Wonderful lunch at Gillies

My family (wife and two daughters) came to Gillies Bar & Grill for a truly wonderful lunch. Just so happened that it was on the day of Chinese New Year (Rooster).


 So we thought we would celebrate by having some Chinese food and on looking at the menu there was quite a choice of worldly cuisines to pick from!! There was a real global feel to the menu.

Gillies is a 140 seater bar/grill which is part of the Galgorm Hotel & Spa complex. It has its own separate driveway entrance and an internal entrance from the hotel. It is split over 3 levels and on busy days people can dine in the bar. 


We parked in the restaurant car park and walked through the well kept garden area and past Fratelli’s restaurant to get to the grill.

Our table was booked for 13.30 and when we arrived the main dining area was packed and there was a super atmosphere. The restaurant area is very well laid out with a definite theme of farm animals painted on the high ceilings and walls and a huge centre piece chimney/fire place. On arrival we were shown to our reserved table which had two kids menus and two adult menus already on the table. Main course cutlery was wrapped in a large napkin with a chocolate enclosed-great touch!!

We ordered pork and leek sausages and skinny fries with beans and pasta carbonara for the kids whilst my wife and I had starters of prawn cocktail and Bang Bang chicken. Firstly we asked for kids meals to come with our starters which happened and we divided the kids meals so they could share. The sausages were delicious as was the pasta and our prawn cocktail and chicken was amazing, there was a drizzle of satay sauce on the chicken which enhanced the dish.


For mains my wife ordered salt and chilli chicken and chips and I had the ribs which came with onion rings and creamy coleslaw with garlic potatoes and pepper sauce. My ribs were really “melt in your mouth” and the sides were a great accompaniment. My wife’s chicken was exactly like Chinese chefs cook it with a nice soy sauce flavour. 

For dessert the girls had ice cream with marshmallow and chocolate drops-so between that ant the fruit juices was sugar overload!!!! I had a caramel latte and wife had hot chocolate orange.
The food, environment and service was absolutely superb. We spent a while in the grounds walking it all off and reminiscing my little sisters wedding which took place in the Great Hall-my two daughters loved the gardens and the river and waterfall whilst we were eyeing up the outdoor thermal spa. We shall definitely be back to check out the hotel, spa and other restaurants in the future. Check my blog for all pictures.

Faith and actions

I feel compelled to write this. There are many people out there who claim to be or are supposedly “men of the cloth” in whatever religion and act as clergy accordingly BUT still do what is against their own faith i.e. Serve meat/alcohol and/or beef/Pork. They call themselves holy men or followers if their faith…..what a joke-they don’t know their own faith!!!!

Take Muslims, it is haraam to drink or serve alcohol yet many do. For Jews and Muslims it is anti kosher to eat or sell pork yet many do. For Hindus, especially the clergy, they are not allowed to serve meat or alcohol yet many do AND carry out clergy functions. Is this the height of hypocrisy? Please advise me on belfastfoodman@hotmail.com

Real Slow Smoked BBQ at Bubbacue

I had the pleasure of spending just over an hour with John Blisard and staff at Bubbacue, one morning before opening. Pay close attention to the article as there will be three questions at the end for a chance to win a £20 voucher for Bubbacue, T+C will be at end of article.

 

John hails from Philadelphia and was brought to Belfast in 2007 by his good lady (who is local). They then started Boojum and then opened Bubbacue in late November 2012. It was only meant to be a pop up restaurant slated to close in February 2013. Roll on to 2017 it is still going strong and is part of the fabric of Belfast dining culture. In 2015 Boojum was sold so John could concentrate on Bubbacue. There will be a new one opening, in Belfast, all being well in April this year……..watch this space.

