Franciscan Cans of Beer

Tonight saw the launch of Franciscan Well canned craft beer. The beers are brewed in Cork and the venue for the launch was The Dark Horse in the Cathedral Quarter. 

On arrival we were handed a can of Rebel Red (a red ale) which was rather palatable. The Friar Weisse or wheat beer was also nice and not too bitter. Didn’t get to taste the Irish Pale Ale, although my mates said it was good!! The cans are colour coded (red, blue and green respectively).

There were prizes to be one for the funniest tweets, also a fine spread of finger foods laid on by The Dark Horse and all the while there was a live band keeping us entertained!! Big thanks to Michael and Ciara from Duffy Rafferty, to The Dark Horse-where,for the Game of Thrones fans, is the 10th carved door and lastly Franciscan Well!!

Souls Restaurant opening

The newest eatery in Belfast City Centre opened its doors this evening. It’s situated on the busy Dublin Road and occupies the old Square restaurant.

It’s the brainchild of Pankaj and Sommerdeep (and their wives!!) who have worked long and hard to make their dreams a reality. The whole building has been totally transformed and will do very well. The restaurant is split over two floors and has an open plan kitchen upstairs and bar downstairs. It can comfortably hold 85-90 diners.

The genre of food, head chef Sanjay explained was Indian food served in a European style- a proper Indo-Euro mixed cuisine. Sanjay has trained in the Hastings Group and Spice in Lisburn and his partner chef Rakesh has worked in Portugal, Spain and for Atul Kochar as well as at Taaj Jordanstown. They put on a fine assortment of canapés. These were  mushroom veloute, aubergine bruschetta, tandoori chicken cake, salmon and wheaten and lemon posset. There was prosecco on arrival and matched wines with the canapés. If the canapés are a reflection of the quality of the A la Carte Belfast is sure in for a culinary treat.

The Mash Direct Great Mashed Veg Off!!

It’s the start of our very own Mash Direct Great Mashed Veg Off!!!

The idea is to cook up some recipes, dishes, concoctions and fine fayre using one or more of the vast array of Mash Direct produce. 

I picked up my goodies at the week end and I’ve already cooked up some fab dishes- will keep you posted in due course!!!

Please cook and share on #MashedVegOff for a chance to win some prizes!!

Taaj Jordanstown- award winning restaurant

When Manjeev (partner and chef) and Pradeep (partner) arrived from India in 2004 and 2006 respectively, they never could have guessed that they would be the proud owners of two award winning, authentic and genuine Indian restaurants!! I spent a bit of time with Manjeev and here’s what I gleaned……

After arriving in NI, Manjeev worked in The Thunderdome in Glengormley for a couple of years before joining Crawfordsburn Inn restaurant in 2006 til 2013. He had a good education in India studying Hotel Management. He then worked for some high level hotels such as the Five Star Maurya Sheraton in New Delhi, this hotel is one of Delhi’s finest- I’ve eaten there and it is truly magnificent. The lure of the U.K. Was too strong and he arrived in NI in 2004. Along with his partner Pradeep they opened The Taaj in Magherafelt in 2013 and then in 2014 they opened the 75 seater Taaj in Jordanstown. They have been nominated for 2015 Irish Restaurant Awards and won The Best World Cuisine in Ulster as part of the 2016 Irish Restaurant Awards. They are one of my joint favourites in the category of Best Newcomer in the upcoming Irish Curry Awards 2016…. Vote here:

When I met Manjeev on Monday in Jordanstown he had donned the chefs hat and was at the coal face!! The regular chef Nirmal Rana had a well deserved day off!! Chef Rana came to NI in 2007 after being head chef at the 5 Star Oberoi in Shimla. He then worked in Spice in Lisburn before joining Taaj. Top quality chefs are very hard to come by (thanks to the EU immigration laws-that’s a whole new post!!) and command top salaries!!!

