This past weekend, having finally recovered from a debilitating weeks-long seasonal cold (at long last regaining my appetite), I decided to indulge my newfound senses in one of the truly quintessential dishes to be had in all of Seattle. A crown jewel of our city, not to be missed if you are paying a visit – oeufs en meurette at Café Campagne. Two perfectly poached eggs balanced on top of buttery, toasted brioche, swimming in a thick red wine and foie gras reduction. The sauce is dark and rich and slightly sweet, bits of lardon and mushroom and browned pearl onions adding layers of salt and earth. Finally, to slice into the soft egg, to see and smell the bright yellow yolk as it slowly pools at the base of the bowl is to be reminded again why I first fell in love with the food in this town.
The inimitable French bistro that godfather of Seattle cuisine Peter Lewis initially envisioned as “intimate, sweet and informal” still retains its landmark status and culinary cred nearly two decades since opening in Post Alley. A seemingly endless list of shining local talent has passed through the kitchen of Café Campagne (or big sister Campagne upstairs) before moving on to make their own mark on the restaurant scene – Tamara Murphy, Jim Drohman, John Sundstrom, Craig Serbousek, Shannon Galusha, Scott Emerick, ad infinitum. The kitchen is currently in the capable hands of Chef Daisley Gordon, who we last saw battling Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America (spoilers over here). The quality of product and attention to detail remain unwavering.
It also doesn’t hurt that the space Café Campagne inhabits seems to exist out of time. The lights are as a low as the ceiling, the aged hardwood floors and blonde banquettes as charming as the white-sleeved, black-vested waitstaff. The ancient bar is cozy and comfortable, wine bottles stacked neatly on every surface. It’s all very traditional, from the Kir Royale to the Gamay Beaujolais (the wine list is suitably epic). There are nearly 30 bottles offered by the glass, and small pours are also available if you’re just interested in a little taste. Patio seating is coveted during the summer, perfect for watching the ebb and flow of Pike Place Market.
The menu at Café Campagne hits all the highlights of classic French bistro fare. Naturally I gravitate towards the croques, and while I must confess they are not my true favorites in town, the Savoyard is still quite lovely when tomatoes are in season, fresh from the market stall. Sandwiches are served open-faced on light, sweet crumb bread, and then buried under a dripping, melty mess of hot gruyère cheese. Add Parisian ham, add an egg, add a requisite side of long, thin pomme frites with aioli for dipping.
The lamb burger is also worth trying at least once. Served moist and rare, with grilled onions, pickled roasted peppers and balsamic vinegar, the mildly gamey meat mellows with each bite until you’re left with a remarkably pleasant aftertaste. Or perhaps fresh trout, sautéed in almond-lemon brown butter – it’s just as rich and decadent as it sounds. There’s Niçoise salade and cassoulet and house-cured salmon gravlax – but I’ll be perfectly honest, it’s a rare day that I’m at Café Campagne not eating the oeufs en meurette (see paragraph one). Someday maybe I’ll finally try a few more things on the menu. Someday. Maybe.