Silken Thomas is right in the middle of Kildare town, and there's plenty of parking in the triangle outside. You might expect to find a quiet centre now that Kildare has been bypassed, but you'd be wrong. It's busy, and a constant stream of cars went by the window while we ate.
There's a new motto for Silken Thomas, "Eat, drink, dance, sleep" – all things you can do here. I wondered briefly about the dancing, but in the end we confined ourselves to the eating and drinking.
Being a midweek night we got menus that carried the title "pre-theatre menu". What theatre you might go to after a meal in Kildare I'm not sure, but it was well-priced, offering two courses for €18.95 and three for €21.95. A quick scan of the wine list revealed the same kind of pricing. It may have been a short list, but when did you last see bottles of wine listed at €16.95? In Dublin that's a price last seen many years ago. And this: the most expensive on the list is €24.95, a price where many wine lists start.
When it came to ordering drinks, Adam had a good idea. "Do you have non-alcoholic beer?" he asked. Indeed they did – Becks non-alcoholic. I should think of that more often, as it actually tastes like beer and you can drink it without fear of running up against the boys in blue. We had a bottle each, and later a glass of wine each.
The pre-theatre menu had eight starters and nine main courses as well as four steaks, each with a supplement. Adam ordered the cod roulade to start and followed with a nine-ounce rib-eye, while I started with Tom Crean's prawns and followed that with confit duck leg.
The starters were well-presented: Adam had four rounds of a creamy cod roulade flavoured with lemon, lime and chorizo and it worked well. I had what the menu described as beer-battered jumbo shrimp – five large shrimp in a crisp batter served with char-grilled courgettes and thousand island dressing. This turned out to be charged at €3, as part of the pre-theatre deal – extraordinary value.
As ever, once outside Dublin, portion sizes grow. Silken Thomas was no exception – you'd need to arrive very hungry to finish everything on your plate. Adam had a good-sized rib-eye put before him with his choice of pepper sauce on the side, while my confit duck leg came on a bed of gratin potatoes cooked with carrot and celeriac. As well as that, we had bowls of chef's vegetables and crispy onion rings, and Adam's steak came with chunky chips.
The confit duck leg was perfectly cooked, crisp on the outside, yet tender enough to be pulled off the bone with just a fork. I tried a bit of Adam's rib-eye and found it tasty but a little hard to chew. That does seem to be the trade-off with meat. Tender tends to go with flavourless, while chewier cuts tend to have the flavour.
We found room for desserts: Adam ordering a velvet tart and me a scoop of mint ice-cream. The velvet tart was composed of cream, raspberries and chocolate on a pastry base and it made Adam happy. Clearly unable to give me a single scoop, I was given two, served in a dish made of the stuff wafers are made of with a couple of sprigs of fresh mint. Both simple desserts, but tasty.
I thought the menu was well designed, being a mix of classic pub food – things such as chicken wings, pate, garlic mushrooms – and more restaurant-like dishes such as lemon sole with samphire and beurre blanc and barramundi fillet with chickpea and chorizo cassoulet. And after Dublin prices, the set menu looks positively economical. Our bill came to €81.75.