Thursday, 25 August 2011

Northern Bound Part 1 - Harrys

So, my Aunt lives in Portstewart Count Derry and she kindly lent us her house whilst she went to see the military tattoo in Edinburgh. This presented a great opportunity, as if an excuse was needed, to sample some Northern food hotspots. @HarrysDonal, Harrys in Bridgend Donegal and @DerekCreagh in the Salty Dog Hotel Bangor were the chosen ones.  Both have been getting plenty of glowing press reviews and/or award recently.
I was going to keep this brief because
a) I’m not that good a writer
b) I read some tips on restaurant reviewing for bloggers and there were so many words & phrases that are an absolute no no it seems (unctuous, to die for)

but I failed!
So’s in Bridgend just over the border from Derry, housed in a modern building with a nicely decorated comfortable split level restaurant. The ethos is ‘Made in Inishowen’...local food by local people, meaning that all of the ingredients are either grown, made or sourced from the Inishowen peninsula. It’s an ethos they are obviously and rightly very proud of.

Donal (the co-owner I think), was extremely helpful via Twitter and once I tweeted my presence, he came out and said hello and checked it was all good. A friendly touch and the help and welcome were really appreciated.
We arrived about 4:30 as the full evening menu and early bird kicks off at 4pm. There were a surprising number of people (well to me anyway, propbably not for Harrys) there for a Tuesday at that time and plenty of staff. We have a 2 yr old and he was well looked after...a high chair quickly supplied and his plate of chips came out first in lightening quick time. They  were beautifully crispy and fluffy; real homemade chips are hard to beat.

My wife picked the early bird, Greencastle prawns fresh of the boat the previous day and a locally reared pork plate.  I went a la carte and ordered the Greencastle Seafood plate, the Inishowen Lamb tasting plate, a side of Dauphinoise and buttered cabbage grown in Harrys own walled garden that they’ve been carefully restoring. We got quick pleasant friendly service; beautiful homemade bread and butter arrived soon after ordering, along with our drinks and we felt very relaxed despite having to entertain a 2yr old.

The prawns both of agreed were beautifully sweet, slightly garlicky but not over-powered with it, no need for lots of sauce, the produce spoke for itself. I could have eaten a good few more but mine was served with a lobster claw which had been poached in herbs I think, it had a nice back taste anyway, some crab on toast and a seafood salad mix.
Greencastle Seafood Plate - (not a great pic sorry, a bit on the bright side but you get the drift)
My wife’s pork plate was very tasty...she thought her sauce was a little sweet. It might have been a little over-reduced but I thought it was fine. I had a similar sauce with my lamb plate which had neck, rump, loin, rack and rib. It had a good strong flavour...nothing like the insipid supermarket stuff. The Dauphinoise and buttered cabbage were put together with loving care....the sides are sometimes the best bit and I think they know that.

Lamb Plate 



We couldn’t do dessert which was a shame. We were just too full. Not that the portions were ‘agricultural’ (borrowing the descriptor from Lucinda O’Sullivan to describe a portion she received)...they were exactly right...we had just had a late breakfast so note to self, don’t eat anything before going to Harrys again!

So we had a big plate of chips, 2 starters, 2 mains, 2 sides, a coffee, a bottle of house white wine, a glass of Bordeaux red to go with my lamb and the bill was €78. Pretty great considering the quality of the food.
I later found out that the Head Chef @raymoranchef was onholiday so thanks to his sous chef @Johnny_Heaney for cooking the food!

I'll definitely be back and I think a few of my Portstewart relatives will be along soon for a gander.

Part 2  to follow soon.