EATING FOR BRITAIN: BELFAST, IT'S AN ALTERNATIVE ULSTER FRY
A short trip to Northern Ireland in the company of my good chum Neal, began with a short drive from the airport to the small town of Comber, to the East (I think) of the city. Many of Neal’s relatives live in and around Belfast and, as well as offering a bed for the night, they had put us in touch with some people who could help me in my EATING FOR BRITAIN quest.
After driving through streets still lined with Union flags at the end of marching season, our first port of call was The Georgian House, a recently refurbished restaurant in Comber run by charming owner/chef, Peter McConkey. The restaurant had only been open for a few weeks, but had already won awards for its “Ulster Fry” that artery threatening breakfast containing enough calorific value to feed a sumo for a month. The main problem with the normal example, as with its mainland counterpart,the Full English, is not so much the quantity, but the quality as most people equate cheapness and cheapness of ingredients with value. Too often it is presented with mass produced bacon, sausages made out of reclaimed meat and eggs that have come out of the backside of some ery unhappy chickens
The “fry” at The Georgian House was “very dear” we were told by some of Neal’s relatives, which was put into context when “very dear” turned out to be £5.95. True for the area it was about £2 more than any other we encountered, but you could understand why the moment our plates were delivered. Superb, thick cut bacon, meaty sausages, eggs with golden yellow yolks, thick slices of soda bread, potato farls and some of the best black pudding I have tried in years.
The only ingredient which had us stumped at first, sat in the bottom left hand corner. They looked like little Shanghai dumplings and it was only when I bit into one that I realised that Peter was redintroducing the classic art of turning mushrooms. When I quizzed him about it after our meal he just responded “why not?” you can’t argue with that and, like every other ingredient in our meal, it was top quality. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.
Likewise so is a visit to Aunt Sandra’s Candy Factory, a Belfast institution for well over fifty years and most famous for producing “Yellowman” a garish yellow candy made with baking soda. It’s never seen outside the six counties and even Neal who used to live there had not encountered it before
David Moore the current owner had just finished giving lessons in sweet making to some local schoolchildren and showed us the hooks on which he and his staff still stretched the sugar as it cooled before it was rolled into sweet shapes using cutters from the early part of last century. Using a hammer, David broke bits off a big “Candy Cowpat” of Yellowman for us to try. It is a bit like proto-space dust with an initial sharp taste, which disappears as it crackles in the mouth. Not unpleasant, but you could not eat a lot of it.
By now, both Neal and myself were exhausted and headed back to his relatives for some R&R before a big night out in town.
More to follow