Pop your head into Campo di Fiore, and you’ll step back in time to 2007. Here’s a restaurant that’s full every night, and yet its prices are relatively high.
I took my sister Cathy there for her birthday a few weeks ago, and my then-pregnant other sister joined us too (she’s since given birth to the lovely Dylan – congratulations Barbara! – and made me go all soppy over babies).
The superbly poorly translated, extensive menu raised a few laughs. It features such delights as “Smocked Salmon” and colourful but not silly descriptions of the food on offer: “Rombo al vino blanco: the end that every brill wants, to die in white wine” and “Agnello Scottadito: Scottadito means a thing that makes burn your fingers, because is used to eat without cutlery.”
Some of the Italian waiters didn’t have particularly good English, which occasionally made things a little complicated. But that’s forgivable, as the staff were not only friendly, but genuinely warm and hospitable. Only a sociopath couldn’t fall for their charms. The end result is a place with a very authentic Italian feel – rare enough in Ireland.
An irrestible platter of fresh bread, served with garlic and chilli oils, got things off to a perfect start. Cathy ordered Bruschetta with Mushrooms, while Barbara and I both opted for the Minnestrone. Our soups were made just as real Minnestrone should be: free of tomatoes and pasta, good strong broth, and lovely fresh vegetables. Cathy’s starter was utterly inedible: rock hard toasted bread and stone-cold mushrooms. We sent it back and, in fairness, it was replaced by a Minnestrone without quibble – although they didn’t take the additional soup off the bill.
The mains didn’t disappoint at all. Barbara’s Grilled Sea Bass – a delicious fish that’s often whipped out of a restaurant’s freezer or ruined by cheffiness – was really special: delicately fresh and perfectly dressed. Cathy’s lasagna was fine, as good as any Italian restaurant, although I think this dish could be a little cheaper than €13.80. I went for the house special – Lamb Cutlets with Red Wine, Olives, and Herbs. This was real, old-style, pre-tomato Italian food. The wine sauce was rich and thin, and the quality of all the ingredients really stood out. The house wine was piss, but as Barbara got great pleasure in telling me, I should have known better.
- Three Minestrone Soups @ €6.90 – €20.70
- Spigola alla Griglia (Grilled Sea Bass) – €24.90
- Lasagna – €13.80
- Special (Lamb) – €24.60
- Insalata Mista (Mixed Salad) – €4
- Glass Red Wine – €5.50
- Large Sparkling Water – €3.70
Total Before Tip: €101.20
This is just very slightly pricier than most average Italian restaurants. Some of the prices, such as a (small) Mixed Salad for €4 and a Lasagna for €13.80, are wide of the mark (I hear a rumour that they have reduced their prices since I was there – anyone care to confirm?). Spending €24.60 on a main course is something I rarely can or want to do, but this was worth every cent: I’m drooling just writing about it.
Overall, I think this restaurant is very good value, as the food and atmosphere are really excellent, and I’ll definitely be going back. Meanwhile, there’s a Campo di Fiore deli just across the road, which I reckon is worth checking out.