This week has been a week of indulgence. I've been very lucky to spend time with friends and colleagues dining on some delicious eats and enjoying the good atmospheres and company in some of Northern Ireland's most popular and acclaimed restaurants. If I was the sort I would be sticking #blessed on everything.
The week started in Ballyhackamore at Il Pirata, one of my favourite Belfast restaurants, for a quick lunch with one of my best friends before we dived in to a busy day shopping at Ikea. We started with a cocktail and shared sourdough with tapenade. I'm one of those people who hate olives but loves tapenade. Add garlic and anchovies to anything and I will love it. For main I had the duck ragu with spinach and gnocchi. I always end up getting some form of ragu in Il Pirata and they rarely disappoint. I will have to say that I prefer getting my gnocchi as a side rather than part of the main dish. It loses the slightly crunchy, buttery, garlicky wonderfullness in the sauce. I'll know better for next time. Dessert was tiramisu and isn't pictured because I cannot leave a tiramisu alone long enough to take a picture. You'll have to take my word that it looked and tasted heavenly.
Two courses and a cocktail came to exactly 20 per person.
Sunday provided another bout of foodie heaven in Made In Belfast. Situated beside city hall it was perfect for a pre-shopping meet up of some blogger friends to chat over shared interests at lunch before hitting the town. Made in Belfast probably wouldn't have been my first choice as I do tend to find it a bit cramped but thankfully it wasn't too busy and we were able to enjoy ourselves and spread out with our cocktails; I had the flat white martini to give me a boozy caffeine kick.
For starter I had the chicken liver parfait with apple compote. We opted for the pre-theatre menu which on Sundays is served all day. This meant that we could go all out! Main was Irish rump steak with peppered sauce and beef fat chips. I'll be honest and say that I usually choose a steak option when the rest of the menu doesn't excite me but I also knew that these chips are amazing so it made the choice a little easier.
Dessert was panacotta with a raspberry coulis and fresh made doughnut. The doughnut was still warm from the fryer and had that melting quality that you get from the little Dinky Donut stalls in markets. It was the best part of a very good meal.
2 Course for 15
3 Courses for 18.50 plus 3 steak supplement
On Thursday I was very privileged to be invited up to Derry/Londonderry to visit Browns Restaurants sampling their different venues and showcasing their suppliers.
We started with canapés in Browns In Town (the more casual of the Browns family) where we were able to talk to suppliers and find out more about their product. Maybe it's just the food nerd in me but I find it much more appealing to eat the Donnybrewer butter knowing that it's hexagonal shape is a nod to the basalt rocks on which their farm sits (think Giant's Causeway); or that the Banagher Bold cheese has been washed in ale and tasting that it really benefits from that. All cheese should hereby be ale washed.
Next we hopped back on our tour bus over the river to the Michelin recommended, and recently proclaimed Destination Delicious, Browns Restaurant and Champagne Bar. Here we were treated to demos from head chef and co-owner, Ian Orr, and a beautiful four course dinner. Our two starters were seared scallop with confit egg & pomegranite and a crab salad with pickled cucumber and apple jelly. Both seafood elements were cooked beautifully but the star, for me and many others, was the egg. It had the consistencey of a cold mayonnaise or a not quite room temperature butter but with the warm rich yolky flavour of the egg. I've never had anything like it but I could eat it a thousand times over and never tire.
Main was Born and Braised. Northern Ireland's new signature dish of braised beef cheeks with beetroot. The beef was slow cooked to perfection. This typically fatty cut of meat had melted so perfectly that my knife was never lifted from its place. The thing I love most is that the recipe for Born and Braised is not a closely guarded secret, it is being shared wide so that it can really become personalised and embedded in our culture. I have plans to make my own version this weekend.
Dessert was a tittilating dome of white chocolate sabayon with rubarb and gold leaf; a final golden touch to an evening of decadence. We were truly spoiled.