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Exquisite taste: We pay a visit to new restaurant Shiro

By Joris Minne

If it’s a bit of bling you’re after, classy new Belfast bar Shiro is the perfect place to enjoy some glamour while you dine out in style

Belfast’s relentless quest for fun and hedonism shows no sign of slowing down and the latest playground to open will have huge appeal to a public which has felt a bit left out until now.

Just where in Belfast should a lover of cocktails with golden tan and fabulous hair be seen? Where can you hold a conversation about your client portfolio over a backing track of tranquil Ibiza club sounds and perhaps enjoy a bowl of tom yum soup (the calories don’t count themselves and if you’re ripped you want to keep it that way)? The Merchant? The Albany? The Chelsea?

Now that king of the lounge bars Mark Beirne has dug deep into his bag of magic dust and sprinkled a cloud of it over Irene and Nan’s and renamed it Shiro, Belfast has a new, classy destination with a clearly defined purpose: to provide some proper bling to those of us who need it.

Done up in shades of cream, gold and white, it’s like the Embassy of Miami Beach with a vast bar populated by a team of servers and cocktail makers who clearly model swimwear by Prada during the day. Shiro is cool, breezy, on-trend and by many standards, luxurious.

What’s more, it’s as comfortable as your bed. There are plenty of booths and the banquettes are exquisitely deep and soft.

The arrival into Shiro is particularly smooth, friendly and welcoming. Once you go past Zac Efron and Channing Tatum, the doormen, you will find Jane Hodgers at the greeter’s podium checking her guest list. She might have stepped straight out of Soho House and her 500-watt smile generates its own high frequency hum of feelgood hospitality. Her charm is effortless and no-one, including a mother-in-law and a 13-year-old, feels anything but warmly welcomed.

But first things first: this is a bar which also serves food. Cocktails are the thing here and the price has been pitched relatively high to remind us that you can have cheap cocktails or you can have good ones.

The adviser sipped an In the Bushes made from Havana Blanco, Kirsch and lime, and described in the Shiro book as an antidote to strawberry daiquiri. She said it was possibly the best cocktail she’d had since that strawberry daiquiri in, sure enough, Miami Beach.

The menu has a distinctive eastern ring to it and while it is not extensive it does cover all the bases: chicken, steak, pork, fish. There are attractive and worthy starters and small plates like the tom yum soup, the sushi and crispy smoked chicken bites, fried quail (with smoked salt), steamed scallops with black bean, garlic and scallion and tuna cakes all appeal.

The crispy five spice duck salad with rocket and orange works well (even without the pine nuts which are mentioned but fail to appear). The sushi platter to share is fine and fresh but the chef needs to know that a platter for sharing should be like Noah’s ark: two of everything unless you want to start a row.

Braised short rib with ginger glaze and fine beans, pan fried duck with lychee and red curried squash are not sensational but they are well cooked. The short rib has plenty of flavour but the ginger is a bit lost in the beefiness. The duck is well done (not pink), tender and tasty, and the curry is as interesting as squash will ever be.

A roast chicken with stir-fried Chinese spinach is another matter. Plenty of flavour in the chicken but the accompanying spinach is a stand-out. As spectacularly good are the stir-fried greens with oyster sauce, full of moist, warm, salty spice and lush textures.

And for those of us who have never been far from the land, there are chips. They are called Nori Fries here but they are quality skinny chips with a flavoured salt coating and reassuring for all that.

Shiro is unintimidatingly glamorous. It is a beautiful space with staff to match. I’m not sure how that menu will work out in the long run and things need to speed up at lunch time for that suits trade. The main thing is that the service reflects the environment and you can’t escape the sense of class and exclusivity which Mark Beirne has so successfully created.

Twitter: @jorisminne

The bill

Sushi platter £12

Breads £3.95

Crispy duck salad £9.95

Crispy smoked chicken £6.50

Rib of beef x 2 £29.90

Pan fried duck £15.95

Lemon sole £15.95

Roast chicken £13.95

Rice £2.95

Nori fries x2 £5.90

Udon noodles £3.95

Crunchy broccoli £3.50

Peroni x3 £12.30

Prosecco Bottega Gold £35

Diet Coke £2.20

In the Bushes cocktail £8.50

Total £182.45

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