The Taaj has a very strong, characteristic logo of the Lion’s head and is very memorable-that’s just the decor. The service is top quality and the food standard, portion size and taste makes for very good value for money. I have eaten here before on numerous occasions as well as having food at outside catered events and private parties and at all times the food was special. Good, wholesome, authentic North Indian food. Manjeev was telling me that they are diversifying the menu and he let me try some crispy chilli chicken with Thai dressing on lettuce served with fries. Whilst being very tasty I got chef to rustle up a side of madras sauce-that really made all the difference. I’m certainly going to pay another visit very soon!!!

Fantastic Fish Feast For Four

Yep you read right….our meals last night were some of the best fish dishes We’ve had for some time!!!
We (my wife and two girls) arrived about 5pm. We were shown to our table by the general manager, Lauren, and served by a lovely, bubbly, pleasant young lady.

Whilst we sipped our chilled bottled water we ordered two kids meals of haddock and chips, bottle juice, ice cream (£6 each),

Strangford Mussels in creamy veloute and toast,

Bread selection and oils and tapenade,

Salmon, scallops, mash, broccoli, crayfish butter sauce (for my wife)

Sea bass, scallops, parsley mash, broccoli, crayfish butter sauce (me)

Onion rings £2.95

White creme brûlée with berry compote.(2 course £17.95, 3 course £22.95).

The haddock was crispy outside and the fish was flaky and kids loved it!! The mussels were superb-kids also loved them. Our mains of salmon and sea bass were perfectly crisped on the skin and the flesh was flaky and really good and the scallops and butter crayfish complimented it very well. My wife had plain madh anI had the parsley mash-staff and chef were very accommodating and made our trip very special!!

I was so pleased to have the food served on plain white crockery so the food was seen in all its glory .

The dessert of ice cream for the kids and our creme brûlée rounded off a perfect meal and experience. Will definitely be back to try out the A La Carte and possibly the Italian night or Christmas-check directly with Ivory for details.


Finnebrogue Hans Sloane Chocolate Festival

What a fabulous two day event in the lovely County Down Town of Killyleagh. 

The Finnebrogue Chocolate and Fine Food Festival celebrated the Life of Sir Hans Sloane and took place on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th September at the Killyleagh Castle Towers. Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Tourism NI and Tourism NI Year of Food and Drink are big supporters with principal sponsor being Finnebrogue Artisan.

Hans Sloane was born in Killyleagh in 1660. He was a famous physician and was President of The Royal Society and the Royal College of Physicians. As a young man he travelled to Jamaica and tasted chocolate which he described as “nauseous”. He believed chocolate was medicinal and came up with a recipe with milk and sugar to make it taste better. The recipe was adopted by the Cadbury brothers chocolate confection took off.

Before we actually entered the grounds we were fortunate to sample the fine produce from Mash Direct (I even got some goodie bags of Mash Direct produce which I’m going to try-thanks to Tim!!), also got to try locally produced chicken dishes and sweet dishes courtesy of Marks and Spencer’s (Moy Park and Genesis respectively). 

There were many “sweet” stalls showing off some very fine chocolates, sweets, preserveres, cakes and bakes. A selection can be seen below:

Also on offer were savouries eg meats, oils, butter and olives, again see above and below:

The central attraction was the live kitchen demos and I was lucky to see chef Chris serve up lots of Finnebrogue Artisan sausages, including three chilli sausage, pork and apple and breakfast sausages-I tried the three chilli and they sure packed a punch!!

There was plenty to do for kids outside the castle and inside courtesy of the Army and entertainers….even saw some Storm Troopers. What a fantastic way to spend a Sunday afternoon!!

Sausage pasta

Made a nice pasta dish for dinner this evening!! I fried off my Dohertys chorizo styled Pork sausages, cut them up and cooked them with chopped cauliflower, celery and fusilli whole meal pasta, before adding pasata and cream cheese. I seasoned and served with grated cheddar….delicious and simple. We all loved it!!