 

Bubbacue uses all locally sourced and grown ingredients where possible (all meat and spuds are N. Irish) and all menu items are prepared by hand and freshly cooked every day, including the coleslaw, salads, bbq sauces, onion chutney, pickles, corn bread, mac & cheese, iced tea and freshly squeezed lemonade. They use the best rice available, Basmati, for his Cajun rice. They have a drinks licence for beer and cider only. He calls his style “Fast Casual dining” which means its good quality food, served quickly, made freshly hence there are no freezers or microwaves on site. Bubbacue is a trend setter and indeed many US customers who have been also comment that the meat in Bubbacue is better than the meat they have had back in the States!!! This shows that John has not skimped on traditional, authentic, real US BBQ food.


John also explained the whole meat smoking process. He explained that the pork and beef brisket is dry rubbed using freshly made rub which is then put into the hickory chip smoker at 6pm in the evening. The restaurant closes at 8pm and is then open again at 7.30 in the morning for prep for the day when the meat is then checked using temperature probes to make sure it is ready. The smokers are usually switched off at 9 am if everything is ready, meaning the end result is meat that has been slow smoked for a minimum of 14 hours. So this is the real McCoy, #slowsmoked #barbecue #bbq using #qualityingredients and is all cooked #fromscratchdaily. When the meat comes out it looks blackened or burnt, but this is totally normal and in the BBQ trade is called “bark, which is just the dry rub and outer layer of meat fusing together. Once ready, the meat is placed into a cVap oven which keeps the meat warm and moist. I saw the pork then being cut and “pulled” and then “mopped” with sauce to keep it moist and succulent. No extra oil is used so it’s pretty healthy. The chicken has the pork rub on it and is oven cooked in a steam pressured oven and takes 30-40 minutes to cook. Monday through Saturday it’s opened from 11.30-8pm and Sunday 1pm to 6pm.

 

The chips are all hand cut using local Maris Piper spuds (4 bags a day on average!!). The spuds are washed, cut and blanched and then fried again before being served. The freshly made sauces, in order of ascending hotness, are Sweet Memphis, Kansas City Classic, Extra Smokey, Carolina mustard, Chipotle and Buffalo Hot Sauce. Now I can remember the hot wing challenge when Bubbacue first opened and the sauce was amazing, but they don’t do that anymore.

 

John and I had a wee bite to eat and it was amazing- just like it was when it opened and as authentic as the BBQ I’ve had in the Carolinas. The pork was succulent, juicy and the taste of the bark was amazing. I had mine served with Cajun rice, skinny fries, onion chutney, slaw and bread and butter pickle. I tasted all the sauces and washed it down with the delicious lemonade. The competition winner is in for a treat!!!!! Thank you to John, Laura and the team for showing me around.

 

Competition time:

Q1. What do you call the outside of the cooked pork and brisket?

Q2. What type of wood chips are used in the smoker?

Q3. What is the minimum smoking/cooking time for the pork and beef?

T&C for competition:

Must follow @belfastfoodman on twitter

Must follow belfastfoodman on facebook

Must follow http://www.belfastfoodman.com

Answers must be emailed to belfastfoodman@hotmail.com

Competition closes 28th Feb 2017, winner notified by 4th March 2017.

 Best of luck!!!!!!

Another excellent meal at Souls

I had the opportunity to dine at Souls with the owners, new friends and family to celebrate the birthday of the owners son. 

Once again excellent surroundings, fantastic service, delicious and well presented food and plenty of it. 

For starters I had the meat antipasti consisting of home made spiced bread, Parma ham, tapenade, olives and Abernethy butter.


We also ordered a mixed platter for the table of seek kebab, chicken tikka, monkfish, quail and salad. Again all spiced and cooked to perfection. Chef Sanjay really has the knack for proper fusion cuisine whilst keeping the trueness and authenticity of the Indian dishes.


For main course it had to be the  Signature dish of monkfish served with man, onion rings, garlic creamed butter and vegetables. The dish was very well laid out and presented and was perfect in every way. 


We all are so much that we didn’t have room for cake!!!!


The food and service is consistently great and this would be a firm favourite for Best Newcomer in the Irish Times Restaurant Awards 2017 so get voting!!!

