the bones. But that wasn’t the fault of the restaurant, that was his own problem.
We had a look at the dessert menu and I was tempted by the mango/coconut rice pudding, but having had risotto earlier I had to choose something lighter. I went for the bourbon vanilla panna cota and himself ordered the rice pudding. Both desserts were absolutely top notch. I loved the carpaccio of pineapple that came with mine and felt for the poor person whose task it was to slice it so thinly. We skipped coffee but hubby was tempted to a digestif and ordered a black Muscat.
The restaurant was absolutely full to bursting. A lot of ‘walk ins’ were turned away and there was even a little bit of confusion about booked tables. The upshot of all this was that the couple sitting next to us were asked to finish early and were compensated by being given free after dinner drinks. The downside was that ten minutes later, at 09:55, we were also asked – in the most polite manner – if we could finish up and go. We weren’t offered a free drink, nor was the price of the dessert wine discounted from the bill. We paid our bill, had a dispsute between ourselves about the size of the tip and left.
Despite one or two minor hiccups I would recommend visiting this restaurant. Request a seat upstairs or away from the door when the weather is cold. And, when making a reservation, make sure that the table will be yours for the night.