Restaurants with views sometimes trade on what’s outside the window rather than what’s on the table. One or two offer both. The Ramore in Portrush and the Dirty Duck in Holywood boast some of the finest views of any restaurant. But they also do good food and service.
Tucked away off the road between Belfast and Carrickfergus at Jordanstown is The Bureau Bar and Restaurant, reviewed here in glowing terms a couple of years ago. In recent months, the Bureau’s husband and wife team of Damien and Dana Curran opened the upstairs and called it Lanyon’s Seafood Grill. Charles Lanyon, former mayor of Belfast, architect and engineer, was the visionary who built the Antrim coast road in the 19th century, opening up the county of the glens to commerce and trade. So who better than Lanyon to honour in this way?
The views from here are world-class, looking south east to the Dirty Duck, as it happens, and other notable north Down landmarks. Not that you can spot anything from here because the shores of north Down are a good couple of miles across the lough. Also, the view is as broad from here — covering five or six miles from Crawfordsburn in the east to the Harland and Wolff shipyard near the city — as it is from over there (from the same shipyard to Kilroot).
But frankly, that’s neither here nor there because the food of Lanyon’s head chef, John Moffatt, is even more memorable than the view.
A couple of recent outings to Lanyon’s, (more lately, as a guest of the owners who were being entertained by Jurassic Park star and talented winemaker Sam Neill) revealed a level of cooking that matches some of the best in Belfast.
It used to be that the only food available in Northern Ireland on a Sunday evening was a Chinese takeaway, a curry or the remains of an afternoon’s hotel carvery.
Now, the choice is much wider and you have options ranging from Asian to Italian and from Spanish to American. In this mix is Lanyon’s, whose Sunday menu is as appetising and compelling as anything you’ll find in a good bar and grill.
Five of us made the trip to Jordanstown two Sunday evenings ago. We went upstairs into the still-bright but softened light of the restaurant and were given a table by the window. As the sun went down over Belfast we watched the lights of Holywood and Cultra switch on across the lough. Meanwhile, a menu of fish, meat, game, poultry and seafood was circulated by the maitre d’ and we studied hard. Offers of two courses and three courses with or without a bottle of wine are attractive and provide the kind of value for money that makes an enjoyable quality family evening out affordable, too.
A comfortable time later, shrimp risotto and squid dishes appeared. The squid, deep fried in a light, spiced-up tempura was accompanied by a little ramekin of lime and chilli dip. This had the consistency of a vinaigrette and didn’t look up to the job of a dipping sauce. My prejudice was immediately shattered when I tasted it. The eye-watering citrus notes and the chilli heat worked beautifully with the warm crispy squid’s deeper flavours. It was a step up from the usual, with a distinctive quality and a bit of inventiveness redefining an old favourite.
The risotto was even more memorable. This was a very classy affair, as good as I’ve had in Patrick Guilbaud — and the advisor agreed. A bowl of the stuff punctuated with large prawns was heavenly. The whole thing about risotto is timing and constant attention. This was a terrific example in which the rice was spot on, the creamy liqueur was not cloying and the prawns were juicy and tender with all the flavours you want from them. This was a small triumph of a dish.
Confit of duck was equally well executed as were the scallops — a generous portion of half a dozen for £7.50, these had been pan-roasted and held their light, firm texture vey well.
Apart from the crème brulee which is textbook, Lanyon’s desserts are ok, but not a match for the savouries. But you’re here for the fish and seafood.
Chefs love good creamy sauces with seafood, as well as mash. The mash here is a soft and buttery mousseline with tons of earthy flavours and it works very well with anything you might be having, which might include the very good monkfish. Also, the children will be happy with your choice as there’s no shortage of garlic sautés, chips, chicken strips and other cartoon food.
Lanyon’s is worth the trip to Jordanstown and their wine is notable. The Currans know about wine and run the Lighthouse off-licence a door or two up from the restaurant. The prices are reasonable and you’ll appreciate their making the choice easy.
Squid x 2 £13
Risotto x 2 £13
Duck confit £6.50
Chicken strippers £5.50
Garlic sautéed £3
Desserts x 4 £20
Bottle wine £18
Diet Coke x 2 £3.20
Sparkling water x 2 £2.60
Dessert wine x 2 £8.50
637 Shore Road, Jordanstown, BT37 0ST.
Tel: 028 9086 6111.