Luxurious Dinner, Bed and Breakfast at The Manor House Country Hotel

My eight and four year old daughters, wife and I spent a most luxurious, but short stay at The Manor House Country Hotel on Saturday/Sunday past. We had previously attended a wedding there in October last year, but couldn’t stay over. So we decided to come and spend some quality time and have some rest and relaxation. 



We were lucky to get the last family room- a very spacious and comfy room. It had two large double beds, plenty of room for the four of us and my two girls loved the tv in the bath!!! There was another wedding going on so the place was buzzing.

There are beautiful statues and pottery from the local Belleek pottery factory on show as well as some beautiful and intricate internal decor and fine wood work and craftsmanship evident all around the hotel.


 


Once we had unpacked and booked ourselves dinner in The Cellar Door Restaurant, which is the bistro restaurant, we made our way to the other side of the hotel to the Spa complex. It has been modernised with electronic lockers, mosaic heated loungers, hot kiddies pool adjoining a cooler adult pool, indoor Jacuzzi, outdoor hot tub with great views, sauna and steam room. We spent a good hour just swimming, playing with the girls and generally winding down. There is also a fully functional gym and treatment rooms. Now we could have walked through the hotel to the spa in the provided robes but would have felt a bit odd walking through/past the wedding guests and reception!!!

 



We certainly had built up an appetite and after getting changed for dinner we made our way to the Cellar Door Bar & Restaurant and were shown to our table. We planned on having a drink in the Watergate Bar before dinner-this is a lovely intimate bar and oozes class, but alas the kids were too hungry!!

 

The menu choice for adults and kids was just right, with a good selection of dishes, the emphasis being on fish. For the girls we ordered a flatbread pizza with real chunks of ham and fish and chips. The two girls loved their dishes which were served with our starter of chowder and wheaten which my wife and I shared.

 



For main course my wife chose the pappardelle pasta and I had the grilled chicken. This was served on mash, with roasted vegetables and aubergine puree, along with a side of chunky chips and onion rings. The pasta was vegetarian and absolutely wonderful and served with garlic bread and the grilled chicken was cooked to perfection. The kids loved the chunky chips also. The taste of the roasted vegetables married well with the mash and the aubergine puree was very distinctive. We had no room for sweet so we went back to our room and had an early night in the most comfy hotel beds I’ve been in.

 

After a real good power shower, I went down to the spa to take some pics before the guests arrived and it looked so tranquil and inviting (pictures above) !! As we were leaving early it was time to pack up and make our way down to The Belleek Restaurant for our a la carte, table served breakfast. 

This is the sign of real class when one is table served a luscious breakfast. The girls had cereal and yoghurts, my wife had eggs Benedict, I had a small serving of bread, cheese and meat before a full Irish cooked breakfast. Note there were no beans or mushrooms served. My wife had loose leaf tea accompanied by a strainer and I had freshly brewed coffee, the girls had some hot chocolate. The Belleek Restaurant epitomises fine dining through and through and we would love to come back and have dinner there.
 


The Hotel is rated Four Star by Tourism N Ireland and I was puzzled why it was not 5 Star, but a chat with the GM John on Sunday explained all that. The food and hotel has won many awards such as Ulster Tatler Award in 2015, Irish Restaurant Award 2015, Two AA Rosettes For Culinary Excellence, Yes Chef Awards 2016, Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence and The AA Hotel Of The Year Northern Ireland 2016-17 to name but a few!!!!


 It is not difficult to see why they have won all these awards as from the moment we drove up the well kept, long driveway and through the well manicured golf course, to the quality and style of the decor, to the very high standards of service by all staff and the amazing food and facilities it is easy to see why.

 Also there are stunning views, a lovely garden and a marina as well as chalets that can be privately rented, this suits a wide range of clientele. There is also the Lady Of The Lake Cruiser which is owned by the hotel (more details on website). They have some fantastic deals on their web site, I would seriously consider checking them out and booking in. May I and my family thank John Dolan, John O’Neill and all the staff for their wonderful hospitality. We will definitely be back.