Rustic and open-kitchen Michelin starred restaurant in Belfast serving affordable tasting menus only in the evening and set menus at lunch
The second of two Michelin starred restaurants in Belfast (as at 2017) that I visited on a very short trip to Belfast. There was a real sense of fun in the atmosphere on my visit here and this was fuelled by the bubbly staff. The open kitchen was a great thing to see – although there is definite risk with this for the staff for such a small kitchen to serve the upstairs and downstairs parts of the restaurant, it has a great effect on the diner and added to the the theatre of the dining experience. The food itself was simple in style and although not at the top of the one starred pyramid for me, the overall value for money was excellent for an evening meal within a Michelin starred restaurant (definitely one of the best returns in this category) and there was one absolute stand out food moment in the main which brought fireworks. A buzzing, rustic and decent experience that was ultimately great fun with competent dishes.
First up were beetroot and fennel crisp on ricotta which was fresh with a faint kick of fennel. This was light & delicate and a good start – happy. The Cannock butter was very good and nice in presentation but I found the bread plain and less exciting. The amuse bouche of lobster, pea purée, butter milk was again fresh and certainly pleasant and although there was a small miscommunication from the staff on the components, it was a pleasant dish. I asked to avoid crustaceans on this occasion which left out the pickled element, but it was pleasing none the less.
The asparagus, lardo, cheddar cheese mousse and truffle was a simple and pleasant dish with a classically pleasing combo from the cheese and truffle with perfectly cooked asparagus. No driving for me on this occasion so had nothing but pleasure in going for the tasting wines and this course was served with a beautifully light Pinot Noir which helped to soften the truffle well. The only element I didn’t quite gel with was the crisp and small pieces of lardo on top of the cheese as these felt a little like tiny pieces of grit and personally I would have preferred ones that weren’t quite so hard.
The turbot was fresh and enjoyable with an immediate hit of bergamot which, although is not my favourite additive, this is a personal preference and ultimately the lovely textures within this dish meant it simmered at just about ok as a ‘hit’. However, in contrast, the lamb dish was an absolute knock out. The meat was beautifully cooked with just a few elements on the plate as well which showed a level of control and combined with the miso sauce to accompany the lamb I was in utter heaven. I haven’t had this sort of immediate explosion since I was 10 years old and discovered hoi sin sauce to go with peking duck in pancakes for the first time at a childhood family celebration(!).
Thankfully dessert was highly satisfying as well and by this stage all previous luke warm moments had been replaced with totally revived sense of happiness. I also liked the way the ginger was calmed down by the sweet wine that was well chosen again by the sommelier. Petit fours came in an interesting and small selection of a Jasmin macaroon that was earthy, a pleasing passion fruit sweet and a rosemary aero which was slightly strange but nice strange at the same time.
I really enjoyed this meal and although a mixed bag on the food for me, I loved the rustic nature of the restaurant, the buz, the value for money and the firework show had on the main course. It was very good to meet the co-owner and chef after to convey the above and meet the architects of the experience. I left with a spring in the heels and would need absolutely no convincing to come back which I would do in a heartbeat – job well done chaps.
Food Grade: 76%
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