As I’ve mentioned before, Big Sister is always spot-on with her recommendations for great places to eat in Dublin. High on the list of must-tries was Camden Kitchen. During her week-long visit to the Emerald Isle, we ventured into town with The Mammy for a girly lunch.
Formerly Havana, Camden Kitchen now takes pride of place on Grantham Street in the building block that used to house Camden Market in the early 20th Century. Now that we’ve gotten the boring history bit out of the way, let’s talk about the restaurant itself.
Online, the photos are light, bright and airy, with paintings of a white horse that may or may not have been the star attraction of that film about lovable travellers, Into The West, back in 1992. Said photos were certainly enough to lure me in, almost regardless of the menu. We arrived at around 2pm on the Thursday, sans reservation (I think it’s a genetic thing, this compulsion to just show up and assume we’ll get a table). Unfortunately, the downstairs dining area was full so we agreed to head upstairs. I was surprised by the “vintage clothing store” aroma and the upstairs area’s resemblance to the nuns’ dining room in the convent that adjoins my old primary school. I thought navy blue carpet an odd choice for a restaurant, considering downstairs is warm scuffed wood. Well, never mind, who doesn’t like a bit of old school décor?
God bless the lone server who was run off his feet. He brought us our menus, on slabs of hard wood. We ordered the Gambas and Chorizo as an appetiser. It was quite tasty; the little chunks of spicy sausage, though hard to find, were great. The prawns arrived still dressed which freaks The Mammy out a little (and if I’m being honest, I try not to look too closely at these creatures, the caterpillars of the sea) so I shelled one or two for her. They were delicious and sweet, just like prawns ought to be.
On to the main event. The Mammy ordered the Field Mushroom Soup with Truffled Cream. Big Sister had the Crispy Duck with Truffled Mashed Potato. I had the Pork Belly with Lentils, Mustard Mash and Black Pudding (no surprise there).
The soup was really lovely, I must say, even though I am not a fan of mushrooms. It was so creamy and buttery with a hint of truffle in the foamy cream at the top. I’d have eaten a bowl of it myself. Big Sister’s duck was delicious, good and crispy on the outside, moist and gamey on the inside. The black pudding on my dish was great: really fresh and slightly soft and mushy on the inside. The smoked pieces of ham scattered throughout the lentils really made this dish something special. The mash was a bit strong on the mustard side for me but hey, if you like mustard, you’ll love it. As for the pork belly: I am a raging fiend when it comes to pork belly. I must always have it. On this occasion I was slightly disappointed. The cut of meat was quite large, twice the size it would normally be in most restaurants I’ve visited. I believe I got the end piece so that could explain its massive proportions. It was very crispy on top – almost too crispy – to the extent that cutting it without a steak knife was tricky and brought to mind that dinner scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where the turkey is so dry that Chevy Chase and family have great difficulty chewing. The fat was a bit much and overwhelmed the good meat that was hidden somewhere in the middle. I couldn’t finish it. Also, this dish was more expensive than the duck which I thought puzzling as it is typically a cheap cut of meat but perhaps the other ingredients skewed the price somewhat.
But on to dessert! It was the Passion Fruit Crème Brulée with Shortbread and Passion Fruit Sorbet for me, Madeleines with Anise Wafer, Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce for Big Sister. The sorbet was fab. I could have done without the passion fruit in the crème brulée itself, it wasn’t really strong enough to make an impact: I forgot it was there until I came across what I believed were interloping capers that had somehow made their way into my dessert. The Madeleines were big and spongey and while this isn’t typical of Madeleines it isn’t a criticism – they were really nice! Extra points go for the kaboom taste of the anise wafer. Anything that delicate that packs such a punch is impressive to me.
The bill, including a coffee, a rioja for Big Sister and a rosé for me, came to €80. All told, it was a pricey enough lunch that did not quite earn sufficient bang for our buck. They could do with trimming a euro or two off several of the dishes, desserts included, as there was nothing here that would really blow your socks off.