Ever notice how rare it is to see groups of men dining out together in Ireland? I only spotted this myself a few years ago, while travelling through Argentina. I remember being surprised by the number of large groups of men all enjoying a long meal and wine together in a good steakhouse. Most Irish blokes catch up over pints in the pub and maybe a quick stop at the chipper if they’re lucky. It seems a shame that this social nicety so enjoyed by the rest of the population should be lost on Irish men. I was reminded of this when I visited Vie de Châteaux, a French restaurant pleasantly located along the canal in Naas. It was a busy enough Wednesday night and a large table of men were breaking bread together beside me, and appeared to be having a wonderful time doing so. Alas, just when I thought perhaps our ways were changing, the French and German accents interspersed with a couple of Irish ones made their way over to me. So not quite there yet then. Still, I took the presence of the French diners as an encouraging sign.
Vie de Châteaux’s wine list is clearly presented and easy to read but, best of all, a selection of house wines are offered by the bottle as well as by the carafe, the large glass and the small glass: such a simple idea but a clever one. It meant I could enjoy a small glass of Sancerre for €5 with my seafood starter before moving on to red for my meaty main without going over budget.
The food menu is equally straightforward. Starters are €8; mains are €18; desserts are €7, with a three-course set menu available for €29. Blackboards specials offer the chance to splash out slightly.
The special of home-marinated salmon with cucumber tagliatelle and wasabi dressing (€9) sounded interesting, but there was no competing with the simple yet unbeatable sautéed Dublin Bay prawns in a white wine and garlic butter sauce (€14.50). If you’ve never tasted Dublin Bay prawns before, please do so immediately – there really is no comparison between these melt-in-the-mouth local morsels bathed in a butter sauce and their imported, chewier cousin, the tiger prawn.
My companion wasn’t faring too badly either with the piquillos peppers stuffed with goat’s cheese. The strong, sweet flavour of the peppers was mellowed out by the soft and delicate goat’s cheese, while the crunchy bites of Provençal vegetables added some welcome texture.
The French classic of Chateaubriand is a particularly tender and flavourful cut of beef fillet. Served traditionally with shallots confit, béarnaise sauce, green beans and French fries (€27), it featured as one of the specials of the evening, vying for attention against stone bass with scallops and leek fondue with a lemon and caper butter (€26.50). The former won out, and it lived up to all expectations. The thick piece of steak was served on the French side of medium rare. Everything from the flavourful meat to the crispy skinny fries, the buttery green beans, the sweet shallots and the indulgent béarnaise was cooked to perfection. As hard as it was to compete, the second main of roasted pork fillet and suckling pig chop stood its ground – the chop proving particularly succulent, paired with a sweet apple purée and a dark, rich cider sauce. The small parcel of filo pastry encasing some very good black pudding stole the show.
After enjoying every morsel of such rich food, dessert seemed like a monumental task. Unsurprisingly, the French classics were well represented on the list, from a cherry and vanilla crème brûlée to a strawberry macaron with pistachio cream and a balsamic reduction and a warm chocolate fondant with carmelita ice cream. Yet it was the special of the Belgian waffle with a simple yet rich chocolate sauce and some good quality vanilla ice cream (€7.50) that caught my companion’s attention. Perhaps not everyone’s choice after such a heavy meal but he enjoyed this rendition all the same.
Two decent coffees rounded off what had been a wonderful meal of classic French cooking. With food like this, it’s no surprise that Vie de Châteaux is bucking the trend, having expanded in recent times to include more casual cafés in Naas, Punchestown and The Curragh. More power to them.
We loved the wine list choice, the prawns and the steak
We spent €110.40 on two starters, two mains, one dessert, two coffees, a bottle of red and a small glass of white wine
Vie de Châteaux
Tel: +(0)45 888 478;