Attached to Gerry Byrne's very popular bar, The Left Bank, this lively restaurant in the centre of Medieval Kilkenny cleverly echoes the name and has an opulent French feel to it - which is matched on the plate by the very high quality ingredients used by heaf chef Paul Cullen and his team.
Set in the former Bank of Ireland bank, a handsome 1870 landmark building on The Parade, The Left Bank opened in 2008 and features an impressive main bar with a large outdoor smoking area and plasma screens for sports fans. Its sister restaurant, Rive Gauche followed in 2015 and, with luxurious deep red velvet drapes, crystal chandeliers, French pictures, low lighting, wine bottles a-plenty and a baby grand, it's an atmospheric venue.
'Kitchen and Cocktails' are the declared focus at Rive Gauche and customers can dine in the well-stocked cocktail bar (where there is a great collection of whiskeys) or the restaurant. The entrance is warm and enticing, with music floating out onto the street, a few tables set outside and a bright red awning, which stands out welcomingly from the grey of the surrounding stone buildings.
As you enter the restaurant with its warm low lighting, clinking of glasses, voices and laughter, you could imagine yourself being transported to the Paris of a century ago. The warm and friendly staff are quick to make newcomers welcome and the apparently haphazard arrangement of unmatched furniture in the three rooms which make up Rive Gauche is elegant and chic.
The Kitchen is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner and the carefully sourced menus are mainly à la carte, with a sandwich menu included at lunchtime and then a set two- or three-course menu offered for an early dinner. Head Chef Paul Cullen (formerly of Anocht at Kilkenny Design) brought his own style to The Kitchen, seen in specialities such as a Baked Camembert starter - a sharing dish served with pear & saffron chutney, carrot & fennel salad and crisp breads - and upbeat classics like Coquille St Jacques, the deliciously creamy scallop dish served retro-style on the shell.
Carnivores will love mains like Cote de Boeuf - a hearty sharing dish, served with duck fat chips and sauce béarnaise - and the 14 hour slow cooked shoulder of lamb, while vegetarians should enjoy innovative choices such as Vegetable Risotto Wellington. Desserts are high point - Whiskey Ice-Cream Coffee (homemade whiskey ice cream, shot of espresso and hazelnut choux bun), for example - and there's an Irish cheeseboard too. Alternatively, a dessert cocktail such as Tiramisu Martini or Lemon Meringue Pie Cocktail might provide a suitably decadent ending to a fine meal.
The drinks offering is outstanding at Rive Gauche, and there's a very good wine list including 16 house recommendations, all available by the glass, The list is mainly European but with some global wines, all with tasting notes.
With an opulent setting, really tasty cooking and excellent service of both food and wine, Rive Gauche offers a sense of occasion with good value - and, together with The Left Bank next door, where bar food is served from the same kitchen, it's a good place to know about in this intriguing medieval city.